If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Paying Attention!

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I’m angry…no, that’s not correct. I am livid. Furious. Incensed. Nauseated. If you read the news or watch TV I’m sure you’ve heard about the Raven’s running back Ray Rice who was cut from the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL after video surfaced of him beating his then fiancé in an elevator back in February. This incident had already gotten him a two game suspension before the video surfaced, the team and the NFL knew about the incident ‘investigated’ it and decided a suitable punishment for Rice was the suspension and a fine…. A drop in the bucket of how much he makes annually. The team and the league stood behind Rice after the ‘incident’ came to light, various comments I read reminded me of exactly waht anyone who has ever worked/volunteered in Domestic Violence has heard time and time again:
· He’s a good guy, he would never hurt someone like that
· He had too much to drink and lost control, it happens from time to time
· He has shown remorse after a bad incident. It was out of character.

I shake my head in disgust with each and every comment that ever excuses the behavior of someone who would hit the person they ‘love’. Abuse is a tragic and far to common experience for millions of women (and men I would never discount the abuse felt by men daily, but for the purpose of this story I will use the gender norms of male aggressor/female survivor). When the video surfaced this week of the actual incident everyone changed their story. Suddenly confronted with the true horror of the experience these men were quick to change their tune and Rice was let go from the Raven’s and indefinitely suspended from the NFL. Too little too late in my opinion.

The part I don’t get, it’s the exact same incident. They knew what happened, he knocked out his then fiancé in the elevator. In the video they see him knock out his fiancé in the elevator. Why the change in punishment for the same crime? Why was he not let go and suspended immediately after this came to light? I fear that this story is exactly what happens across the country. Until video footage or some ‘irrefutable’ evidence surfaces, victims stories are down played or all together not believed.

The most disgusting part of this story was a comment I read today in the Washington Post

“It’s possible [Rice] makes it back at some point,” the executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by his team to publicly address Rice’s future chances of playing in the league. “Vick made it back. But any team would look at it very skeptically and wonder if it was worth the trouble. His production [as a player] was slipping. So that works against him, too.”

Excuse me while I vomit a little bit. If he was a better player would he have been kicked out? The answer I think we all know is probably not.

The worst part for me is hearing the water cooler comments at work. I’ve been a volunteer and supporter of a local domestic violence organization for many years. I volunteered as a crisis line volunteer, I have seen first hand the effects of domestic violence and held hands of the women who felt they had no options, no choice, no hope. I know how hard it is for people on the outside to understand the dynamics of a domestic violence situation and understand the rationale for why someone doesn’t leave. But it still makes me sick to hear the victim blaming that happens any time a situation like this becomes headline news.
· ‘She is just a dumb as him because she stayed.’
· ‘Why doesn’t she just leave? Must be a gold digger, staying for his money.’
· ‘It must not be that bad since she is still with him.’

It is important in these situations to remember a few things

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1. The most dangerous point in a domestic violence situation is when the victim asserts independence and attempts to leave. Everyday in the United States, 3 women are murdered by their significant other. In this particular situation, if you have seen the video you can see how easy it would be for Rice to murder her with his bare hands. That is frightening, would you risk you’re life?
2. We don’t know what kind of support system she has. Abuse victims are usually isolated from family and friends and live with an abuser who constantly makes them dependent financially and emotionally on them. Constantly hearing you are worthless and that no one would believe you or help you isn’t uncommon. Look at this situation, even after it was discovered he knocked her out people were quick to defend Rice, no one stepped up to help her publicly. Abuse victims often feel alone and the system/culture sadly re-enforces this idea.
3. The cycle of abuse is a terrible thing, violence isn’t always 24/7 and is usually followed by a honeymoon period where the abuser swears they will change. Love is still there and when added to the other factors mentioned victims can feel compelled to stay.

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I know this has seemingly nothing to do with the usual topics around here, but it is something I feel passionate about. I will raise my children to know that victim blaming is dangerous and wrong. I will teach them that love is never violent. I will teach my sons and daughters to stand up to peers who perpetuate dangerous stereotypes. I can only teach them these things if I am willing to follow through with them myself. So here I am to say, if you every a feel threatened, alone, victimized know there is help out there. You are brave and wonderful and completely deserving of happiness and love. You have every right to feel safe in your own home and when you are ready to leave please reach out and do it safely. For every one else, don’t let these dangerous stereotypes continue. Don’t blame a victim for the perpetrators crime, don’t joke about domestic violence. Do not ever excuse the behavior of an abuser. Volunteer, educate yourself, know that domestic violence is not limited to any socioeconomic class or race. It is a problem that will effect 1 in 6 women in their lifetime.

If you need help contact
Nationally:
National Domestic Violence Hotline- http://www.thehotline.org 1-800-799-7233
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence- http://www.ncadv.org
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence- http://www.nrcdv.org
RAINN- http://www.rainn.org
If you are in Michigan:
Michigan Resource Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence- http://www.resourcecenter.info
Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence- http://www.mcedsv.org 1-514-347-7000
If you are in Ottawa or Allegan Counties
The Center for Women in Transition- http://www.cwitmi.org 1-800-848-5991

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