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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Janay Rice’s take carries most weight

    I believe domestic violence is wrong. It is damaging and demeaning, and it has been permitted behind closed doors for far too long in this country.

    I also believe in the virtue of forgiveness. I believe that people can change, that education is more important than punishment and that humans are, at their core, good people with good intentions.

    And so, as you might imagine, I am having quite the time with the Ray Rice incident.

    As a feminist, my first reaction to domestic violence is vehement and extreme. Ray Rice was suspended from the NFL back in September after video footage of him abusing his wife surfaced. And I’m not talking a shove or a punch to the arm — though, of course, any form of violence against one’s partner is both grave and unacceptable. The video shows Rice knocking his wife unconscious on an elevator floor and then dragging her limp body out onto the main floor.

    Watching this footage is enraging and scary, even more so when the viewer realizes that this kind of abuse, and worse, happens behind closed doors every day. So, when Ray Rice won his appeal to the NFL in late November to become immediately eligible to play football on national television again, I was outraged. What kind of message is the NFL sending by reintroducing Ray Rice into the national eye, but this time as a football hero? Is the NFL, a male-dominated, “macho macho” institution, putting its stamp of approval on domestic violence?

    Then, I realized I had made a rookie mistake. In my zeal to defend domestic violence victims everywhere, I had forgotten someone really important: the victim, Janay Rice. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Matt Lauer from “Today,” Janay Rice made it very clear that she is not, nor should she be, the poster child for domestic violence. She has defended her husband, explaining that the video footage captured a one-time occurrence. The couple is allegedly going through marriage counseling in an effort to solve their problems and maintain their relationship. What’s more, Janay Rice recently stated in an interview that she was “ready for this to be over.”

    Which brings me to my dilemma: If the victim says to drop it, is that what we should do? I reached out to Campus Health Service to get some input. Megan McKendry, violence prevention apecialist for the Oasis Program Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, weighed in with similarly ambiguous sentiments.

    “It is difficult enough for survivors of sexual and relationship violence to share their stories with friends and loved ones, let alone feel the scrutiny of an entire nation, as Janay Rice has for months,” she said. “I believe that Ray Rice should be held accountable, but I also empathize deeply with Janay’s desire that it ‘all be over.’”

    As difficult as it is for me to say, I think we should respect Janay Rice’s wishes and, essentially, butt out. Domestic violence is a public crime, not a private matter. But, if the victim has chosen — not out of fear but out of an understanding of her partner and their relationship — to not press charges and to seek counseling rather than punishment, then I think the public should respect that, including those of us who would like to see the abuser punished.

    Ray Rice abused his wife, and the entire world saw that. That behavior is unacceptable and wrong, but I don’t think that makes Ray Rice unforgiveable. People can change, and if Janay Rice is willing to forgive, then so am I.

    _______________

    Paul Thomson is a senior studying BFA acting and Africana Studies. Follow him on Twitter.

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