Ray Rice Returns

Over the weekend, news broke that his suspension from the NFL had been overturned. Caroline Bankoff explains the sequence of events:

Along with the NFL Players Association, Rice appealed his suspension. In a double-jeopardy-type defense, Rice said he told [Roger] Goodell exactly what happened in the elevator during a meeting held after the first video was released, which meant that the release of the more graphic footage should not have resulted in a second penalty.

Meanwhile, Goodell maintained that the second video showed a “starkly different sequence of events” than those described to him by Rice. (Among other things, Goodell claimed that Rice told him that he had merely slapped Janay and that she subsequently fell into a railing and knocked herself unconscious, but that story didn’t appear anywhere in the records of the meeting.) In the end, former federal judge Barbara S. Jones sided with Rice.

Scott Lemieux comments:

Yes, if the NFL had a competently designed system of punishment, knocking a woman unconscious would not merit a significantly lower suspension than using recreational drugs.  Nonetheless, the NFL did not have such a system when Rice committed the offense (and, for that matter, doesn’t now, but anyway.)  The idea that Rice should retroactively receive a greater punishment than Goodell thinks a domestic offender should get in a standard announced after the fact because he “lied to Goodell” is absurd on its face.  And the absurdity is compounded by the fact that it’s vastly more likely that Goodell is lying than Rice is.

Kevin Drum also warily approves of the decision:

Ray Rice committed a crime. We have a system for dealing with crimes: the criminal justice system. Employers are not good candidates to be extrajudicial arms for punishing criminal offenders, and I would be very, very careful about thinking that they should be.

Kavitha A. Davidson has more on the labor angle:

The ruling in no way exonerates Rice. It is not an excuse for his actions or a sign that his brutal beating of his wife was not deserving of stiff punishment. It’s not a commentary that domestic violence discipline is out of the NFL’s purview. It’s not even an explicit acknowledgement that Ray Rice deserves a second chance to play professional football.

Rather, this ruling is purely an indictment of the entire NFL disciplinary process.

Ed Morrissey considers Rice’s future in football:

Rice will play again, even if it’s next year and on a team that doesn’t care about bad publicity. That would make the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins the two most likely options for Rice, the latter of which got bad PR just for tweeting out a Happy Thanksgiving message yesterday. If that’s all it takes for the social-justice warriors to come unglued, having Rice in the backfield won’t make matters any worse than they already are.

Make no mistake: if a team signs Rice, then every time the anti-domestic violence ad runs during an NFL game, people will scream about the hypocrisy the team that signs him is demonstrating. And the critics won’t be entirely wrong, either.

Mike Barnicle offers a note of pessimism:

Roger and the NFL will now have to face the severe consequences of their incompetence or indifference toward the crime of domestic abuse: A few days of embarrassing publicity.

That’s it. That’s all that’s going to happen. Nothing more.

How come? Because the National Football League is a cultural and economic powerhouse. It dominates Sunday in America. And Monday night. And Thursday night too. It is a cash cow, handed billions by TV networks and rewarding its sponsors with huge ratings and ever growing revenues. It has enough clout to force presidents to change their schedule to speak to the nation about minor topics like the economy or war and enough arrogance to ignore for years the physical damage the game has done to its former players.

Update from a reader, who points to a new piece from “Janay Rice, in her own words.”

Abuse In The Public Eye, Ctd

Ta-Nehisi Coates comments on comparisons between two controversial athletes:

Soccer star Hope Solo is alleged to have assaulted her sister and 17-year old nephew in June of this year. Unlike Ray Rice, Solo is still plying her trade as a goalkeeper for the national team. This led several people to claim that Solo is the beneficiary of a double standard. …

In the history of humanity, spouse-beating is a particularly odious tradition—one often employed by men looking to exert power over women. Just as lynching in America is not a phenomenon wholly confined to black people, spouse-beatings are not wholly confined to women. But in our actual history, women have largely been on the receiving end of spouse-beating. We have generally recognized this in our saner moments. There is a reason why we call it the “Violence Against Women Act” and not the “Brawling With Families Act.” That is because we recognize that violence against women is an insidious, and sometimes lethal, tradition that deserves a special place in our customs and laws.

