Friday, October 10, 2014

It Is Your Business

If you are a sports fan, and especially a fan of the NFL, you probably knew before February 15, 2014, that Ray Rice was a running back for the Baltimore Ravens.  If you follow sports through various media outlets, you probably knew that on that date Ray Rice and his fiancĂ©e, Janay Palmer, were arrested for domestic battery at an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino.  Video surfaced of Rice dragging the mother of his child from an elevator; she was face down and obviously unconscious. Charges against Ms. Palmer were dropped.  Rice was indicted on felony domestic battery  charges by a grand jury on March 27.  He was subsequently offered a diversion program for first-time offenders which enabled him to attend counseling and avoid having the case on his record if he did not re-offend.   During this time, he was supported by his coach and team as a “fine young man who made a mistake”.  On March 28, one day after the grand jury indictment, Ray Rice and Janay Palmer were married.  Commissioner Roger Goodell, the allegedly brilliant attorney who is commissioner of the NFL handled the matter by interviewing Janay and Ray Rice about the incident together and evidently believing that in some fashion her being dragged unconscious from an elevator was her fault as she claimed.  Goodell announced in July that Ray Rice would be suspended for two games for this egregious conduct.  By this time, it became harder for anyone who is connected to any media outlets not to know who Ray Rice was.  There was an immediate and loud outcry from all aspects of society that this was a ridiculous punishment for the crime committed.  People, men and women alike, interpreted Goodell’s action, or inaction, as a lack of respect for domestic violence victims and women in general.  In late August, Goodell admitted he had mishandled the matter and strengthened the NFL policy against domestic violence offenders.   By September 8, 2014, it was almost impossible to be unaware of Ray Rice and this case.  Video was released from security cameras in the casino plainly showing the couple entering the elevator exchanging words.  Ray Rice spat on Janay twice; when she moved toward him he dropped her with one punch.  She hit her head on a railing on the way down and was knocked unconscious.  The subsequent outcry from the video created a massive media firestorm.   The story led national newscasts as well as sportscasts.  The Ravens immediately released “the fine young man” from his contract; the NFL suspended him indefinitely.  Officials claimed seeing the video “changed everything”, although it is not completely certain at this time if this truly was the first time these people actually saw the video.

On the heels of the Ray Rice case, came allegations of child abuse against the Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson.  After three or four days of “No, he won’t play” and “Yes, he will play” the Vikings decided he would not play.  He was placed on a previously unknown “Commissioner’s List” and Vikings ownership looked completely incompetent.  Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers was convicted of domestic battery July 15 after a bench trial; he exercised his right to appeal the conviction.  A jury trial has been set for later this year.  The Panthers continued to allow him to play pending the new trial.  He also was placed on the Commissioner’s List in mid-September. Ray McDonald….Jonathan Dwyer…..all names becoming too familiar after DV arrests.   Dwyer has been put on the inactive list, but McDonald continues to play.  Soccer player Hope Solo also faces DV charges and continues to play.

If you are reading this article, and you have deduced that the NFL has a domestic violence problem, you are partly correct.  They certainly have a problem in the way they handle perpetrators of this crime.  They have minimized the situations for far too long.  They are being forced by the public outcry to strengthen their policies and the way they deal with offenders.  It remains to be seen how effective their changes will be.  The real truth of the matter is that society has a domestic violence problem. Every nine seconds, a woman is beaten.  An estimated one to four million people in America are physically abused by an intimate partner.  95% of these victims are women and children.  American companies spend an estimated $3 to $5 billion dollars per year on medical expenses related to domestic violence.  Domestic violence is blind to age, economic status, education level or social class.  It can and does happen everywhere.   It can happen just as easily to the judge’s wife as to the janitor’s.  In Illinois, 300,000 women are abused each year.  Domestic violence is the most common and least reported crime.  Domestic violence has no relationship to anger or the perpetrator’s losing control after being upset with the victim.  It is always about the abuser maintaining power and control over the victim. 

Domestic violence is not something that “happens in the home”; it is a crime just like bank robbery or burglary.  It is not a problem of the NFL, or any specific ethnic community, or the lower class, or any of those things.  It is a problem of our society, of our world, of our town, of our neighborhood.  It is not “their” problem……….it is your problem, it is my problem, it is our problem.  As we begin the month of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let us all recognize that this crime is our business and do everything we can to eliminate it.  If you think something is happening in your neighborhood that is not right, make the call to law enforcement.  If someone comes to you for help, connect them with your local domestic violence program.  If you want education or information about DV, contact your local program; they will be happy to help you.   Do whatever you can each day to make domestic violence your business.

Susie Kensil
Shelby County Coordinator

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