Just got a call from NBC, WXIA 11 about doing an interview on Ray Rice. It will air at 11 tonight. Just because this story will fall of the news feed in a few days, the problems with Domestic Violence will be far from over. The frustration I have is that people think that getting rid of the person with the problem solves the problem. Domestic abuse happens in all aspects of our culture, and this is a great opportunity to further the discussion and education. I also feel very strongly that NCAA and High School athletics should be developing policies about Domestic and Dating Abuse. This pattern does not start when people turn pro.
Ray and his wife both have issues to address, and they have a child (who in time may also need help). Who is to say that they will now truly get the help they need, now that he is indefinitely suspended, and many will say that he will never play again because he is toxic? Did you know that there are other players with pending Domestic Abuse charges against them currently playing in the NFL? While players make money off of their skill sets, college, professional leagues, and for that matter, high schools, make money off the back of these elite athletes. This is an interdependent, often codependent relationship, and I feel that there is a moral responsibility to help heal those when they need help, especially when we benefit and encourage aggression. I will say here that there are many athletes who are wonderful people who focus their aggression on the field and know when to turn it off. However, there are those who can't do that, and there are coaches who don't want to mess with the "head" of their star players for fear of negatively affecting their performance. How many times have there been cases of athletes who have knowingly committed illegal, aggressive, abusive acts at any age or level of sport where they were overlooked, excused, covered up, or even blamed on the person who was victimized? This does happen, more than we may care to realize and sends a message that it IS ok to commit these violent acts, and too many times, women are the target and many other times children are the collateral damage. What then do these children learn about the world when they view this?
Now in the name of public relations, the NFL has booted Ray Rice and sent a message to other players, not to seek help, but instead, to not get caught. These individuals and families need help. Trust me, I am not about making excuses for people who commit acts of violence, I am about understanding and finding explanations for these individuals and the people around them to contribute to a significant life change, no matter how difficult it may be to effect change. Many have histories that account, in part, for their actions, and they just never learned and/or chose not to learn how to deal with conflict in productive ways and address the issues around their uncontrollable anger and rage.
Now, it is very possible that some in the NFL who have issues with Domestic Abuse will likely be less likely to come forward, and more than likely the threats from those who do abuse their spouses and or families will possibly make even more terrifying threats if anyone talks, thus perpetuating this often invisible trauma.
Many people don't seem to understand that Domestic Abusers can be the most congenial, funny, friendly and likable people, when you meet them in person, but once their front door closes, someone different comes out. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the people who are vocal about Ray Rice's situation aren't people who behave abusively. They have almost everyone else and often themselves fooled.
If we are truly going to change our culture, we have to stop judging and seek understanding. Many of us are culpable when things like this happen and we just walk away. We all live in this place together.