It’s amazing how one story can provoke so many opinions and questions. I’m not usually ambivalent on any topic but this one really has me thinking.
First, let’s clear away the media glitz to look at the facts.
(1) Man punches and knocks woman out cold in an elevator and drags her listless body out of elevator. (2) Both arrested and charged with simple assault, but they leave together of their own free will. (3) As the police investigation unfolds, the charges against her are dropped and the charges against him are elevated. (4) They stay together and get married.
Case closed. So you’d think.
Unfortunately, they could be any number of couples where the arm of the law is just not long enough to help victims of abuse unless they reach out. My usual response is “if he hit you once, he’ll hit you again….get out!” But, I’ve learned it’s not so simple. It’s a choice that is deeply personal.
Take Janay. Asking why she stays assumes she has the clarity to understand she is in an abusive relationship. Maybe she makes excuses, searches for how it used to be, and hopes it’ll never happen again. The question, “why’d you stay Janay” places responsibility, as well as blame, on her. But, as was made very clear in the video released by TMZ – she was the victim here. End of story.
But, I don’t think she sees it that way.
She has told us, “No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get,”….“If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is” is pretty clear – leave us alone, I am where I want to be.”
However, in my line of work I have learned to read between the lines. It is possible, even probable, that the attention of and reaction from the NFL, the public, and the media have caused her more pain.
Look at her quote again, this time isolating each line:
- No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted opinions from the public have caused my family. This is true. We don’t know. And we especially don’t know what type of pain she is referring to. Maybe she is reaching out.
- To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret everyday is a horrible thing. We don’t know what returning to that moment again and again does to Ray’s state of mind. Does it make him angry? Aggressive? It can easily trigger conflict. And Ray is a man, a professional athlete, who up until now was celebrated for the aggressive physical nature he dealt with things. It follows that he might deal with all conflict physically. It’s how he’s been trained.
- If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is. Frankly her resolve scares me. Victims often feel they have failed. What better reminder than this video and the upheaval of their life than to remind her of this every day. But by “showing the world what real love is” she will stay, show them they were wrong, and she is a success. If she felt trapped before, we certainly slammed the door now! And from my experience, the stress forced on their marriage may escalate the episodes.
So, how could this have been avoided? How could the outcome be different?
Here’s where the NFL had a choice.
Let’s remember, the NFL is a profit making organization – the bottom line is their bottom line. Every move they have made since the incident last February was in anticipation of, or reaction to, public and stakeholder opinion.
First, Goodell and the Ravens reacted as minimally as possible. Rice was suspended but then supported. He even got a standing ovation when he entered the field! Of course, their search for more details via the video revealed nothing back in February. They say they couldn’t find one, and I would ask how hard they tried! The quicker the story left the front page, the better for them.
Then the s&*t hit the fan this week. Goodell backpedaled. Seemingly apologetic and in full crisis mode, he quoted their recently updated Domestic Violence portion of the player’s Personal Conduct Policy, and they suspended Rice indefinitely. But they never took any responsibility, and they left open the door to reverse their decision. In only one year, Rice can be considered for re-hire. If he’s lucky, just enough time for memories to fade.
Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, put out a letter supposedly apologizing and accepting responsibility. However, throughout the letter, blame was passed on to a series of parties ranging from Ray and Janay, to Revel Casino Management, to the New Jersey Police – never stopping to rest on the large shoulders of the NFL.
Bisciotti even had the nerve to refer to the team, with the NFL as a whole understood, as a “family.” Well, I don’t know about your family, but I don’t get to walk away from mine when they screw up, or in this case, when there are risks to staying involved.
Perhaps if the NFL really listened to the public outcry from the same people who fill their stadiums, they would have heard not only the anger towards Rice, but also the sympathy and concern for Janay and all domestic violence victims. And, then they could have reacted by creating programs such as support groups, counseling and outreach for victims and their families. In other words, efforts to fix the situation, not merely sweep it under the turf! By listening and considering their reach, their power, and their long-term gains in supporting the player families they claim to embrace, this story could have had a happy and meaningful ending.
Instead, the release of the video, and the ensuing NFL reaction has left Jenay isolated and more alone then ever. Open for even more abuse. And now she is married to an angry NFL player looking for someone to blame and punish for his misfortune. I’m worried. He doesn’t have to look very far…