Ray Rice. There was a time when I didn’t know his name and didn’t care about it, from a football standpoint. The Ravens are no threat to the Bears and what do I care about that team now that I’m out of Cleveland, anyway? Today, “Ray Rice” is becoming something of a rage trigger for me or more accurately, a between rage-frustration-cynicism-defeat-sadness trigger, then back around again.
I don’t know why or when it started, but in the last year or two I’ve found myself becoming more and more angry at the state of man-woman relations in our country. I’m not going to get all victimy about it and bang a drum about the inherent unfairness of having been born a lady in a mans’ world, there’s no fighting that particular city hall. I take comfort in the knowledge that my mom raised her daughters to be ladies, not just women, and that the differences between men and women are endlessly fascinating (and in a lot of ways, important and invaluable). The problem is that quite often, the offenders are allowed to walk among us free and unchastized because somehow, we allow them to. In the case of Ray Rice vs. Women Everywhere, ESPN reporter Ed Werder said it best: “@Edwerderespn: ‘Given a choice, the #Ravens defended Ray Rice. Given no other choice, they released Ray Rice'”. This sad, sad statement reflects more on the mentality of the NFL than the world at large, but it’s not far off. The NFL had something to lose by dropping the hammer; namely an active player with a decent if not stellar record. They worked in a nice little victim-blame by releasing his wife’s apology for her part in the incident then handed down a meek suspension of two games. For players who make millions per season on contract, two games is a drop in the bucket tantamount to a $15 parking ticket. It was a joke and pissed off a whole lot of ladies. Then suddenly, someone got hold of the footage (footage the NFL insisted it hadn’t seen or had seen and didn’t think was all that bad), found that he undeniably beat the living crap out of his wife, and then what? The NFL was left holding the bloody glove and this time, it fit. They had to let him go. Had to. Read this amazing earth-scorcher given by Keith Olbermann, who calls for the heads and jobs of everyone from the commissioner on down. It includes this gem, “I accuse Roger Goodell of conducting a kangaroo court by interviewing Janay Palmer-Rice with Ray Rice present, in contradiction of all recommended practices when dealing with victims of domestic abuse, thus virtually guaranteeing that whatever testimony she gave them of the events of February 15th, they had the validity of a video made by a hostage with a gun to her head.” He says it all infinitely better than I ever could, but I’m going to throw my cents in anyway.
So here we are. A battered wife who no doubt had been through that countless times (the difference being that this time it was on camera), lots of people saying things like, “why doesn’t she just leave him?”, and the loss of his NFL career plus any endorsements he had going. Is that enough? No. To quote Leoben, “All this has happened before, and it will happen again”.
I’ll admit, this has been a trigger for me today. I’ve been truly bothered by so many aspects of this story. The inaction of the NFL is one element, but I keep thinking about his wife. I’ve been there. I’ve never been knocked unconscious and dragged by my head but I have been shoved, had my arm grasped to keep me from moving past him, called “stupid”, “worthless”, “f***ing idiot”, “bitch”, etc. and at two points while he was blackout drunk, he hit me and physically threatened my life. No, I never reported him. I didn’t even tell my best friend until a year later and my family still doesn’t know. I stayed for the same reason women do, because they think they can change him and the situation. In recounting the stories to my current boyfriend, the love of my life who can barely stand to hear these things, I told him that I felt particularly weak and I knew I sounded like a victim. He said to me that his take on it, is rather a particular kind of strength. The strength to love someone to the point of wanting to help them in spite of ourselves. He’s an optimist, it’s true, but he’s not entirely wrong. I didn’t stay because I thought I was worthless, I didn’t believe the things this man said I was, but I also didn’t tell him to eff off once and for all until much later. Frankly, it wasn’t until he put a hand on me when he was stone cold sober that I knew I needed to leave or it would get much worse (because for some reason at that time, having my life threatened by him while he was wasted wasn’t quite bad enough…).
But now, now that I won’t stay quite as quiet about it as I used to, I have my own level of disappointment with “the NFL” in my life. Friends of mine who know the details and some who only know the vague story, have chosen to remain friendly with him. In the world of Facebook for example, the justification/explanation ranges from “the devil you know…” to “I have him on extreme lock down, I haven’t seen anything he’s posted in a really long time” and all halfassed points between. It’s something I literally cannot get my head around. I don’t think they think I’m lying, they know he has the potential to be unpleasant (and I suspect his particular brand of salty Irishman is what people – girls, really – find charming about him). Maybe everyone’s damaged in that way and maybe I expect too much, but it’s disappointing.
Anyway, when things were at their worst, I researched abusive relationships in the effort to understand both my and his positions in it. Was it conscious and did he knowingly hurt me with the intent to do real damage? No. Not according to him or the research. Abusers kind of disassociate while it’s happening. They often report extreme remorse and regret after they come back down and realize what happened (thus making the abused more likely to stick around. It’s not intentional in the way we would think, particularly at the time). In all the research though, aside from any marks left on my body and mind, the one recurring piece of information that hurt the most, was this:
According to Dr. Gondolf, the general consensus amongst researchers focused on determining the effectiveness of batterer’s programs is that “Batterer’s programs don’t work”. “Numerous academic articles declare that batterer’s programs are ineffective”. Having studied the subject of domestic violence treatment in-depth, Dr. Gondolf raises two important questions regarding the effectiveness of batterer program: “Why exactly don’t batterer programs appear to work?” and “Where should the field be headed?”.
My heart sank. I thought it was just one source but the more I read, the more the evidence suggested the same. Rehabilitation statistically does not, or very rarely will it, work. There is virtually no hope in that, and hope is something that I personally need. The fact is that Ray Rice was probably a product of abuse, as his father or mother was before him. His wife may well have been too. Maybe there’s a prenup in place contingent on her staying. Maybe she needs the money for their child(ren). Maybe she’s terrified to leave. Maybe she just really loves him and believes he can be better. People have done a lot more and worse under the guise of hope and often, it’s the end of them. Statistically, if she leaves and he goes after her, he will kill her (a real reason not to risk leaving if I’ve ever heard one).
I don’t know how to end this post. All I can really tell you, is that if you know a friend has been through it, stand by them. God willing, you’ll never go through it yourself and if you have, you’ve come out the other side better for it. But in the meantime, get angry too. Don’t let them go through it alone. Defer to them though; if they feel they will come into real harm by leaving or reporting, don’t do it for them because they probably know the situation infinitely better than you do and it’s very possible that you might make it so much worse without meaning to (that includes taking the abuser aside and telling them you know what’s happening, threatening, curb stomping, what have you… because guess who they’ll take that embarrassment out on. Hint: not you). Things get better. They do turn around. I know this because it’s happening to me, just like all the awfulness did. Dylan is the best man for me and doesn’t have an abusive bone in his body. We are moving forward. We picked out a ring over the weekend.
It gets better. It gets better. It gets better.