On Ray Rice, or, Domestic Violence is (Literally) Killing Us

In case you’ve been living under a rock these past few days (I don’t blame you, the world is a crazy place!), I’m sure you’ve heard that the NFL has indefinitely suspended Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice. Why you ask? Well…

Ray Rice, former RB for the Baltimore Ravens.

On March 27, 2014, our 5’8, 206lb friend was arrested and charged with third-degree aggravated assault for assaulting his then-fiancee in an elevator a month earlier at Revel Hotel in Atlantic City. He received a two game suspension (because, you know, beating your wife is less serious of a crime than taking performance enhancing drugs… just ask Wes Welker). Then, on September 8th, TMZ (those sly devils) went and leaked the video footage. Warning, the footage displays graphic intimate partner violence and is extremely disturbing – viewer discretion is advised. Out of respect for Janay Rice, I will not link to the video – if you feel a need to watch it, I’m confident you’ll be able to find it on the interwebs. Anyway, not too long after, the NFL indefinitely suspended Rice. And not too long after that, we found out that they had, in fact, seen the video footage months ago. Uh oh, NFL. Not a good look.

So, you know, everyone is in an uproar. Shock and anger abound. And, as is usually the case when you shine light in the darkest corners, all the little nasty things have begun to reveal themselves. That war against women of color? It’s real. And the patriarchy is so insidious that even I was horrified at some of the things people had to say about Janay Rice.

There was this: (note: it’s been deleted since posting but lucky for us, the internet never really deletes anything).

This is the crux of the issue. Intimate Partner Violence is the number one cause of death for African-American women ages 15-34 in the United States. At least 3 women are killed every day by their partners or spouses. 75% of women who are murdered as a result of IPV are murdered after trying to leave their abuser. And 1 in 3 women are victims of intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence is killing us. That’s the plain and simple truth. The not-so “plain and simple” part is the reason behind why women stay. It’s complicated, and I strongly encourage you to read the #WhyIStayed hashtag to gain some insight. Here’s what I do know:

Intimate partner violence is complex and there are a number of ways in which a person can be abused. They frequently occur concurrently – meaning that often, the abuser will not only physically abuse the victim, but also emotionally, mentally, and financially. For women in particular, this can be extraordinarily damaging.When the abuser controls the finances, it makes it damn near impossible for a victim to fund an escape. Furthermore, when there are children in the picture, the victim must consider the livelihood of not only herself, but also her children. The psychological impact of IPV can be so damaging that most victims believe that they are somehow at fault for their abuse. And for women of color, who so often subscribe to the trope of “strong black female” and the doctrine that “divorce is unholy”, there is often the additional pressure from family members or friends, the religious community and from society as a whole to “tough it out” and “support her man”.

There isn’t enough space to write everything that needs to be said about domestic violence. What I will say is that it’s destroying our community and killing our women – and no, Dr. Boyce Watkins, not becuase of “extreme feminism” and “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. Women of color in particular feel the need to stay silent about their situation and show support and solidarity with their men, even when their men aren’t supporting them. This “strong black woman” trope has been passed down from generation to generation; years of being the emotional and moral backbone of the family has taught black women that on the family totem-pole, we come dead last. Black women have never been portrayed as “damsels in distress“… no one ever talks about protecting black women. And the “strong black woman” never cries, never shows weakness or pain or suffering. The strong black woman can get through anything, right? As a result, domestic violence is rarely a conversation in the black community. And the church, for all of its good, reinforces the same idea – that a woman’s role is to support her husband no matter what and keep the family together no matter what. Who is supporting us? Who is protecting us?

My heart goes out to Janay Rice and the millions of other women who are suffering at the hands of IPV and choose not to speak up or get help. If you feel like you are being abused – verbally, psychologically, emotionally, or phyiscally – please do not hesitate to speak up. If you are unsure – Mosaic has created a wonderful anonymous online assessment tool – linked here. Remember, you are not alone and there is help available.

For more information about domestic violence, please click here.

Peace and love,

J

 

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