Take the Stairs: Trivializing Violence Against Women

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When video was released of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée from an elevator at Revel Hotel and Casino over the summer, a collective gasp was made around the world. Sadly, that disgust didn’t reach the NFL until the full video of him knocking her out was released this week by TMZ.

A few things about the fall out from this violent act fascinate me. First, we all know the type of blow that would render a woman unconscious, so why did the NFL need to see the full video in order to suspend Rice indefinitely? Players that tested positive for recreational use of marijuana have been suspended for entire seasons, but Rice who beat a woman, was given two days off. Not to mention that after the Baltimore Raven’s originally supported Rice they rolled out a line of pink jersey’s with his name on it, reminding all of us that not only do they turn a blind eye to assault but they are also tone deaf—believing that women’s outrage over this overt abuse could be assuaged with pink NFL merchandising.

This isn’t the first time we have seen a black woman being beaten on camera in the past few months. A police officer that beat a black homeless woman on the side of the road wasn’t put on administrative leave until the video went viral. What is it about black female bodies that don’t warrant immediate action? Are we so desensitized to their humanity that we can turn our backs on their suffering and abuse?

As countless outlets have covered the Rice story they seem all too comfortable to compare the beating of a black woman to dog fighting. Women are not animals. Black women are not animals, so why are media outlets justified in comparing the two? Violence against women is just that, violence against women—it doesn’t need to be equated to anything else in order to merit the weight and attention it deserves.

Our pain and suffering isn’t a punch line either. Fox News thought the violent surveillance video of Rice and his now wife Janey was fair game for a joke. Responding to the elevator footage, Fox host Brian Kilmeade blasted victims of domestic violence for not leaving their abusive spouses and then quipped, “I think the message is, take the stairs”.

There are times when jokes make it easier for us to deal with tough issues, but this wasn’t a joke it was a dismissive statement that once again put the blame on the victim while giving her attacker some free advice—there are no cameras in stairwells, so it’s easier to beat her in there next time.

The NFL should issue a zero tolerance policy on domestic abuse. The multiple strikes policy that they currently have is not only insulting it’s dangerous. Professional athletes need to know that using their significant others as punching bags isn’t acceptable and won’t be tolerated no matter how “talented” they are or how many Super bowl rings they have. If threatening a player’s job security is the only way to get them to think twice about assaulting anyone, then so be it. It’s time to stop dressing up the issue of violence against women in pink and patting us on the head—in an elevator, stairwell, bedroom and everywhere else it rears its ugly head.