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No Excuse

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ray Rice Press Conference

There is never an excuse for domestic violence.

No buts, no exceptions, no modifications; there is NEVER an excuse for domestic abuse. It baffles me that this point is even up for debate but the release of the full tape from the elevator in the Atlantic City hotel where Ray Rice stuck his then fiancee unconscious and then dragged her limb body across the floor has, quite understandably sparked new outrage. It’s also brought bizarre and disheartening pushback from those defending Rice for… reasons that are frankly beyond me.

If you’ve read any of my work here you know I speak my mind directly. More than any other topic I’ve discussed, this one has garnered the most negative commentary. That blows my mind but it’s a stark reminder to never underestimate the extent to which hatred of women is normalized and internalized in our society. Let me clear, when I say there’s no excuse for domestic violence I mean that in all of its forms, beyond a simple binary. That obviously includes men being on the receiving end, same sex relationships and transgendered couples, but the current discourse is steeped heavily in trying to find justifications for men to abuse women and maintain that power dynamic. There is absolutely no excuse for it. 

If there were a singular reason we talk about domestic violence in terms predominantly about women, it’s because the exigency of lethal threat is so much greater for them. Of all women murdered in the United States, nearly 40% were killed by a spouse or dating partner. For men that figure is between two and three percent. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics women account for 85% of all victims of intimate partner violence. Domestic violence represents life or death moments for millions, so excuse me if I am out of patience when it comes to false equivalence and strawman arguments. 

But when can we talk about elements of provocation?

There is never an excuse for domestic abuse.

Some (most notably Stephen A. Smith) in light Rice’s initial suspension and the universal reaction that it was too light based on the precedent the NFL itself had set, made the case the running back was wrong and there was never an excuse to hit a woman… BUT ” at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation”. When you say there is never an excuse for domestic abuse, END THAT SENTENCE. Period. Full stop. 

You can’t say there is not an excuse for something, then in the very next breath offer up an excuse. It doesn’t work that way. Too often, we try to explain away abuse because the woman must have something. She must have said something, or provoked him into doing it. The practice of victim blaming is entrenched in patriarchy and will do everything it can to defend that power dynamic, but there is no excuse for domestic violence. It strikes a nerve for a great number of people, and it’s so much easier to want to believe than recognizing the depths of our moral failure, but we need to call it out as plainly as possible. 

What about women beating up men?

There is never an excuse for domestic abuse.

This goes across the board, whether it be man-on-woman, woman-on-man, woman-on-woman, etc. Here’s a simple rule: don’t put your hands on people. I’m not invaliding male victims of domestic abuse, and according to the CDC more than one-in-four men have experienced violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner. It’s a serious issue, and one that is stigmatized and underreported as it is. Too often though, the question is wielded as a derailing tactic to stop the conversation from happening. When I say domestic violence is wrong, I mean domestic violence is wrong. This means it is wrong for men to be abused as well. Don’t be this guy.

Why isn’t anyone talking about Hope Solo? Why is there so much hypocrisy going on here?

There is never an excuse for domestic abuse.

If you can find one article, tweet, or sound bite from anyone defending Hope Solo it would be the first one I’ve seen. This seemingly out of nowhere became the false equivalence du jour in this story, similar to the nonsensical trope of Black-on-Black crime that was trotted out in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s killing. It also ignores several facts and the larger context of reality, but I suppose that’s not too surprising. Hope Solo is accused of assaulting her sister and nephew this summer. She has denied the charges and is still playing pending the legal process. Ray Rice was suspended for two games with video evidence and an admission of striking his then-fiancée. It was only after the full video was released to the public that he was cut and lost his sponsorships. 

Why is the outrage different? Ray Rice is an NFL player, Hope Solo plays women’s soccer. One is the biggest sport in this country, the other we (barely) pay attention to once every four years, if that. There hasn’t been national coverage of MMA fighter War Machine (legal name) who was accused of domestic violence in August, because that’s still a niche sport. There is only passing reference to Floyd Mayweather’s history of domestic assault and he is the most famous boxer in the world. The NFL is a public trust, and when the incidents seem to spiral one after the other like they have for the league there should be no surprise that it is covered differently.

This is still the league where Jovan Belcher ended up shooting his girlfriend and himself two years ago, and post-mortem analysis discovered signs of CTE brain damage which has been increasingly linked to the dangers of football and resulting in the violent deaths and erratic behavior of several former players. Context matters, and in the words of Katie McDonough’s article in Salon, “asking, ‘where’s the outrage’ might make for a strong headline, but it entirely misses the point of the current cultural reckoning around the NFL and domestic violence. Treating these cases as the same thing might be ‘equal,’ but it’s certainly not justice.” 

Justice is what I don’t want to lose sight of here. This conversation has used the framework of Ray Rice’s suspension, but domestic violence is obviously far larger and insidious than just the NFL. It is a part of our culture, and one we don’t speak of nearly enough because it’s so close to home. That domestic part of the distinction leads to many people suffering in silence and that’s why this conversation is so important. There is NEVER an excuse for domestic violence, and there is none for us not to do everything we can as a society to eradicate it.

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