Janay Rice was a victim of domestic violence. As individuals who have never had to walk in the shoes of a victim of abuse, we do not know how to accept that she could endure such treatment, even once, and stay. But as the wave of stories have flooded the Internet with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, it has become more clear why women and men from every walk of life do stay.
Janay Rice does not owe us anything. Why she made the choice to follow through with marrying Ray Rice, to openly place blame on herself for the attack, and to defend him now, no one knows but her. What we do know is that there is clear evidence of what Ray Rice did: he spit in her face, knocked her down to the ground, and dragged her on the floor. Janay does not owe us anything, but the NFL owes it to women and society as a whole to allow no tolerance to abuse.
This week , the Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice from the team, and the NFL suspended him from the league. They should have done this seven months ago when the first video documenting the abuse was released. Now, these decisions have caused more confusion than clarity.
The first video, leaked by TMZ in February, shows the Baltimore Ravens running back drop his then-fianceé’s lifeless body to the ground; the elevator doors hitting against her motionless legs, Rice pushes at her body. The second video, leaked on Monday, September 8th, reveals the full extent of the violence that took place. For the NFL to not exhaust all of its resources to confirm exactly what happened in that elevator was disregard to all victims of abuse.
Just two years ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised to make changes to the league’s policies dealing with domestic violence after a chain of such incidents arose. After acknowledging from the original evidence that the twenty-seven-year-old committed domestic violence, he concluded on July twenty-fourth that a fair punishment was a two-game suspension. The moment the NFL made that decision, they confirmed every accusation that they do not give a shit about women or victims of abuse.
All that this recent video did was show everyone, in detail, what they already knew. Goodell, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and owner Steve Bisciotti claim that further repercussions were not made because no one in the organization had seen this video before it went viral – this is unacceptable.
Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault and indicted by a grand jury. Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said in a statement that his office approved Rice’s request for New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, allowing him to avoid any jailtime. This led to the NFL’s “halt of fact-finding,” according to Goodell. The video was out there, TMZ got their hands on it, and if no one affiliated with the Ravens, Goodell, or the NFL had seen the video, they chose not to.
The Ravens made an immediate decision to release Rice after seeing the entire surveillance footage, and the NFL followed by suspending him indefinitely. Goodell stated the same day that it is possible that Rice could someday return to the NFL.
The fact of the matter is that twenty-one of the thirty-two NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year, according to statistics from U-T San Diego. Ray McDonald, defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, was arrested for alleged domestic violence just two weeks ago and played during the team’s first game of the season on Sunday.
Regardless if Rice ends up being suspended permanently, this will not change the history or future of domestic violence in the NFL. The league instated its new Personal Conduct Policy last week, before the new evidence of Rice was revealed. Under the new penalties, domestic violence or sexual assault violations will merit a six-game suspension for a first-time offense and an indefinite suspension of at least one year for a second offense.
This is bullshit, and it has got to change. Violence is not justified by paying fines or sitting on the sidelines. Physical abuse is serious and real and it needs to be treated that way. The NFL is a massive and influential organization and until they drastically change their policies surrounding such conduct, they are fully condoning domestic violence.