Punching Out Domestic Violence


Amidst news of international tensions across the globe, Americans have been focused on a football player and an intimate look at his private relationship with his wife.

The release of a video of Rice striking his then-fiance in an elevator has garnered wide-spread attention and debate. Should a very talented football player be punished for this action? If the NFL had information on this, why didn’t they act sooner? Did she deserve it?

The questions tap into our very complex assessments of gender rules and relationship perspectives. It forces a complex debate that is often held in private to take center stage and it has revealed that we still carry very complicated feelings about domestic violence.

It has hurt my heart in many ways to watch this discussion. Bringing social media into the complexity of domestic violence is challenging. It is hard to describe in 140 characters or less, the deep-rooted challenges of living in a relationship fraught with violence.

We have been discussing the issue in my class this week and it has been fascinating to hear the perspectives of my students. For they are a generation that doesn’t remember when it was legal to hit or rape your wife and indeed, common. Domestic Violence laws in Texas are not that old and have been evolving over the last 30 to 40 years.

If a wife is considered property, you had the right to treat her as you desired. For today’s independent and strong young women, these ideas are foreign. The biggest challenge seems to be a basic question in their minds – why doesn’t she just leave? She can walk out if she wants to, they say. It seems a new way of saying, “she deserves it.”

Domestic violence is still very present in our society. 1 out of 4 women will have some experience with it in their lifetimes. That means that most everyone is touched. It is also blind to race, economic status and cultures. It sees no barrier between poverty and wealth and it sees no color. It penetrates our society deeply.

Let’s stop with the victim blaming and teach our children that it is not o.k. to hit anyone. Period. It is most definitely not o.k. to hit someone who is less powerful than you and cannot fight back. These are basic playground rules. It is not o.k.

No matter what a child does or a woman does or a man does, responding with a punch to the face is not the way to solve the problem.

I want to thank TMZ (never thought I would say that) for bringing this debate out in the open. The Rices are just a representation of millions of families in America today.

Let me caution to exercise care when discussing this issue. “We don’t know the full story” is code word for “she deserved it”. “She hit him first” is code word for “she deserved it”. “It’s really none of our business” is code word for “it’s their problem and a man can do what he wants”. “She hit the rail and that’s what knocked her out” is code word for “he didn’t mean it”. People, he punched her, watched her collapse on the floor and very nearly let the elevator doors close on her limp body. He did not lovingly pick her up and gently carry her to their room. No one deserves to be treated the way we saw in that video.

If you or someone you know is in need of advice, guidance or help with domestic violence, please contact the Houston Area Women’s Center at 713.528.2121 or click here.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I’ll be wearing purple to honor victims. Will you?

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