This is the tradition with which Ray Rice will be permanently affiliated. Hope Solo is affiliated with a different tradition—misdemeanor assault. If she is guilty she should be punished.

Amanda Hess explains another “startling false equivalence” between the men’s football and women’s soccer scandals:

Rice was cut from his team and suspended from the NFL in response to overwhelming criticism from fans, domestic violence advocates, and sponsors who were finally fed up with the fact that the NFL has, for decades, taken domestic violence less seriously than it does, for example, drug offenses. Rice’s indefinite ban (which he plans to appeal) is the NFL’s attempt to demonstrate that it takes his crime seriously, sure. But it is also a bid to deflect criticism directed at the Ravens and league officials, who stand accused of purposefully misleading the public about the details of Rice’s crime and their investigation of it. All of the players who have been benched in the past couple of weeks are taking the heat for their league’s long-standing ignorance of domestic violence.

It’s not clear that this approach—which penalizes highly visible players while letting the league off the hook—is ideal. What we do know for certain is that it’s not applicable to U.S. women’s soccer, which has no such systematic, decades-long history of ignoring the fact that certain players abuse their partners.

She also notes an eerie coincidence:

If we’re interested in elevating Solo as the symbolic face of women perpetuating domestic violence, let’s really investigate what exactly she represents. [NYT’s Juliet Macur] oddly omits the fact that former NFL player Jerramy Stevens—who is no longer in the league after amassing a truly impressive list of sexual assault, battery, and DUI accusations—was arrested for attacking Solo the night before their wedding. The case was dropped for lack of evidence, largely stemming from Solo’s nonparticipation. The couple was married shortly thereafter, kinda sorta exactly like what happened with Ray and Janay Rice.

Previous Dish on male victims and female perpetrators here. The far greater problem of violence against women covered here and here.

Husband Beaters, Ctd

Another reader shares his story:

I am a large, physically capable male who worked as a bouncer in bars through most of university. My ex-wife was emotionally and physically abusive. She would hit/attack me without warning, sometimes when I was asleep, sometimes during sex (out of the blue), rarely in front of witnesses, even though the kids saw her do it a couple of times.

When my ex-wife would hit me, I would challenge her later (after a cool-down). I would ask her why she did it, and why she felt it was ok to hit me, but not ok for a man to hit a woman. Her response was a few apologies, many deflections and dismissals, and often “My mom did a lot worse to my dad.”

FYI: for very personal reasons, I am a violence-against-women activist and have been since my late teens. I do not strike or abuse women. I am a firm feminist. My ex-wife would use that to her advantage, knowing I wouldn’t respond other than verbally and to try to protect myself without striking back. I didn’t even grab her wrists – except once, when she attacked me while I was sleeping and I was disoriented on awakening.

My ex-wife was abused/beaten by her mother and sexually abused by a family member. I tried very hard to be understanding and accommodating of her life trauma. Some of the writers on this thread, and in articles on other sites, have minimised the kind of injury a woman can effect on a large male. Some writers even call them “little taps” and “harmless taps”.

I still have PTSD flashbacks from my ex-wife hitting me, with her fists or other objects, or a pillow or fists during sex, because she had a sudden flashback to the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and she lost self-control (and chose to lose it).

My two now-adult children are still edgy around the subject. They were witnesses to their mother hitting their father – however “little” the blows were. The blows she landed caused no permanent physical injury, but they were in no way harmless. While I understand the context of my experience and my ex-wife’s issues, the lasting pain of those “little taps” is pretty profound (that and the emotional abuse that accompanied it). I have difficulty getting people to believe the deep emotional injury those “harmless taps” caused, and I have been mocked for my ongoing anguish.

Under male stereotypes, I should be just brushing off the fact that the person I ostensibly loved most (my spouse) perpetrated physical violence against me on a regular basis.

