If any good has come from the release of the video showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée, it’s that our social media feeds are filled with friends’, family members’ and acquaintances’ unfiltered opinions on domestic violence.
Among those piping up are the holier-than-thou folks who withhold their empathy and outrage because Janay Rice has stayed in the relationship. Then there are the people indignant that we don’t know what she did to provoke her assailant. There are the football fans expressing relief that Ray Rice didn’t play for their team, and so the season can move on without interruption. (Side Eye of the Year Award goes to this camp.) And there are the patient few taking time to explain in Facebook threads and real world conversations why these perspectives—and any that blames the victim or distracts from the reality of that brutal and nauseating knockout—fail to acknowledge the humanity of Janay Rice, survivors of intimate partner violence and women as a whole. A topic typically shrouded in shame and hushed tones has moved to the center of public debate, and it’s an opportunity to get an honest take on where our communities stand and to respond as needed.
It is a shame, as others have eloquently pointed out, that this conversation has come at the expense of Janay Rice’s privacy. It’s worth considering whether we become complicit in the act by viewing the video that TMZ released, especially when there are plenty of survivors who consent to sharing their stories in the hope that their disclosures can bring about real change. Just last month, the daily paper in Charleston, South Carolina, published an extensive investigation into that state’s domestic violence crisis. Regardless of where you live, it’s a must-read. According to the first article in the series:
More than three times as many women have died here at the hands of current or former lovers than the number of Palmetto State soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
It’s a staggering toll that for more than 15 years has placed South Carolina among the top 10 states nationally in the rate of women killed by men. The state topped the list on three occasions, including this past year, when it posted a murder rate for women that was more than double the national rate.