Feature: The Revictimizing of Janay Rice
The following post originally appears on The Nation. It was written by Dave Zirin.
By: Dave Zirin
I was listening to a nationally syndicated sports radio show this morning about the release of the Ray Rice videotape which shows the Baltimore Ravens running back knocking his then-fiancée Janay unconscious in a casino elevator. We, the public, knew this had taken place. We, the public, knew Rice had been suspended for a much-criticized two game. We, the public, had not seen the actual physical blow that removed Janay Rice from her conscious self. Now we had and the fallout was clearly going to be extreme.
The radio hosts posed question after question: what will the NFL do now that the tape has been released? How will the Ravens organization react to this? [Now we know. The Ravens have released Ray Rice.] How will the Baltimore fans who’ve been cheering Ray Rice react to this? How will the media – oh the poor media! – react to having been lied to about whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had possibly seen the videotape?
The one question they did not ask is how will Janay Rice react to the release of the tape? The absence of concern for Janay Rice – in the press, on social media, amongst my own colleagues – is the most disheartening part of this entire ordeal.
No one cares that she is now going to have to relive this incident over and over again. No one cares that the world has now become privy to what may be the most humiliating moment of her entire life. No one cares that she’s basically now being used as a soapbox with otherwise apolitical NFL commentators using her prone body to get on their high horse and blast the league. There is video and those who never raised their voice publicly about the axis of domestic violence and the NFL before are the loudest shouters now.
ESPN “NFL insider” Adam Schefter was enraged and called the entire situation “the biggest black eye in league history.” Unfortunate phrasing aside, even the statement speaks volumes. What about every other act of domestic violence in league history that wasn’t caught on videotape? What about Kansas City Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher two seasons ago actually killing the mother of his child before taking his own life? Why are these actions seen as less of a black eye? The answer of course is that this one was caught on videotape. In other words it damages the league’s public relations. In other words this is – again – not about Janay Rice. It is about the well-being of the league.
So if no one is going to talk about the well-being and welfare of the person who is actually subject of the violence on that tape let’s talk about it here. I spent the morning communicating with people who work on domestic violence and violence against women for a living. They all said the same thing, without dissent: releasing this tape to the world is incredibly damaging to Janay Rice. Just as we would protect the name of an alleged rape victim, just as we would not show a video of Ray Rice committing a sexual assault, we should not be showing this video like it’s another episode of Rich People Behaving Badly.
Tragically it seems like, especially judging by my Twitter feed, that very few people agree with the sentiment. Their belief – and to be frank this is shared by a lot of people whom I respect – is that seeing the video will shock people, advance the conversation and force action. Some of the same people saying that nude photo hacks shouldn’t be clicked on are saying people have an obligation to bear witness to what Rice did.
I have serious serious doubts about this. If you were outraged by violence against women before, will seeing this video really change your mind? If you are not outraged by violence against women does this video actually make a damn bit of difference? My fear, and this happens whenever you have videos that spark outrage until the next new cycle, is that all it will provoke are the kind of reactions that don’t necessarily help anybody, least of all the victims. I hear influential people like ESPN’s Mike Greenberg asking the question why isn’t Ray Rice in prison?
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