Another sends the above video:

Long-time reader, sometime emailer here (you’ve actually published a couple of my emails a few years back, about Bioshock/Ayn Rand and about loyalty to a sports team). Full disclosure: I’m male, I have never been the victim of domestic abuse, so this is not something I’ve ever experienced (thank goodness). I’ve been following your “Abuse In The Public Eye” thread for some time, and I am not at all surprised that there are stories of women domestically abusing their husbands/boyfriends.  When I was a teen and a college student, I assumed that if there was a case of domestic violence it would be a man striking a woman.  That is, until I saw a stand up routine by Christopher Titus.

This is a man, in his 40s, who’s had a very rough life (psychotic mother who committed suicide, alcoholic father) and the way he deals with it is basically making a comic routine out of all the awful things he’s had to deal with. His awful experiences include an ex-girlfriend who would physically abuse him.  Now, much of the information is from a comedy routine, so it’s played for laughs, but as Titus puts it, his girlfriend would routinely lose her temper (because she was bipolar) and “crack me in the face”.  But he doesn’t leave.  He stayed for months, even moving in with her after she beats him up watching a Christmas special.

Husband Beaters, Ctd

A reader sharpens the discussion over female domestic violence, which the Dish broached back in June:

I think both readers you recently quoted regarding Janay Rice hitting Ray Rice have valid points. What bothers me is that it seems to be treated as a zero sum game when we talk about reciprocity in domestic violence. Do women have it worse than men? Of course! Does that mean that violence against men shouldn’t be mentioned? I don’t think so. If anything, I think it would help the conversation if men understood how universal it is. Not talking about it seems like it only encourages men to accept abuse until they snap back. That by no means justifies when they snap, but it does contribute to it. And just making that point clear definitely doesn’t mean men have it anywhere near as bad as women in domestic violence.

This should not be a contest of who is more oppressed. Everyone suffers from toxic or outdated expectations about gender. The more open and nuanced the conversation, the better.

Two male readers share their stories of abuse:

Never thought I’d be writing to someone about this, but your discussion is prompting me to write. I suffered a severe beating at the hands of a former girlfriend – broken nose, splinters (from a 2×4) in and around the eyes.

The incident, for lack of a better word, went on much longer than it should have simply because for me to defend myself would have involved my committing violence against a woman – such an ultimate “no no” that it’s practically etched on most (stressing “most”) men’s DNA.  I have sisters.  If I had touched my sisters in ANY WAY, my dad would’ve killed me.

I finally realized that if I didn’t do something, the woman in question might literally not stop, and I was somewhat disoriented as a result of the nose-breaking shot to the face with the 2×4, with which I was still getting hit.  I finally took her down to the floor as gently as I could and – I can hardly believe I’m writing this – put a hand around her neck, just enough to let her know it was there – and said “Stop.”   This served to make her snap out of the rage she was in.  It was like a light switched off, and then it was over.

I woke up the next morning and didn’t even recognize myself.  I have a driver’s license photo taken seven weeks after the event in which a black-and-blue shadow can still be seen along one side of my face.  It took two years for a splinter lodged near my temple to finally dislodge itself, and I have some scarring around one eye.  This was almost 30 years ago.

For a long time I thought I must have brought this on myself.  I mean, isn’t this kind of thing unheard of?  All I can say is that I found out years later that she got physical with her next boyfriend, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that a great burden was lifted from me upon hearing that news.

I’m not saying in any way that Ray Rice was justified in hitting his fiancee/wife.  But sometimes – stress “sometimes” – these things are more complicated than they appear.

Another quotes a reader from another post:

Men are far, far more likely to injure, abuse and murder their partner than women are; it’s not a remotely equal situation, and treating it as such undermines the very real danger millions of American women are facing every single day.

What an absurd argument for the second writer to make regarding the need to crack down on female abusers.  This is not a zero sum game. Abuse is abuse, and the message can be universal without detracting from the fact that women are the more likely victims.

And quite frankly, speaking from experience, when you are on the receiving end, even as a man, it is your own personal hell and statistics go right out the window.  My partner liked to attack me while I was sleeping.  I would wake up in total confusion and then immediately try to restrain her.  I outweighed her by 80 pounds, but to hold a physically fit person by her wrists in the hope she will calm down when she is amped on adrenaline is an exhausting test of stamina.  Trust me: the person’s legs are free to kick out and a determined person can reach a neck with her teeth.

