I watched the Ray and Janay Rice video and I wish I hadn’t.
I was only vaguely familiar with the elevator incident and the subsequent uproar over the measly two-day suspension because I don’t follow football. But it was a trending topic in my news feed, so I clicked on the video.
Shocked and horrified by what I saw, did not make me stop watching. I viewed the video in its entirety. As I followed the story, it hit me that I had actively participated in the re-victimization of Janay. I was what Sandra Hawkins Diaz described as a “voyeuristic bystander “to Janay’s abuse. And I didn’t have to be. I didn’t gain anything from clicking on the video. I’ve witnessed intimate partner violence a few times in my life, and each time I was sickened by what I saw. I always called the police.
Once a young woman was trying to run away, and I allowed her to seek refuge in my house until the police arrived. It was a harrowing experience because her boyfriend was a gang banger, and they were standing outside of my apartment building trying to figure out which apartment she went into. A week later, I saw her with her abuser at the movies. I looked at her, shook my head, but didn’t say anything. I was mad that I had allowed her drama to cross my doorstep, and she was back with him. I would later learn that it takes an average of 6 or 7 times before the abused can leave their abuser.
I’m not in a position to question why anyone stays in a relationship. What the final straw is for me is not the final straw for someone else and vice-versa. Years ago, I was reading a book about he down low, and the author explained that women can be financially bound to accept certain things that other women who are no financially dependent don’t have to accept. It was a an eye opener for me because prior to him breaking down the role that finances play in domestic situations, I just didn’t understand why women stayed with men who were not good for them. I control my purse strings, so I have more leverage than a woman who does not.
Age and experience are teaching me to seek understanding more, and to judge less. I still have work to do, but I am moving in the right direction. It’s challenging to be in the world, but not of the world, but it’s not impossible. Because everybody else does it, is never a reason to take part in something that is morally wrong to me. Regardless of what goes on around me, I have to draw my own line in the sand that I won’t cross. And clicking on violent videos of assaults, fights etc. are not something that I need to see.
In her article, Why You Shouldn’t Watch the Ray Rice Video, Diaz raises the question: “Why would we want to watch a woman be violated, humiliated, devalued, brutalized and abused?” It wasn’t necessary for me to view the video to understand what took place. But like so many others, I allowed a morbid sense of curiosity to cloud my better judgment. Hannah Giorgis, writing for The Guardian said, “That we feel entitled (and excited) to be entranced by the looks of domestic violence speaks not only about the man who battered her, but also about we who engage in parasitic rapture. We click and consume and carry on.”
As an African-American woman in America, I understand public consumption. Our bodies have never been ours to own. From day one, we have been disrespected and disregarded in every way possible. We are not recognized as valued members of the human race. Our culture favors rich and powerful men, and this case is no different. It’s money, not morals that makes the world turn. The NFL’s actions were more about damage control than genuine concern for its player or his wife. It’s disturbing how many people have judged this situation on money. There are those who feel that the penalty of being fired and banned is too steep a price to pay especially since his “gold digging” fiancé at the time married him a month later. It’s always about the money, and that’s pretty damn sad.
The spotlight maybe on the NFL and its mishandling of the incident, but this is bigger than the black-eye on the NFL for which it will recover. This is a gut-wrenching punch to our collective consciousness and the way we handle intimate partner violence. Our moral compass is awry. Too often we are willing to overlook certain things involving money and/or celebrities, and we are just lacking in our basic compassion for humanity. We are gawkers and vultures of all things displayed in a public stage. We don’t even pretend to look away when we know that by looking we don’t have anything to gain.
According to statistics, 1.3 million women are victims of domestic violence every year and a disportinate number of them are African-American women. One in four women will be a victim in her life time, so these means that most of us have been touched by intimate partner violence in some way: we are the abused; we know the abused; we know the abusers. And yet we stand in a glass house and throw stones in this situation.
What happened in the elevator was terrible, and what’s even more terrifying is that too many of believe that we have a right to watch how things went down. I am owning up to my wrong doing, and I deeply regret that I participated in an act of disrespect of a battered woman’s body especially a woman of color who has no rights that the world respects. There is no excuse for that.