The release and indefinite suspension earlier this week of (former) Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice has stirred up a robust discussion about domestic violence.
A videotape of the 27-year-old running back punching his then-fiancee, Janay, inside an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator surfaced on Monday. The incident occurred in March, and was reported to both NFL and team officials. Rice pleaded not guilty to third-degree aggravated assault and agreed to enter a rehabilitation program and get counseling. Janay publicly forgave him and requested privacy. In August, the NFL suspended Ray Rice for two games, a ruling that many, including myself, considered woefully lenient and unacceptable.
Everything seemed to change, though, when the graphic brutality became clear after video footage of the assault was released by the website TMZ.
Within hours of the tape going public, the Ravens released Rice and the NFL announced the increased suspension. News reports mainly focused on when the NFL actually saw the tape of what happened inside the elevator.
As an aside, I don’t appreciate the distinction or importance concerning the timing of the tape’s release. A previously released tape shows Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator into the hallway. And Rice, himself, admitted and apologized for hitting her. Come on. Wrong is wrong. The NFL knew that Ray Rice hit a woman. The details of the incident were already apparent from the existing evidence. The presence of the tape should make no difference.
Still other news reports and commentators have questioned how and why Janay would have agreed to marry a man who would do such a thing to her. Ray and Janay married a day before Ray was indicted for the abuse.
All of these moving parts of the story reflect several things about domestic violence – mainly that it’s a terrible and ugly crime that’s at once simple to judge (it’s never acceptable, of course), but layered and complicated because of the human and emotional components to it.
As popular blogger Matt Walsh pointed out earlier this week, the unanimous revulsion to this incident does reveal that in America, chivalry, at least as a concept, is still revered:
And, though few will say it anymore, we know that among a man’s duties is that ever-important charge to protect and honor women. Men are meant to use their strength to defend women against harm. When a man betrays this responsibility, we act as though he’s turned the world upside down, because he has. The man is not just a generic “aggressor”; he is a traitor. He has deserted his post. He was given his strength for a reason. It is supposed to be a shield for the women and children in his life, but he has used it as a weapon against them.
To use what is uniquely masculine in a humble, serving, and protective way — that is the essence of chivalry. We become this expressly furious and impassioned about a man’s abuse of a woman because he has so shirked and abandoned his manly, chivalrous duty. That is what drives our response to this kind of thing, no matter how progressive we otherwise pretend to be.
Dig to the bottom of everything — ignore most of the modern liberal “gender theory” rhetoric — and you will still find the remnants of chivalry. And if not the remnants of chivalry itself, then the remnants of a desire for it. Despite all of our academic arguments to the contrary, still most of us know, at a deep and visceral level, that men and women are different and this difference means something.
That’s why men should not hit women. It’s more than just “they’re people.” It’s also that “they’re women,” and that distinction is as significant as most of us already treat it.
I greatly appreciate the sentiment that Matt is expressing here, and it’s the essence of what I’ve been trying to teach and communicate to our boys, Trent and Troy, as they grow and mature into young men.
What to do when faced with domestic abuse?
Raising the topic of domestic abuse inevitably churns up difficult memories for those who have been victimized by it, both women and men. Unfortunately, we hear from many people every day who are still processing the grief or even currently navigating through the horror of it. If this speaks to you, I have three pieces of advice our counselors here at Focus offer to those in abusive marital situations that I’d like to share with you:
1. Take decisive action as soon as possible: Your attitude toward physical violence must always be one of zero tolerance. This is a red flag that should not be ignored. The potential for danger is very real in cases like this. Your basic rule of thumb should be “safety first.” This consideration becomes all the more pressing when there are children in the household.
Exactly what do we mean by “decisive action”? That depends on your immediate circumstances. Are you facing imminent danger? Have you just experienced physical harm? If so, you must call 911 without delay. Let the police intervene and allow the process to unfold from there.
2. Pose an ultimatum: A spouse who is acting out in this fashion can sometimes be persuaded to make a change if his partner has the courage to stand up for herself. Tell him, “Either we get counseling, or I’m moving out until you’re ready to help me resolve this problem.” Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your support system is in place before you take any such step. If you’re going to leave, you need someplace to go – the home of a friend, family member, or neighbor. Lay your plans, line up your resources, and make your arrangements prior to packing your bags and walking out the door.
3. Seek help from a professional counselor: Make sure that the therapist you choose understands the dynamics of abuse, power, and control, and that he or she is well trained in the highly specialized field of marital conflict. Among other things, a therapist can help you gain insight into any deeper issues that may be underlying any past willingness on your part to put up with this kind of treatment. A good counselor can help you recognize to what extent you may have become brainwashed by your spouse’s behavior and thus lulled into a state of resigned acceptance of your lot.
Focus on the Family’s counseling staff can provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists practicing in your area. They would also consider it a privilege to discuss your situation with you over the phone if you think this might be helpful. You can contact our counseling department for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they’re able.