By Ernie McCray
I can’t seem to free my mind of images of Janay Palmer Rice being so utterly beaten down and humiliated in a hotel casino elevator. My heart reaches way out to her.
There are those who hold the view that “She should leave” like that’s as easy as it seems. “She’s just with him for the money,” others say, as though there isn’t a poor woman out there somewhere, in this very moment probably, getting stomped unmercifully by some ruthless man who doesn’t, as they used to say, have a pot to pee in. And the woman will stay in the relationship.
Look, I don’t know Janay’s story but the pain I see ingrained on her beautiful brown face seems to be of an intense emotional variety, that kind of pain that takes over a person’s life when they live under the dominance of another human being, feeling there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Because the vicious brutes among us will track you down. It’s downright dangerous to run.
Now, there are women who are victims of violence who wake up and say “Enough of this” and find a way to end the abuse, but way too many don’t. I’ve read that it takes an average of seven attacks before a woman leaves her abuser.
The only thing approaching a positive, in this horrible incident involving Janay, is that we, as a society, got to see a video of it. With the imagery still fresh in our minds maybe we will be compelled to find ways to make women safer in our world.
With that being said, I would love to see the NFL, as a result of their dropping the ball in this sordid affair, rise above their shame by doing something to help battered women like Janay. For what would be chump change rolling around in their billions of dollars, the NFL could fund support groups for them, build shelters for them, and create public relations campaigns urging them to seek help promptly when they find themselves in an abusive or potentially abusive situation.
But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. And, besides, it’s really us, “We the People,” who need to seriously and empathetically come to the aid of women who are victims of abuse in all its forms: physical, verbal, psychological, you name it.
First, though, we have to come to an understanding that the problem can’t be solved if we go into this mission blaming battered women for the circumstances in which they find themselves. Janay apologized for being knocked out, for goodness sake. That’s so sad. Somebody saying “I’m sorry for running my face into that left hook you threw” tells us a lot about the magnitude of the problem.
No woman should have to ask for forgiveness or make excuses for being injured and embarrassed before the world. Janay didn’t have it “coming to her.” An attitude of “It takes two to tango” is an insult to her and all the women who have had to suffer bodily or emotional harm from some out-of-control macho tyrannical beast of a man.
Men, particularly, need to step up to the plate and take a major role in fixing this problem where, instead of women being able to just be, they have to clutch their car keys and double check to make sure their doors are locked and walk in the light and hasten their steps when someone is behind them and cross the street when a stranger approaches and look for exit routes and hold the phone ready to dial a friend.
It’s we men who created such a reality for women. We’re the ones who make the sexist jokes. We’re the ones whistling at them and making rude remarks to them wherever they happen to be. And if we aren’t doing those things we’re the ones not chastising those who do.
The sad truth in this is that our children will continue the practice of abusing women far into the century if we don’t model for them what healthy relationships between women and men look like.
For the sake of a more secure world for all people, now and in the future, we need to help our children (especially our sons), in our schools and our homes, form attitudes of zero-tolerance for violence against women.
What I’m suggesting can accurately be defined as a significant “cultural shift” but that’s what’s called for – and we need to get on it right away because in the next 15 seconds, and every unit of 15 seconds thereafter, a woman (like Janay) will be beaten in the United States.
We’re better than that and we can turn that around can’t we? I sure hope so.
bob dorn says
America is possessed by violence, obsessed by it.
Beatings administered to women and children is one part of American violence. Think also of school massacres, road rage, bullying at schools, the too-easy advocacy of war and the accumulation of weapons by people who’ve seen foreign events and domestic discontent as challenges to a thing called national honor.
Why do we go call video warfare just a game when military recruiters are targeting adept teenagers who are good at it?
Why did Homeland Security send that $700,000 armored personnel carrier to San Diego Unified School District? Why did the school district accept it?
Violence is being advertised and marketed; robots are being promoted as warriors; drones are making war. But America long ago embraced violence.
Now, even when violence is practiced against the more vulnerable among us — which is often the case — we try to look the other way. We blame it on athletes, a lack of education, a fairly large percentage of us will find people of color are the source when, in fact, they are more often the victims of state violence.
When do we start talking about this embedded violence — the words and music and money spent on spreading it as a value?
Ernie McCray says
Right on questions, Bob.
Pam Rider says
I would add one vital aspect of this sad part of our culture: the blame game by women. Women need to support those caught in the cycle of violence toward them. It’s all too easy to cast the “stone” of “I would never put up with that.” Our society continues to hold females as chiefly responsible for relationships and males as having primary authority, opening a path to making victims feel as if they are abused because of their failure. (A “men are from Mars, women from Venus”: if a woman fails to please “her man” [which is her natural duty], he can be expected to correct her with force.) In a world in which this is a significant mindset, it is very difficult for abused women to summon the strength to overcome the guilt that their abusers are so skilled at casting and that all too many observers place on the victim. Those who would “never put up with that” have little or no appreciation of the power of holding women responsible for relationships continues in our culture. Thank-you, Ernie, for addressing the need for emotional support for victims (and, I suspect) for the need to help perpetrators participate in healthy relationships.
As we all grapple with the question, “why?”, in this new dialogue on domestic violence, the search for ” root causes” has led me to the centrality of children positioned in the midst of virtually all of these high-profile recent cases. First there’s the sexual-based relationship that leads to unplanned pregnancy. Then the conflicts begin. Marriage May or may not occur, but it doesn’t cure the underlying resentments and feelings of bondage and emotional deprivation that often characterizes these relationships–celebrity or not. Women have to be more intuitive about this. There’s absolutely no exoneration for a man hitting a woman–none, but women must understand, too, that when it comes to allowing a man to I pregnant you without commitment, you open yourself to paying a cost. You have a choice: you can either pay the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret. Nothing exists in isolation.