Former NFL Ravens player Ray Rice has no one to blame except himself for his termination from the Baltimore Ravens, indefinite NFL suspension and possible loss of his football career due to the domestic violence inflicted on his then fiancé and now wife, Janay Rice. This is not about media “ratings” as his wife posted in an Instagram. This is about the NFL finally getting it right this time, after so long getting it wrong. And what happened to Ray Rice is what happens across America every day. He acted out his violent temper on his fiancé, knocking her unconscious. He and the Ravens tried to make it seem like it was only 30 seconds in his life. Well, I hate to be the one to let the Ravens, Rice and the NFL in on a simple truth. Every person, who appears in a court room as a criminal defendant and is convicted, wishes they had 30 seconds back of their life too. It doesn’t take hours, days or minutes to commit a crime. It usually takes only seconds of one’s lifetime. And the repercussions often last a lifetime.
And Ray Rice is not in a league of his own when it comes to domestic violence. Unfortunately, there are thousands of Ray Rice’s every day across this nation. And there are many victims like Janay Rice’s too. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. And every year one in three women who are victims of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner. Most abusers do not receive treatment, a criminal conviction or even a slap on the wrist for their transgressions as their victims do not prosecute or the courts fail to protect them with protective orders and other remedies. But as someone who has prosecuted and at times defended persons who committed domestic violence, Ray Rice does not also stand alone in the type of punishment given out to him. I have seen defendants who were corporate employees lose high level jobs due to domestic violence at home. It’s rare for employers to take domestic abuse as unacceptable behavior but it does occasionally happen.
And domestic violence against women, unlike some other crimes, is often one that lasts a lifetime in the world of the abused victim. There are psychological scars left with the victim that may last for quite some time from denial, remorse, fault and many others. We have already seen some of these play out in Janay Rice who apologized for her fault in Ray Rice’s behavior during the press conference held at the Raven’s facility earlier this year. And Janay Rice posted on her Instagram account comments indicating the unfairness of his punishment, thinking it was due to media “ratings” and calling it a “nightmare”. Janay Rice is like many victims of domestic violence who think everyone and everything is at fault for their abuse except their abuser. Hopefully Janay Rice will get the help she needs to understand that what happened was bigger than any media ratings and she bore no fault for its aftermath. There is nothing that she did which should cause or warrant her fiancé or any man to hit, punch and knock her out unconscious. And no apology was needed on her part. And the real nightmare for Janay Rice happened in February, 2014 inside the Revel Casino elevator in Atlantic City and not yesterday with his suspension and termination.
The NFL and the Ravens management and owners and even the Atlantic City prosecutors got it all wrong. The 30 seconds of Ray Rice’s abusive life didn’t just start in Atlantic City a few months ago. There was something deeply wrong and flawed with Rice to be able to punch out his wife regardless of what transpired in the elevator or before the incident. And Ray Rice needs the rest of his life to reflect and continually seek help for what happened. And he should not blame Roger Goodell, the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens or his wife. He and only he is the one that is to blame.
Debbie Hines is a former Baltimore prosecutor who has prosecuted and defended assault cases of domestic violence. She often speaks in the media on issues of gender and race in the law having appeared on Arise TV, BET, C-Span, Fox 5, RT America, Sky News and TV One among others.