Ray Rice has been released from his NFL football team and banned indefinitely from the NFL – this week. Based on previous footage from outside of the elevator, he was banned for two games and then welcomed back into the fold. Only when the footage of the violent left hook took out his fiancé, smashing her head into the side the elevator was he given the boot. Domestic violence has a new face for the moment.
With all of the conversation about domestic violence since the 1970’s (some argue Bela Abzug in the 1960’s) that exposed the terror of such abuse, why is domestic violence still so prevalent?
An article appeared in Aeon online magazine written by Rebecca Onion that examined the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” advice column in the Ladies Home Journal from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. The column was dominated by a man who believed in the pseudo-science of eugenics, Paul Popenoe. He submitted the cases that the Journal considered for publication and all of them were overseen by his counselors. The rock-solid conclusion was that the woman was always to blame.
“Sue” was wrong for denying “Jack” sex after he hit her. She should have known that her refusal would only escalate his anger. Most of the columns that mentioned domestic violence and male anger minimized the violence of these incidents. The woman was seen as the spark of the incident and the one who had to change or compromise to resolve the issue.
Fast forward to Ray Rice and the woman he slugged who is now his wife. Like the dated advice columns, the NFL minimized the incident at the casino. I have no doubt that the original punishment was more of a business decision meant to show while the League was paying attention but that they wanted to move on to other subjects. The focus was business and not about an abused woman and an abusive man.
A comparison between the two teases out the real reaction of a good chunk of American culture – minimize domestic violence and hide it away. Outrage won the day this time although it was a slow and uneven process. Too many times, the woman ends up dead as the man’s anger continues to escalate.
For advocates against domestic violence, we did not win anything this time but a few minutes of media attention. This case demonstrates how thoroughly domestic violence is still tolerated in many neighborhoods of our country. Then as now, wishing it would disappear is a fool’s hope.