Tag Archives: Domestic violence

A Culture of Violence is Alive and Well in the NFL

Ray Rice during the  Baltimore Ravens training camp. Creative Commons photo by Keith Allison
Ray Rice during the Baltimore Ravens training camp. Photo under Creative Commons by Keith Allison

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.

Smiling Through The Cracks

Janelle White teaches at SF State and San Francisco Women Against Rape's executive director.
Janelle White teaches at SF State and is the San Francisco Women Against Rape’s executive director.

Written by Erika Maldonado
Photos by Benjamin Kamps

Janelle White is everything you’d want and expect a lecturer in SF State’s women and gender studies department to be.

Her salt and pepper curls fall naturally and wildly with hints of light blue along her temples. The blue dye on either side of her hair perfectly complements the blue tint on the frames of her glasses. Morning glory flowers envelop her right arm with Lizz Wright lyrics and sparrows peeking out through the stems. She wanted a full sleeve by her fortieth birthday, but she doesn’t seem to like to show them off.

Janelle White wanted a full sleeves for her fortieth birthday, but rarely likes to show it off.
Janelle White wanted a full sleeve for her fortieth birthday, but rarely likes to show it off.

A calm demeanor and the soothing tone of her voice invites open and honest conversation during class discussions. When she isn’t enlightening students on women, prison and the industrial complex on Mondays in the Humanities Building, she’s the executive director of San Francisco Women Against Rape.  This year marks its fortieth anniversary and White helped organize the anniversary celebration held on Oct. 24.

“It fundamentally shaped who I was as a thinker, as an activist and an advocate,” says White.  “I saw in action what it looks like when your mission is to end oppression so that you can end rape. I hadn’t seen that ideology practiced at a rape crisis center.”

SFWAR is one of many organizations housed in the Mission’s eye-catching Women’s Building.  Located on 18th street, the entire four-story building is covered in murals. Portraits of influential women such as Rigoberta Menchu, Georgia O’ Keefe and Audre Lorde peer over passersby within the melange of radiant yellows, blues, reds and greens.

Inside, the female-led community space empowers, educates and provides a safe space for women and girls from all walks of life.  SFWAR shares an atrium

A light fixture in the shape of a vagina hangs on the top floor of the Women's Building.
A light fixture in the shape of a vagina hangs on the top floor of the Women’s Building.

with other organizations on the third floor. Natural light reflects from skylights onto the hardwood floors and a neon light fixture in the shape of a vagina hangs on the exposed brick wall.

“It’s not about charity work,” says White.  “This is our community doing our own community work. What I’ve seen with SFWAR over the years is more clarity about the communities who need our support and figuring out ways to support them.”

The center provides one-on-one counseling, support groups, a twenty-four hour rape crisis hotline and prevention education.  It’s more than just a safe place for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, says director of community initiatives Sandra Sandoval.  Staff members are out on the field daily at schools, businesses and health clinics throughout the city presenting workshops on anything from sexual harassment, assault, anti-oppression, Internet violence to healthy relationships. They also table numerous events including SF State’s production of The Vagina Monologues. Staff also serve as advocates by accompanying women to court cases and doctor visits.

The anniversary celebration took place during domestic violence awareness month.  President Obama called it a national holiday in a proclamation last year, but it’s been celebrated since 1987.  Since sexual assault falls under the umbrella of domestic violence, SFWAR is celebrating its anniversary in October. White has worked in the movement to end violence against women for almost twenty years.  Like many women involved in the movement, she is a sexual assault survivor.

“I didn’t tell anyone about it for about a year after it happened,” says White. “Once I had done my own kind of healing, I knew I wanted to work in this movement. I felt like there was a place for me. It just made sense.”

She was a twenty-four-year old graduate student at University of Michigan. It happened inside, in a place where she thought she was supposed to be safe.  And it happened by someone she knew.

Women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are more likely to experience intimate partner violence than any other age group, according to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.  On college campuses across the country, one in four women will be the victim of sexual assault.

“It’s so important for people to be able to talk about their assault,” says White. “Women tend to just stuff it for so long. They don’t tell anybody, and it’s very sad.  It has a way of eating away at you.”

Janelle White sits in her office at SFWAR located in the Mission.
Janelle White sits in her office at SFWAR located in the Mission.

On campus, The SAFE Place is a resource for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment and stalking.  Students can visit the Safe Place, located in the Student Services Building Monday through Friday. Since half of all sexual assaults committed during college years involve alcohol consumption by either the perpetrator or victim, the SAFE Place’s prevention course focuses on alcohol use and its role in sexual assaults.  The second focus involves the role men play in sexual assault prevention.

“In the past, violence against women was considered a woman’s issue when in fact, men were perpetrating this violence,” says Ismael de Guzman, SFSU prevention education specialist.  “Shouldn’t we be part of that solution? Shouldn’t we be part of that conversation?”

His program, Men Can Stop Violence is one of few CSU campuses that incorporates men in its sexual assault prevention program.

As White rounds out her twentieth year of work in the movement to end violence against women, she hopes to continue to build up other advocates to one day fill her shoes.  Helping others deal with traumatic experiences daily can be draining, she says, but learning limits and boundaries is essential.  To avoid what is called secondary trauma for the advocate, she says you can’t let it rule you.  She is a foster volunteer for MickaCoo a volunteer network dedicated to rescuing pigeons and doves.  She also enjoys watching live music with her partner and has tickets to the Treasure Island Music Festival.

“When someone shares something really deeply with me, you know what they’re struggling with, I respect it and really engage with it,” says White.  “But when I get ready to leave SFWAR, I take it and put it in a nice, wrapped package. I put it in the closet and I close the door. It’s fine and safe there, but I don’t have to take it with me.”