As women, we are told to fear the male strangers. We are told to walk quickly to our cars at night, carry pepper spray, and pretend to talk on the phone when walking alone late at night.
These are clearly victim-blaming statements– meaning, if women do all of these things, they will not be attacked or assaulted. However, people argue that these are merely means of prevention in a world where men are constantly bombarded with images and messages of committing violence against women.
But what about when women experience violence at the hand of someone familiar to them? There are no dark alleys to avoid or improper clothing to wear in your own house. How is it possible to blame the victim in a case of domestic violence?
Apparently people do and will.
Ray Rice, a Baltimore Ravens running back in the NFL, has been under fire for an altercation with his former fiancé and current wife. This case of domestic violence was caught on videotape at an Atlantic City casino on February 15, 2014. Rice, having knocked out his fiancé unconscious, drags her out of the elevator after a “fight.”
You can watch the chilling scene here. (Trigger warning.) This video has since then gone viral, and evoked immense media debate and discussion. According to police reports, Palmer and Rice both attacked each other. However, by the looks of the video, obviously the NFL player hit her much harder—enough to knock her out.
In the wake of the video’s release, Rice received a two-week long suspension from the NFL, resulting in him being unable to play in two games.
…I know what you must be thinking.
That’s it? Just a short suspension for an insanely violent act?
If a player is caught using marijuana three times, a four-week suspension is the punishment. In effect, the NFL is really saying that marijuana use is worse than or more punishable than a player clearly carrying out felonious crimes of domestic abuse. Seriously?
While Palmer did admit to also hitting Rice, any type of physical altercation is unacceptable regardless of whether or not it comes from a man or a woman. However, men (especially in this case) often have the advantage of physical strength. Here is an example of a NFL player who is obviously bigger and stronger than his fiancé, knows what he is capable of doing, and literally knocking her out to the point of unconsciousness. He definitely deserved more than a 2 week suspension.
It’s unacceptable for a woman to slap a man or hit a man, but the man shouldn’t hit her back either. This is not about gender—this is not about being a man or a woman. This is about an individual having an obligation as a human being to not hit another human being, especially if you have that kind of advantage and strength. It’s simply common sense.
And what’s even worse about this whole situation is the way that the media reacted.
Stephen A. Smith is a commentator for ESPN known for his outrageous comments, but he went way too far in this case. Smith commented on the Rice case as follows:
“We got to make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen. We know they’re wrong. We know they’re criminals. We know they probably deserve to be in jail. In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a two-game suspension, which we both acknowledged. But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as can about elements of provocation. We’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying.”
If you’re enraged at this point, I can’t blame you. Basically what Smith has said is so long as women don’t provoke their male partners, you wont get hit; if you provoke them, expect to be hit.
Is this the 1950s? Really?! The true means of preventing violence against women is to educate women and men to use communication rather than violence, and to educate men that despite all of the misogyny seen in the media, women deserve to be treated with respect. Violence is never okay, no matter who is committing it.
It is clear that Smith is promoting victim-blaming behaviors, and telling women not to push their male partners too far. Sorry Smith, but being “driven crazy” by a woman never justifies this violence.
Thanks must be given to the sane people in the world for coming out and criticizing Smith’s comments. Smith, quickly trying to make amends, tweeted the following:
“If a man is pathetic and stupid enough to put his hands on a woman…of course he has to pay the price.”
“Who on earth is denying that? But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them?”
“In no way was I accusing women of being wrong. I was simply saying what that preventative measures always need to be addressed because there’s only but so much that can be done after the fact…”
Nope. Nice try, Smith, but everything you’re saying still promotes victim blaming.
In consequence of his comments, ESPN suspended Stephen A. Smith from its TV and radio airwaves for a week.
While these suspensions (while much too short) on both the part of Rice and Smith are welcomed, they do not solve the problem here. “This is not an isolated incident. The NFL is perpetuating a culture that tolerates violence against women,” says Becky Bond, Vice President and Political Director of Credo.
These brief suspensions do nothing to prevent violence against women. If every NFL player can get away with something like this and only miss out on two games, then what’s to stop them from committing these crimes against women? It truly is absurd that the NFL could weigh the punishment for marijuana use more heavily than what was a very public and obvious display of domestic violence.
The NFL should be ashamed for their promotion of violence against women.