As Domestic Violence Victims’ Advocate, I felt compelled to express my reaction to the recently released video a domestic violence episode between Ray Rice and Janay Palmer-Rice.
As an advocate I have a different world view than a lot of people. I have been in the heart of the pain of victims for over 17 years. I have walked along side hundreds of victims making their journey from victim to survivor.
In the time spent with the wounded, I have heard thousands of descriptive words for victims’ feelings about the abuse experience. As I viewed the video, these victims’ words echoed in my mind – shame, embarrassment, guilt and humiliation. As I watched Janay be knocked unconscious, my heart broke knowing that her humiliation and pain is now on viral display for the entire world to see.
Domestic violence is a pattern of power and control behaviors designed to make victims believe they are powerless. Abusers use manipulation and violence to instill fear and enforce their will on their victim. Without proper intervention, an abuser’s behavior will intensify over time. In the USA, for three victims every day, the abuse intensifies to the point of murder. Releasing any domestic assault footage, without the victim’s consent, will only add to the feeling of powerlessness that has been ingrained in victims by their perpetrators. In addition, the strong emotions felt by the abuser may end up expressed during another more violent assault against the victim.
The company that released this video did so for publicity, not for social awareness. Janay is a victim, and the minute this video was release on the public forum she was re-victimized. Due to the intense media coverage, she will be re-victimized again and again in the coming weeks. It’s my sincere hope that Rice is being honest about his love for his wife and his desire to truly change his behavior. Otherwise, the consequences for her at home could be deadly.
I’m left wondering, did any of the individuals who decided to release the video to the media, consider Janay? Did any of them consider how displaying her victimization for all the world to see would affect her? Did any of them realize what danger releasing this video may have put her in? Did any of them reach out to make sure she was safe?
As an advocate, I also have a few concerns regarding the response from the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL. First, there’s the timing of response from the Ravens. I am not the first to point out that his termination only happened when the severity of the assault was made public. The Ravens became aware of the domestic assault months earlier, and should have taken a stern hand at that time. Waiting until public opinion became a factor gives a message of only caring about the behavior when it is caught.
2. I have read multiple articles echoing this concern. It’s an important discussion to have. Accountability is very important, especially in terms of accountability for doing, assisting and essentially ignoring a violent crime.
It can be said the video was released because some felt the response of the NFL and Ravens was not adequate to the level of the crime. Though the penalty Rice was initially handed consisting of fines and a two-game suspension was not appropriate, neither was the release of the video – not for Ray’s sake but for Janay’s. If the desire behind releasing the video was to assist victims, and to hold the NFL players accountable for misconduct, then it should have been brought to the attention of The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, our country’s lawmakers and social justice figures to view and take appropriate action. Societal change can happen without violating the privacy and dignity of victims.
If you, or someone you know, is in an abusive relationship, please know there are confidential services available. The Beaman Home’s Crisis Hotline is operated 24/7 by trained victims’ advocates who are ready to assist, and who will not release your story to the public without your consent. If you need help, please call Beaman Home’s Crisis Hotline at 574-267-7701 or toll free at 877-725-9363.