Recently, the media was in an uproar over the case of Ray Rice, the NFL Football player who knocked his wife, Janay, out with a punch to the head in an elevator. He’s been suspended.
The front page of CNN.com has Janay making a statement that “To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific. (sic)”
Will the media now begin the “victim blame game?” Go back and read the first paragraph of this blog. It’s about Ray Rice committing a criminal act of domestic violence that’s caught on tape. Now, look at the second paragraph. It’s about his wife making excuses for him. These two events are completely separate.
Does it matter that Janay supports him? No.
Does it matter that she thinks his punishment is inappropriate? No.
Twenty years ago, another football player murdered his former wife. That was O.J. Simpson. Prior to the murder, he’d beaten Nicole, but at the murder trial, people were just beginning to see the connection between an act of DV and how it can lead to murder.
At that time, I was a prosecutor working domestic violence cases, and the OJ case was the beginning of reform in the handling of domestic violence, even though it had been happening for centuries. The attitude towards these cases was still archaic. Some police officers attending my trainings on the subject told me they didn’t want to keep going back to the same place on domestic violence calls because they thought if the victim returned to the situation, it was a waste of their time. The majority of the cases that came across my desk had a victim who didn’t want to press charges within one to two days after the event.
O.J. Simpson, even though he was acquitted, shined a light on these attitudes. Domestic Violence reform and penalties moved to the forefront of people’s minds.
Today, I hope that when people watch the video of Janay supporting her husband, they don’t blame her for her husband’s actions. She’s caught up in a cycle of violence. From most people’s rational point of view, what she’s saying is idiocy. Remember, it’s easy to judge from a secure place.
My goal as a prosecutor was to focus on the batterer and his/her actions. My duty was to make it stop by proving my case, even if the victim couldn’t bring themselves to believe that’s what was necessary.
I hope people keep their focus on which of these two people is the real guilty party.