Ray Rice infamously knocked his fiancée unconscious in a casino elevator last February. The athlete was arrested for domestic abuse and suspended for a mere two games by the NFL in July. The level of discipline escalated on Monday after TMZ published footage of the appalling incident, which showed Rice hitting his now-wife Janay before dragging her unconscious body from the elevator. The public outcry surrounding the video was immense. Hours after the chilling footage circulated, the Baltimore Ravens released Rice, and the NFL simultaneously banned him from the league.
While the NFL’s decision to ban Rice is undeniably the right one, it is atrocious that the organization waited so long to act. According to the Associated Press, the NFL saw the video of the elevator abuse in April. Despite being aware of the gravity of the situation months prior to the TMZ release, the subsequent NFL action was insufficient. The NFL did not take the appropriate course of action until the video was leaked to the public. Had TMZ never circulated the video, Rice may have never been banned.
The NFL is not alone in its failure to confront domestic violence. Society at large tends to not devote its attention to the issue until scandals erupt, instead of on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it is all too common that conversations about domestic violence only become prevalent in the mainstream media when the situation involves public figures like Ray and Janay Rice. Each year, an estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by a partner. One in four women will be a victim of domestic abuse during her lifetime.
Domestic violence is not just limited to women. One out of 14 men has been physically assaulted by a partner and estimates show that 835,000 men are victims of domestic abuse every year. Children are also victims of domestic violence — over 3 million witness instances of domestic abuse every year. Men, women and children who survive domestic abuse suffer long-term psychological and emotional stresses, as well as physical health effects such as heart disease.
Moreover, domestic abuse takes a toll on society as a whole. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. Still, most domestic violence cases are never reported.
Only discussing domestic violence in the wake of celebrity scandal does not help solve the problem — it perpetuates it. By not talking about domestic violence frequently, the crime becomes forgotten and seems less relevant than statistics demonstrate. A lack of ongoing discussion and prevention also allows for domestic abuse to become stigmatized and trivialized. In the case of the Rice couple, Janay was unfairly criticized. Many chastised her for staying with Rice and others claimed that, because she subsequently married him, the abuse was excusable. In addition, a Fox News anchor made a joke out of the incident, saying the take-away message from the Rice situation and others was to take the stairs.
Domestic abuse cannot continue to be treated in this manner. Discussion about domestic violence must be consistent. The conversation cannot occur solely when celebrity scandals emerge. If the issue of domestic abuse continues to be treated in this repulsive fashion, it will only worsen.
Email Lena Rawley at [email protected].