Even in a progressive city like Seattle, she counted on the expectation that she could shame and endanger me by calling out loudly for help as I held her back.  When the neighbors knocked on the door, you can bet your life I opened it as fast as I could, brought them inside and explained exactly what was going on (she often had been drinking and was still “ornery”). I consider it a modern miracle the police never came.

But that is the problem. Neighbors and society, in general, still shrug off the acts of female abusers.  It can’t be that bad, or “legitimate,” if the bad guy is a “bad gal” who is cute as a button and a hundred ten pounds in her stocking feet.  It even worked on me. The aftermath would be tears and apologies that left me feeling sorry for her and guilty about not doing a “better job” to avoid bruising her wrists in the act of holding her down.

Abuse In The Public Eye, Ctd

With the Oscar Pistorius verdict reached (and seen above), many commentators are comparing the case to the Ray Rice incident, including Charlayne Hunter-Gault:

Of course, it’s a coincidence that these two cases are in the public eye at the same moment, thousands of miles apart. No, Ray Rice did not kill his fiancée; he knocked her out cold. But, in this country, as in South Africa, the abuse and, yes, the murder of women is beyond horrendous, and most cases go unpunished or, unless the accused is a big guy with big bucks and a big rep, unnoticed. (And many times even then.) … For many, the Pistorius verdict was a disappointment; though he has still been convicted of a serious crime, with the possibility of up to fifteen years in prison, he escaped the most serious consequences.

Hadley Freeman’s take:

We know what it takes for people to believe that a woman has been abused by a famous, powerful man: they need to witness the actual abuse. The NFL only accepted that American footballer Ray Rice had done a Really Bad Thing when the video of him slugging his then fiancee Janay Palmer unconscious in an elevator was leaked [last] week. The earlier video of him dragging her unconscious out of the lift was, apparently, not good enough: the NFL had to see the punch because previously they’d apparently thought he knocked her out with a kiss. Rice, like Pistorius, was simply too lucrative for the sporting industry to lose just because of a pesky domestic-abuse charge.

Within minutes of [Judge Thokozile] Masipa wrapping up her verdict, South Africa’s Paralympic committee issued a statement that “if Pistorius wishes to resume his athletics career then we wouldn’t step in his way”. What’s a little culpable homicide between colleagues?

Denise Brown (sister of the late Nicole) brings a personal touch:

My sister was once overheard saying, “He’s going to kill me and get away with it.” And it’s been alleged that O.J. Simpson was once overheard screaming at my sister’s grave and blaming her for what she has done to him and his life. Until all of us have zero tolerance for domestic violence, especially from male athletes—who, with their superstar statuses are protected and coddled rather than held up to a higher standard of being—we will see this horror played out again and again.

Others are asking, more generally, how to address domestic violence. Jonathan Cohn has some policy suggestions:

Broad, cultural messages appear to make a differencenot just what young children see and hear, from their families and neighbors but also from their role models on television and in sports arenas, may have an impact. In addition, many researchers think it’s possible to reach kids more directly, through schools or through their parents. According to these researchers, themes should include how men treat womenand how they express their own emotions. “[We should] raise boys and men so they know it’s fine to cry and to show fear or other ‘weakness,’ and that expressing anger is not the only acceptable emotion for males,” says Nancy Lemon, Boalt Lecturer at the University of California-Berkeley Law School and author a leading textbook on domestic violence law. Among the ideal targets for the interventions are the kids most at risk of becoming abusers later in lifethe ones who, while very young, are victims of or witnesses to abuse in their homes.

It all sounds very plausible. And there’s sporadic evidence that some programs have produced positive results on a small scalefor example, 2000 California high-schoolers who participated in a program called “Coaching Boys Into Men” said they were less likely to engage in abusive behavior and more likely to stop a friend from showing abusive behavior. But overwhelming social science evidence, the kind that undergirds other successful government and private sector programs, doesn’t really existpartly because nobody has had the funds or opportunity to do the necessary, long-term research. “We don’t really know for sure what works,” says Richard Gelles, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of The Violent Home.

