Put a stop to the Spiral of Shame

It’s nothing but ugly, and I don’t want to talk about it. But it needs to be talked about. I tried not to see the tape of Ray Rice punching his now wife, Janay. I was watching the morning news on a local network, and there it was. He hit her like a man would hit another man. A man who was in fear for his life perhaps, or a man protecting his family.

I think I’m using the wrong word here. Because Ray Rice clearly is not a man. A man doesn’t hit a woman, or a child, or an animal, or for that matter, another man.

Some might consider Ray Rice an animal, but I won’t accept that either. An animal might attack another animal, but generally speaking it is in the course of hunting for food, to protect itself, a mate or babies, or because the attacking animal is sick. Not only should Rice have lost his job, he should be in jail.

I think people are having a hard time understanding why Janay went on to marry Rice, and the statement she released Tuesday. I’ve noticed that people are condemning her, accusing her of considering money and fame more important than her own safety and that of her children. Until you’ve walked a mile in her shoes, I feel, you have no right to judge her. It’s easy to say, "I would never put up with that." It’s easy to say, "I’d pack my things and go" or, "I’d put him in jail."

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, it is estimated that one in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Most instances of intimate partner violence are never reported.

One report states that on average, an abused woman or man leaves the relationship seven times before leaving for good. According to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, leaving an abusive relationship increases a victim’s risk of death by 75 percent.

These statistics bring to light the sad reality that we need sanctuaries like Alameda’s Midway Shelter.

The website The National Network To End Domestic Violence (www.nnedv.org) makes an important point: rather than ask why the victim stays with an abuser, ask why the abuser abuses. What is happening to Janay right now is also abuse. Having suffered injury at the hands of a loved one, she has been further injured by having the video of that horrible ordeal broadcast worldwide and being mocked by strangers who have no knowledge of who she is or what she is going through.

This is a woman who deserves compassion and privacy. The public humiliation and the loss of her husband’s employment cannot be helping her situation in any way. It is making what is already a volatile situation gravely dangerous.

There has been a disturbing trend in the media and on social networks of late to shame victims. In many cases the situations have escalated and resulted in death, self-inflicted and otherwise. It’s time for it to stop.

Carrie Beavers is the Marketing and Operations Manager at the Alameda Sun.