How many times have you seen the Ray Rice video punching out his girlfriend on the elevator? Five times? Ten? The public outcry is so strong that you would think domestic violence had never happened before. Were all the previously abused women just making it up? So, they must have been breaking their own bones then?
This is such a broad issue that it’s hard for me to know where to start. OK, I’ll start at the beginning, at least as far as I’m concerned. On November 11, 1984, Dr. Joyce Brothers published an article in the Parade Magazine Issue of the New York Times titled, “Why Men Abuse Women.” In it, she pointed the finger at several professions dominated by men who abuse women: athletes, police officers, lawyers, military men, and doctors. We’ve seen videos of the police in abusive situations, and we’ve seen athletes cause serious injury to other players; and now we’ve seen an athlete in a domestic abuse situation. So far, lawyers and doctors have been too smart to get caught on video. Far be it from me to criticize military men during the country’s present situation. Domestic abuse is not a new issue other than the fact that we now have it on video to watch over and over like the twin towers coming down.
I don’t know what bugs me most out of the Ray Rice situation. How about the comments that the woman deserved it because she hit him first? These were women making these comments. So, if a woman hits a man, that gives him the right to knock her out? Forget that he outweighs her or is 10 times stronger than her. Forget that he trains to be brutal in his profession. None of that matters. She started it so she deserved what she got. Mr. Rice not only knocked this girlfriend out, he dragged and then not gently dumped her on the floor, with a facial thump as it hit the floor. This is how a man shows his love for his girlfriend? Man rules the roost. There are people out there who believe this.
Mr. Rice has now been suspended indefinitely by the NFL from playing and released from the Baltimore Ravens. His punishment has been the most severe punishment any team owner or league has ever given to a player for domestic violence. I was frankly stunned that his punishment was comparatively severe. What would have possessed them? Their tough players are their bread and butter. Are they nuts? With any more new rules, policies, and punishment, this will become an entirely new game. I can’t see Casper milquetoast types playing football…can you? People are drawn to the brutality of the game. Isn’t it how some people get out their aggressions? What is behind this new tack? Have sponsors and advertisers squawked over this video? Did a few big ones threaten to pull out? Isn’t it enough that they have recently been hit with concussion lawsuit injuries? If this trend continues, they’ll have to call it footsie-ball instead of football. I’m not much of a football fan, but it is what it is.
Or will it all blow over and will players will be instructed not to blow their cork where cameras are visible?
Psychologists say, “You can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself.” What’s that old joke? How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change. Let’s stop trying to change these men. Counseling isn’t going to help them unless they want to be helped and how many of them want to change? I don’t know any men who want to change and I don’t know of any abusive men who have changed. Why make the effort to change when you can get away with it. There’s no motivation for them to change. Wife divorces you? There’s plenty others waiting in line. You’re fined? There’s plenty money in the bank. You could always write a book or sell your mansion if things really get tough. Too much bad publicity? You know what they say, “Even bad publicity is good publicity.” Or, “The public forgives and forgets.” Just lay low for a while. Isn’t that what celebrities do? These light bulbs don’t want to change. They want to remain dim bulbs.
Let’s talk about the women of domestic abuse. Critics say, “Why don’t you just leave?” These critics live in la-la land. They can’t see their nose despite their face. Maybe he threatened to kill her if she leaves him. Maybe he threatened more abuse. Maybe he promised he’d never do it again. A common statement but not accurate. Maybe children or a pregnancy is involved. Maybe he has her so scared and intimidated that she feels like a prisoner even though there are no visible bars around her. Maybe she can’t drive. She never learned. He hides the car keys. She can’t manage it because she’s in a wheel chair.
Years ago I did volunteer work at a women’s shelter where there were abused women and children. There was a young woman there in a wheel chair with her children. I don’t know if her abusive husband put her in the wheel chair or if she was in a wheel chair before he abused her. Is one worse than the other?
How about the children growing up in an abusive home? Children mimic what they see. So much has been written and televised about bullies in the classroom. These child bullies have learned this bullying behavior at home. Sometimes authorities have punished parents when a child has displayed poor behavior but often in a way that didn’t make any sense. In my opinion, of all the times where they should punish a parent for a child’s misbehavior, this is one of them! When a child sees that the bullying parent is put in jail, wouldn’t that be a good deterrent? We can’t put the child in jail but if the child learns that bullying is learned behavior and his or her parent is going to jail….I would think that would be a wake up call for the entire family. Abusive men are bullies. Mr. Rice is a bully.
Mrs. Rice, yes, his then girlfriend became his wife, is now suffering public humiliation on top of all her other miseries. Whatever future dreams she had of raising children in a happy home and/or a life that was better than hers (isn’t that what we all aspire to as mothers; to give our children better than what we had?) are now looking out of reach. Any thoughts she had of financial security may be shaky at best. Mr. Rice may want to dump her and may blame her for this incident but his lawyers and/or owners may tell him not to incite fans and the public anymore than they already are. Play it cool for now. Don’t add anymore fuel to the fire. The same advice to her. Don’t rock the boat. I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes right now for all the tea in China.
What’s a woman to do? A woman could take the advice of Dr. Joyce Brothers. Although Dr. Brothers has passed, she was once the most admired woman, pre-Oprah. A woman could get an education or skill to learn how to support herself and be independent. A woman could get an MBA and start her own business. You don’t need a man for this. A woman has many options these days. A woman needs to set boundaries when it comes to male abuse. One slap is one too many. Run, don’t walk in the opposite direction. Don’t be dazzled by his guilt gifts. They’re a poor salve for physical and emotional wounds.
When I was married, over 30 years ago, my husband invited a medical student/resident, his wife, and their beautiful red-haired eight-year-old daughter to our home for dinner. I knew this family and was friends with the wife who was one of the sweetest, southern drawled women I had ever met. She had told me in confidence that he physically abused her but never in the face, where it would show. I was speechless. She said it as if she was telling me that the weather outside was great and we should go on a picnic – in total denial. As we were eating our dinner, the husband proceeded to degrade and belittle their beautiful daughter. It was cruel and uncalled for. I make it a practice to not stick my nose into others’ family affairs but this was too much. He was a guest in MY home! So I told him that maybe he could talk to his daughter like that in his home but he was not allowed to speak to his daughter like that in my home. I was prepared to follow up with telling him to leave if he dared say anything. And if they all left I was prepared for that too. Abusing that angel of a girl was not going to happen in front of me. You could have heard a pin drop. Nobody said anything after that for a while. Eventually, conversation started up again and it was forgotten. Except that I never forgot it. I hope that little red-haired girl remembered I responded to her father’s remarks. I hope she got the message loud and clear and that it was a pivotal point in her life. Like Charlie Brown, I was a big fan of that little red-haired girl. With any luck, maybe her father got the message too.
It’s good that this video incident is getting so much attention and conversation. It’s the young and naive women who need to hear it most, although the older generation isn’t immune.
Domestic violence is not good for anyone’s health – not mentally or physically, or even financially. Not for the wife, not for the husband, not for the children. As a good health advocate, I hope to see women make more enlightened decisions about their partners and their futures if they should decide to go it alone. Life is a struggle. Don’t make it harder than it is by choosing the wrong partner. It’s better to have no one than to have someone who abuses you.