By Bob May, Tom Stevenson, and Mark Mouritsen
The Ray Rice saga will live on – we have the video and it’s not going away. And there have been no limit to the number of available demons to blame: Ray Rice for knocking his then-girlfriend unconscious and pulling her limp body from the elevator; the NFL for punishing this assault with only a two-game suspension; football enthusiasts for turning a blind eye until it became impossible to ignore; the Ravens for continuing to celebrate and support Ray Rice even after the domestic violence became known; the media for showing the appalling video over and over again; the list is endless. A fair share of the blame was even ludicrously cast at Janay Palmer Rice, for “going back” and “standing by her man.”
As men who stand against domestic violence, as fathers of daughters, and men who celebrate family as a place of peace and stability, we note that there is one little person who is a victim in the truest sense of the word. What of Ray and Janay’s two-year old daughter? A little girl who will now grow up watching this horrific video as it plays over and over again into the future.
We find ourselves asking, how could this have been different for her? And it always comes back to her father’s actions. What if Ray Rice had never hit Janay? What if he had held his anger, gotten off the elevator, and walked away?
Or what if, after hitting his fiancée, Ray Rice had acknowledged his actions, approached his team and asked for help? What if he wouldn’t stop asking until real and effective batterer’s intervention treatment was provided?
What if Janay had also been linked to a counseling service, helped in developing a safety plan, and supported as she worked to save her marriage or to create a new life for herself and her daughter?
What if Ray Rice’s subsequent actions made his actions in the elevator into a turning point in his family’s life, rather than a shameful episode that will live on in infamy?
We serve as board members of the LIFT Alliance, SafePlace and Austin Children’s Services. LIFT was formed as a partnership between SafePlace and ACS, because sexual and domestic violence and child abuse are all too often linked in the lives of the people served by these organizations.
We know that violence against women also hurts children. Did the NFL and the Ravens give any thought to the toddler living with this man? Children do watch their mothers being beaten and even killed; 39 Texas children witnessed the murder of their mothers in Texas in 2013 – violence these children will live with for the rest of their lives. The mothers, however, weren’t given the chance to live with the violence. They were murdered by the person who professed to love them.
We are men who are working actively to end violence against women and children, and we believe that it is time to enlist the support of all men in this effort. We stand as fathers of daughters, sons of mothers, husbands of wives, and we stand as men who celebrate family as a place of peace and stability. Most men don’t treat women this way, of course. But all men should be thinking about actions instead of indifference.
As men, we have kept our heads in the sand about violence and abuse for far too long. We have allowed ourselves to believe that simply by being non-violent in our own lives, we are doing enough. It’s time for us to lead the effort to eradicate this silent epidemic. Men who conduct themselves in this way create a stigma for all men. We pledge to make elimination of violence, in all forms, a top priority in the conduct of our daily lives. Who among you will stand with us?
(Originally appeared in the Austin American Statesman)