September 26, 2014

Doubters of Domestic Violence

by CHRISTOPHER OBERDORFER

In light of the events regarding the NFL and its players’ involvement in domestic violence cases, I am frustrated by the reaction of our culture and media.

In my opinion, the deep-rooted problem is how we as a population view domestic violence and rape.  Our tendency is to require the accusers/victims of these cases to bear the burden of proof.  As a population, when it comes to domestic violence and rape, we are doubters .

When I was a freshman in high school, my sister was raped by a boy in her grade.  She had been drinking at a Halloween party and the boy entered the room that she was sleeping in and raped her.

Rape is a heinous crime, but the backlash of the crime was almost worse.  After word got out that the county pressed charges against him, the harassment that she and I endured from our fellow students and “friends” was immense. 

The typical claims that she was drunk and that she had put herself in a bad position were the go-to’s.  I even heard the, “Look at him, who wouldn’t want to sleep with him?” defense.  Judgment was everywhere for her, as was support for him. 

Much like the NFL, the high school I went to took the “wait and see” approach.  While the boy had missed a few days of school while incarcerated, he was allowed back to school to attend classes while the trial played out.  Here’s where the problem lies for all of us. 

By the school taking this stance, they too were putting pressure on my sister to prove that her story was valid.  The school essentially re-affirmed to all of our peer harassers that they had doubts .  If the school has doubts, then it is very reasonable for its students to doubt as well. 

While the boy charged with the crime went to class and arrived to supportive masses wearing “Free P” t-shirts, my sister and I had to endure glares and attacks at every turn.  The harassment became so intense that my sister left our school and finished up her senior year through home schooling .

I understand the NFL and my high school’s fear of taking action against someone before due process has taken place.  From my school’s point of view, they didn’t want to kick a student out if the charges were bogus and, they didn’t want to deprive him of his senior year.  Unfortunately, through their unwillingness to take a stance, they allowed and in my mind promoted, the loss of my sister’s senior year in high school. 

There we are: doubters. The original charges and videos against Ray Rice came out in February!  Why all of a sudden are we up in arms about this case?  Well, simply put, because another video came out that actually showed Ray punching his then-fiancée in the elevator. 

Now we pounce .

And again, our problem.  After seeing the first video in February, I didn’t need to see much else to know that Ray cold-cocked his fiancée.  I could put the pieces together.  However, as a society, it seems that everyone had to SEE IT to believe it.  Otherwise, there was doubt.  So much doubt that men and women actually went to the first Ravens training camp practice and gave a standing ovation to Ray Rice as he came out to practice.  Where are those fans now?

I heard nothing from even the most reliable sources until that second video came out.  You needed a TMZ video before you actually came down hard on this man?  For sports fans who saw the first video, shame on us for not reacting more strongly. This is our mindset with domestic violence and rape, we need to SEE IT to believe it.  Do you understand the pressure that puts on the victim?

It is so easy for all of us to put blame on the NFL, and point the finger at them on how they got it wrong.  But what everyone needs to do, (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, society as a whole) is look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we played a role in this. 

I promise you, we did. 

No, we didn’t punch Ray Rice’s wife in the elevator.  No, we didn’t threaten to kill Greg Hardy’s ex-girlfriend.  No, we weren’t Ben Roethlisberger in that club bathroom.  But we asked all of these women to prove to us that what they experienced was real- making the assumption that they would lie, or that it was somehow their fault. 

This is the highest blow possible following one of the most traumatic experiences of that victim’s life.  First she is abused and then she has to prove to the public that it actually happened? Imagine how many women have passed on pressing charges just to avoid the whole ordeal . 

Today, our treatment of women, much like race, has a long road ahead. Perhaps even longer.

Consider the pending domestic violence case of Hope Solo (female). Why have we heard next to nothing about her case while the topic of domestic violence has been so popular on news channels?  I think the key difference is the accuser is a man. As a population, we hear that a woman beat her spouse, and we chuckle.  We consider him less of a man, and we think it’s entertaining that a woman could get so worked up as to beat him.  This train of thought is demeaning to women, is it not? 

In the end, these are issues that we must face as a society.  It is not our place to look at the NFL and say, “You got this wrong, your organization has a problem, fix it.”  If we as a society do not instill the right reaction among ourselves, (as evidenced by my sister’s case in a Virginia public high school ) then why do we attack the NFL for reacting the way that we would?   

Domestic violence is not new; it’s just popular right now.  What is sad to me is that everyone who was up in arms about the original suspension of Ray Rice would have moved past it right after his first game back, if not for the release of that second video. We need to take a look at ourselves, our families, our friends, and at our communities and begin to find ways to address our handling of domestic violence and rape.  This is not an NFL issue, this is a people issue.