Eugene Volokh notes a challenge of zero-tolerance policies:

Indeed, my understanding is that this is already one reason why some wives don’t report abuse by their husbands: If the husband is arrested and imprisoned, he’ll lose his job, and when that happens the family loses, too. But a zero-tolerance policy, under which the employer obligates itself to permanently fire the husband, and in a situation where the loss of income has such a dramatic financial effect, would only exacerbate the problem. This is an aspect of what I call the anti cooperative effect of law: Sometimes measures to fight crime actually cause people to fear cooperating with law enforcement.

Now maybe on balance a zero-tolerance policy would still do more good than harm. The senators’ letter argues, for instance, that the policy would “send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America.” If that’s right, then maybe (1) the deterrent effects plus (2) the norm-setting effects (the message sent to children across America) will on balance protect women more than the anticooperative effects will jeopardize them.

But on the other hand, the anticooperative effect will, at least in some measure, decrease the deterrent effect.

#WhyIStayed, Ctd

The reactions to the Ray Rice story continue to roll in. CBS Sportscaster James Brown speaks out:

Amanda Marcotte rejects lines of commentary that suggest Ray Rice is a victim:

Because of this vast gulf in male and female experiences of domestic violence, unsurprisingly the impact also varies dramatically. On Tuesday, Catherine Cloutier of the Boston Globe published an examination of how much more seriously women’s lives are impacted by intimate partner violence. The CDC surveyed around 14,000 people to determine the impact of domestic violence on their lives. Men and women were somewhat similar in rates of having endured some kind of assault, at 27.5 percent for men and 29.7 percent for women.

But looking beyond counting individual touches, a different picture emerges. Twenty-four percent of female victims report feeling fearful, compared to 7 percent of men. One in five female victims suffer from PTSD symptoms, whereas only 1 in 20 male victims do. Only 3 percent of male victims suffer physical injury, but over 13 percent of female victims do. Twice as many female victims as male victims missed work because of domestic violence.

The disparity is likely the result of male abuse simply being way more violent and chronic than female abuse. Asking people if they’ve been hit once is relevant, of course, but in measuring the realities of domestic violence, the more important question is if you’re being hit frequently, being terrorized by violence on a regular basis, being stalked and controlled, or being threatened with your life if you try to leave.

Yes, no one should hit anyone else. But that statement is the beginning of the conversation about the problem of domestic violence, not the end of it.

And the Dish is channeling that conversation here. Josh Levin wants the NFL’s other abusers to held accountable:

The best analogy here is to the awful scourge of sexual assault on college campuses. In addition to going to local police, a student can have her complaint heard through a campus adjudication procedure, one that uses “the preponderance of evidence” as a standard of proof rather than a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. (As Emily Bazelon has explained, preponderance of the evidence means “reviewers must find only that it’s more likely than not that the sexual assault or harassment occurred.”) There are problems with these campus systems—the New York Times story on Hobart and William Smith Colleges offers a harrowing account of all that can go wrong—but at least they acknowledge the existence of something akin to institutional responsibility.

At least before TMZ released the Rice video, such a concept did not exist in the NFL. Teams have long operated on the assumption that they could say they’re “aware of the situation,” and then just pretend like nothing happened as soon as the news blew over. At some point, individual teams may decide that it makes sense for them to move to a preponderance-of-evidence standard—to decide that it’s in their best interest to cut a player if it’s more likely than not that he’s a domestic abuser. I don’t know if we’ve reached that point yet, but the Rice video has gotten us closer to that day. Seeing a sports star clock his fiancée in the face has changed something—for fans, for the media, and ultimately, I think, for the teams. If it doesn’t, then the NFL’s problem with domestic violence runs even deeper than we thought.

Alyssa Rosenberg finds wanting NFL Commissioner Goodell’s standard operating procedure:

When it becomes impossible to deny that bad news utterly, his task then becomes to respond in a way that has minimal impact on the NFL’s finances and on the week-by-week play on the field. As long as Goodell is willing to accept the public perception that he is dishonest or in denial, absorbing the damage on behalf of the league, I suppose it is a viable approach to protecting “the integrity of the NFL.” But no matter how much pain Goodell is willing to accept, this is a way of operating that leaves his league a little more battered with every incident. In life, unlike on the gridiron, sometimes it is better to take the hit and move expeditiously to heal from the damage.

