When was it excusable to punch a woman in the face?

domestic violence with young man and abused woman

As you’ve heard, NFL player Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was suspended from 2 games for literally knocking out his then-girlfriend (now wife) Janay and dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator where this occurred. He was also fined $500,000 by the league, which was likely not much when compared with Rice’s $35 million contract. The video tells the story.

Other professional football players have received longer suspensions for DUI, dog fighting, smoking marijuana, taking Adderall or other steroids, and eating a protein bar! Okay, the protein bar wasn’t on the NFL’s “approved list”…

Rice’s attorney described the incident as “a very minor physical altercation,” Public commentary includes blaming Janay Rice for provoking the knock-out punch, calling this a “mistake,” and excusing Rice because of “all the good he does in the community.” Another NFL player noted there might be “another side to the story.” And at a news conference with the media, Janay apologized for her role in the incident, and Rice apologized to his boss (never a word of apology to Janay). His statement was “I failed in many ways. But Janay and I have learned from this.”

Although he was indicted by a grand jury for the assault, Rice will not be charged with a crime, will pay no criminal fine, and will have his record expunged.

The issue of domestic violence is a public health crisis. 1.3 million females are murdered annually by an intimate partner, and 1/3 of female homicides are committed by an intimate partner. Because it’s estimated that half of all football fans are women, shouldn’t professional football take a strong stand against domestic violence, and punish players to commit this violence more severely?

Pro football, along with a range of other sports seemingly promote violence at all levels. And as fans, men and boys who view players as role models get the message that violence is good, and if you commit an act of domestic violence, it will be excused. It’s possible, even, that women and girls learn that this behavior is just a normal part of any relationship – something that they need to accept or expect.

All the more important is our work in Chrysalis After-School programs to prevent dating and relationship violence. Our GIRLPOWER! Program, funded by Mercy Medical Center, allows us to train high school girls to teach the anti-violence curriculum to 9-14 year-old girls with the intent that they understand how to identify and avoid “unhealthy” relationships, and not to accept bullying, fighting, or violence of any kind. And the evaluations tell us GIRLPOWER! is effective, and it’s teaching girls to be strong, to stand up for themselves, and to respect themselves so that they don’t become targets or victims.

Thank you for being a leader in this work.

…now if we could only teach the National Football League…

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