© 2023
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Victims Advocates React To Rice Domestic Violence


When NFL running back Ray Rice punched Janay Palmer, knocked her unconscious and dragged her out of an Atlantic City casino months ago, elevator cameras recorded the incident. The full video came out this week, and facing public outrage and criticism over a previous two-game suspension, the Baltimore Ravens released Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Some wonder why the woman ended up marrying Rice and has remained with him.

As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, victims advocates say domestic violence cases are complicated and rather than focusing on why his wife is staying with him, people should ask why Rice is abusing her.
The conversations have been flying on cable news and sports networks following TMZ’s release of the video showing Ray Rice’s attack on his partner Janay Palmer. Palmer is now his wife and the couple has a young child.

The Baltimore Ravens fired Rice once the tape went public and there has been outcry over the violence and the NFL’s initial apathetic response.

But domestic violence occurs every day in all socio-economic strata, and victims advocates say what’s different in the Rice case is that it was caught on tape.
Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Associate Director for Public Policy Sarah Kenney says the roots of such behavior are power and oppression.  “People use power and control in their relationships because it works. And there are paradigms that we’ve been taught growing up in this culture that certain people should have power and in order to get that power you do what it takes to maintain control over the people in your life. And unfortunately intimate partners are often the people who are the brunt of that.”

Spectrum VT Director of Violence Intervention and Prevention Programs Colleen Nilsen says the elevator video is no surprise to those who work with domestic violence victims every day. Among the services they provide is victim safety and a batter intervention program that helps men change their abusive behavior.  “Unfortunately the majority of the participants that come to us, like 95 percent of them, come because the court has ordered them to do so based on some sort of criminal behavior. So a huge part of our job is to get them to see that maybe they do have an issue that they need to look at and really try to motivate them. That’s a huge part of our job. I think a lot of the men in our group think that this behavior is normal.”

Despite the violence perpetrated against them, many women stay in the relationships. Nilsen says there are a multitude of reasons why.  “They’re really specific to that woman. Whether they have children, or whether there’s economic pressures, or just the fact that obviously she cares about this man independent of his behavior.  And to me the simpler question, the easier question, the better question is to say Why is he being abusive? I mean she’s not breaking the law by staying with him. He’s breaking the law by assaulting her. So I feel that as a public we need to stop blaming the victim and start really looking at holding people in our communities accountable for violence. Specifically domestic violence.

Sarah Kenney weighs in.  “There’s a lot of conversation happening right now about why people would stay in this kind of a relationship. I really think we need to be focusing the conversation on why would somebody do this to their partner, to someone who they profess to love? And who often they do love. It can be really complicated for a victim living with this kind of fear and terror all the time. It’s also important to remember that it’s a family. I think it’s hard to conceptualize someone treating someone whom they are supposed to love so badly. And yet we know that it happens every day.”

Related Content