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.