NFL footballer Ray Rice was cut from the Baltimore Ravens today after footage was released of him punching his then fiancée, now wife, in an elevator earlier this year in Atlantic City. Opinions have swirled about whether or not the punishment from the NFL fits the crime. One thing that is not an opinion, but is instead a sobering fact: black women are twice as likely to die as a result of domestic violence at the hands of an abuser than white women.
It is a problem. When it happens it’s sad for everyone involved. And when these situations become public, our reactions send a message to our community and our young people, so it is absolutely imperative that we send the right one.
Unfortunately, we so often do not. In words and actions we perpetuate myths like…
Nice guys don’t hit women
The popular profile of an abuser that appears on movies and television of a person who is vile in every way. We have created this idea of an abuser as someone who is evil down to his core. In reality, an abuser isn’t running over baby kittens in his spare time. He may be kind, down to earth, have a good job, love his friends and family, and still not know how to control his anger.
Instead, we need to teach our children that even nice people can be capable of horrible things. Sometimes the perpetrator of that horrible thing may be someone you looked up to or thought was a great guy, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen and that there shouldn’t be consequences to bear.
That we have to hold our men down at all costs
This one is complex. As a black community, we’ve had to protect our men from being victimized by law enforcement. It was true 100 years ago, and with issues like Ferguson front and center, it’s still true today. We fear the very ones whom we are supposed to call for help, and by calling in one of “them” we are threatening the safety of all of us. However, we can’t be pillars at all cost, especially when the cost is our own lives.
It is truly a hard message to teach when so often we see it play out the other way in the media, but we need to teach that it’s okay to call for help when we need help. That you do not have to suffer alone in silence. That whether you are the one being abused, or the abuser, that reaching out for help is essential.
But our children will never do that if we don’t stop acting like..
Victims should be demonized
I found it disturbing that before any factual information had come out about this incident, everyone had started vilifying the victim. From calling her a gold digger, to saying she spit on him, the black community, and mostly black women, backed Rice incident unseen.
If victims have to fear being demonized and dragged through the mud for coming forward, how likely is it that they will come forward? It’s made worse by the idea…
That sometimes domestic violence is okay
There should be no “if, and, or but” clause in your stance against domestic violence. The “I don’t agree but if she does this then I think it is okay” sends an incredibly mixed message to children about their behavior. We should leave no room for sitting around wondering if this is the moment that you’ve been provoked enough to put your hands on each other. Lives have been ruined and ended in the heat of the moment. Make your stance staunch and make it clear to your children that hitting your partner is not okay. Period. If the situation is out of control then it is time to walk (or run) away.
BMWK: What do you teach your children about domestic violence? Will you talk to them following this incident?