Domestic violence in a victim-blaming society

By Kiana Tipton


When news broke about the elevator incident involving then-NFL star Ray Rice, the public and the media realized the national discussion about domestic violence was long overdue.

Rice, then a Baltimore Ravens running back, punched and kicked his then-fiancé Janay Palmer unconscious in a hotel elevator on Feb. 15. They’re now married.

Since then the repercussions of Rice’s actions have inspired ESPN to dedicate numerous segments surrounding the issue of domestic violence, the NFL was shamed into revising its punishments regarding domestic violence, and Dick’s Sporting Goods pulled Rice’s jersey from all Baltimore-area stores.

President Obama even released a statement through his press secretary in regards to the Rice scandal: “The president is the father of two daughters. And like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society. Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that’s true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors. Stopping domestic violence is something that’s bigger than football — and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it.”

All of the attention on Rice battering Palmer has led to an outcry amongst young adults confronting Palmer through social media for staying with Rice, rather than garnering more education about domestic violence victims or seeking help. This is a problem. It is not only in domestic violence that our society puts blame on victims; the same happens with victims of rape or racial profiling.

It is common to hear someone say, “Well, they shouldn’t have gotten so drunk,” or, “They shouldn’t have worn such a short dress,” in regards to rape victims, and “They shouldn’t have worn baggy clothes” in regards to racial profiling.

While scrolling through my personal Facebook and Twitter feeds, I was disheartened to find many of my classmates placed the blame on Palmer rather than on Rice. If you feel a woman can “provoke” a man into hitting her, or a woman can drink her way into being raped, or a black man can dress his way into being arrested or killed, YOU are part of the problem.

Unsurprisingly, several FOX News hosts claimed women such as Palmer and Rihanna are sending a “terrible message” by remaining with their abusive partners. However, I think FOX News is sending the wrong message by focusing blame on the victims rather than their abusers.

“When we solely focus on whether a survivor stays with or leaves their abusive partner, we place all the responsibility on the survivor rather than holding the abusive partner accountable,” said Chai Jindasurat, program coordinator for the Anti-Violence Project, in an interview with the online news blog ThinkProgress. “Intimate partner violence is about power and control, and leaving can be an extremely dangerous and frightening option for survivors.”

Although I am very glad there was enough pressure on the NFL to make permanent changes regarding their punishments on domestic violence, including suspending Rice from the NFL indefinitely in order to make a statement, neither of these is a permanent solution to the incident. An abusive man losing his job can mean an impossible living situation for women at home.

There are countless well-documented and statistically verified reasons why domestic violence victims struggle to break the cycle of abuse. Firstly, many of them are financially dependent on their abuser and/or have kids or other familial expectations to consider. Another common reason is they simply don’t want the relationship to end; they want the violence to end, and their abuser has given them hope that it will. Oftentimes, women are scared of what will happen to them if they try to leave.

Imagine being a victim of domestic violence, and seeing your brother, or close friends tweet in defense of Ray Rice. Instead of asking “why doesn’t she leave” — a simple question to a very complex issue — we should be asking “why does the abuser abuse?”


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Jenifer Jaffe

UIW Editor 2014-15

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