What I found astonishing and disheartening was how widespread victim-blaming reactions were – even by people whom I thought would know more about the power and control dynamics present in an abusive relationship. Janay’s actions have been dissected to determine whether she struck Rice first, spat at him, was yelling and/or using profanity, or was inebriated at the time. Some of the same people who condemned the New York Times for characterizing Michael Brown (killed by Ferguson, MO police) as "no angel" are quick to question Janay Rice's actions in the moments before Ray Rice struck her unconscious. Damon Young, writer for Ebony.com, pointed out these contradictions better than I ever could:
I wonder if they realize saying “She might have hit him first” is no different than saying “Well, Michael Brown might have been high.” I wonder if they know that thinking this is all just a plot to disgrace Black men is the exact same thing as thinking George Zimmerman was just persecuted by overzealous race-baiters. I wonder if they’ve grasped that their unblinking support of Rice, even in the face of overwhelming visual evidence, makes them spiritual twins with the Staten Island teachers wearing t-shirts in support of the precinct that has seen two unarmed Black men die at their hands in the last year. I wonder if they realize arguing it was a fair fight between Janay Palmer and Ray Rice -- who, along with being a professional football player, is a trained boxer -- is as stupid as arguing Michael Brown was “armed” because he was 6’4 and 300 pounds.
Real progress would be evidenced by a national conversation about how we are all part of the problem that perpetuates men's violence against women. We are part of the problem when we lose sight of the bigger picture and narrowly focus on a snapshot in time of two people in an elevator. We are part of the problem when we don't challenge friends' Facebook posts that judge Janay Rice for wanting the violence against her to stop but not her relationship. We are part of the problem when we're quick to judge survivors' actions. We are part of the problem when we argue violence against women is a problem within the NFL and ignore the larger scale of the social issue. We are part of the problem when we demand a one-size-fits-all solution. We are part of the problem when we opt to stay silent when a colleague uses fancy language to repeatedly make victim-blaming statements. We are part of the problem when we promote marriage as a solution to men’s violence against women. We are part of the problem when we call for strong criminal sanctions without listening to what survivors of domestic violence need and want. Continuous rehashing of the video, especially without moving to constructive solutions, is part of the problem.
Alternatively, we are part of the solution when we donate to victim advocacy groups. We are part of the solution when we ask friends about their relationships and truly listen. We are part of the solution when we advocate for policies that support survivors of domestic violence. We are part of the solution when we demand funding for research that identifies and evaluates prevention strategies. Real progress on this issue would be meaningful societal action to work to prevent men's violence against women and pervasive efforts to be part of the solution.