Robert Silverman thinks the NFL needs more women:

If the league actually wants to solve the problem, instead of treating it as a particularly thorny public relations issue; if the league had a vested interest in trying to win back a semblance of trust from the 46 percent of their fan base that happens to be female and the unknown percentage of men who are equally repulsed? Here’s one solution: Hire more women and place them in positions of real power.

Abuse In The Public Eye, Ctd

A reader expands on this update and then some:

While I will not dispute that men can and are abused too, 85% of domestic violence victims are women, and women are most likely to be murdered by an intimate partner. On the specifics of the Rice situation, an examination of the tape with audio clearly shows that he spit on her, she reaches out to strike him (punch would be a stretch), they go into the elevator, he spits at her again, she lashes out back at him, he strikes her face, she strikes back and then he delivers the knock-out punch. I don’t know about you, but I don’t take kindly to being spit upon, especially by my fiancee. Clearly none of her attempts at striking him even landed and he connected with her head twice.

Yes, the video does indicate to me that there was previous violence and disrespectful action in their relationship.  But no sir, this is not a case of a man being abused and then finally saying enough and striking back. Also too, Ray Rice is maybe 5’7″ 205 and a trained boxer (oh, and plays the 2nd or 3rd most violent sport in the world), so there’s the small issue of strength and the dis-proportionality of response.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a woman who grew up with domestic violence and has been abused myself. Your male writer may have a reason to be sensitive to male DV, but this ain’t that.

Another takes a different angle:

Please be courageous enough to explain to people that although we may be justified in showing moral outrage in the Ray Rice situation, there are still laws, and unless women educate themselves on laws, they will never be fully protected by them.

First, there is a notion out there that says provocation doesn’t exist. Sorry, it does.

It clearly exists with all laws, as provocation is the basis for any self-defense argument. Socially and morally we have double standards that benefit women, but there are no such double standards written in laws that allow women or people who are smaller to get away with something that their opposites cannot. Universal legal standard is if someone, no matter gender or size, attacks you (provocation), you have the right to respond with equal or lesser force (self defense).

Secondly, if we ignore all of what Janay did and just focus on Ray Rice’s action, he may have attacked her, but he also backed away. The moment where he retreated and then she charged him effectively made it impossible for the DA to prosecute him, hence her being arrested that night as well. Mutual combat. He retreated, she re-engaged him, menacing at that, and with further irony if his lawyer was good/shiesty enough he could argue he was defending himself.

#WhyIStayed is great. But unless women have a #WhyILearnedThe Law, the law will never be on their side.

But another underscores an essential point:

Proportionality matters.  If you are a muscle-bound, 210-pound man, you don’t punch someone half your size.  Ray Rice barely flinches when she touches him outside the elevator; he shrugs off her elbow (and looks like he slaps her). Meanwhile, Janay fell like a slow-motion rag doll.  It was horrifying – I’m surprised she didn’t get a severe neck injury from catching the hand rail on the way down.

That’s not self defense.  The only time it’s OK for a 210-pound guy to throw a left hook at a woman is if the woman in question is Ronda Rousey and you’re both in a cage match in a dystopian Hunger Games future.

And look at Ray Rice after he hits her.  He isn’t on his knees, trying to bring her to, and in disbelief of his own actions.  He’s trying to toss her dead weight out of the elevator.  Based on his actions alone, I’d be shocked if this was the first time he hit her.

Start talking about reality, your reader says?  Start talking about common sense.  You don’t hit someone unless there is no other option for your self defense.  Know your own strength. Don’t escalate a situation by getting in someone’s face.

Or as another puts it:

For your reader’s benefit, here’s one surprising trick men can use to protect themselves from physical abuse: Walk away. That’s all Ray Rice would have needed to do. Walk away. Don’t get on the elevator. Be a man.

More emails to come. Follow the entire thread here.