Connie Schultz: We needed to see the Ray Rice video

By Connie Schultz

Should we have seen the video of Ray Rice pummeling Janay Palmer Rice into unconsciousness?

Unequivocally, I say yes.

Before explaining why, I want to share Ms. Rice’s objection to this coverage. Chances are you’ve seen some version already, but domestic violence has a long history of silencing women’s voices. Not this time.

Ms. Rice’s Tuesday Instagram post, unedited:

“I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that hte media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.

“THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!”

It is not for me or anyone else to explain why Rice remains with her husband, the finally fired running back for the Baltimore Ravens. As Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, reminded me in an interview Wednesday, “a victim of domestic violence is the best judge of when it’s safe to leave.”

I will, however, respond to Rice’s criticism of the media and the general public for its interest. We can easily understand her desire for privacy. What is surely one of the most horrible moments of her life is now playing on an endless loop on countless websites.

Unfortunately for Rice, she married a public figure and, whether coerced or voluntarily, agreed to sit next to him for a highly publicized news conference about her husband’s physical abuse. She can’t walk that back.

The video has sparked what Gandy describes as the largest national conversation about domestic violence that she has seen in 40 years. For that reason alone, I support its release. But sadly, there are more.

Yesterday I opened my print edition of The New York Times and read this:

“After the episode, the (Ravens) said on Twitter: ‘Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.’ The post was deleted Monday afternoon.”

So for three months, two weeks and two days, the Ravens’ front office wanted us to believe that Janay Rice bore responsibility for being pounded into unconsciousness by the man who was supposed to love her.

Next paragraph of that same story:

“(Ray) Rice, with his wife at his side, apologized publicly in May. The Ravens’ coach, John Harbaugh, said he stood by Rice, his star running back, and Ravens fans gave Rice a loud ovation during a preseason game.”

An ovation.

A standing ovation, wrote Aaron Wilson for The Baltimore Sun, with “no audible boos, if any existed.”

Ray Rice’s response, quoted by Wilson and countless other sports media outlets:

“I can’t thank them enough, No. 1, for sticking by me and supporting me throughout my trials and tribulations. I owe my best to these fans for giving me that kind of ovation.”

“The football field is a place,” coach John Harbaugh told SB Nation. “It’s a safe haven for him right now.”

What a fascinating narrative, this emphasis on Ray Rice’s self-described victimhood and the conquering hero welcomed after his arrest on assault charges for hitting his wife.

After we’d seen the first video of him dragging his fiancee out of the elevator. After we knew he’d hit her hard enough to render her unconscious.

Should we have seen the video of Ray Rice pummeling Janay Rice into unconsciousness?

Yes — 66,581 times, yes. That’s the number of domestic violence victims who called a hotline for help Sept. 17, 2013, tracked by NNEDV’s annual 24-hour census.

The extent of our shock in seeing the video illustrated the level of our need to view it.

This is what domestic violence looks like. This is the flash-moment of terror for our sisters, our mothers, our neighbors, our colleagues, our classmates, our friends.

Anyone who has lived with abuse — as a child or as an adult — recognizes that hair-trigger temper, the out-of-nowhere punch, the aftermath of secrecy and self-blame.

The Rice video is their story, too, and this may be the first time in their lives they’ve dared to believe that somebody else might care.


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