Although domestic violence has made the headlines recently, it remains low in the priorities of authorities. When Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice knocked out his then fiancé Janay in an elevator, the media exposed a dirty little secret which had been concealed by the NFL for years. When Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson was convicted of beating his four-year-old son with a switch, the outrage grew. When your neighbor is beaten by her husband, no one hears about it. In fact, there are laws in place which punish victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is often treated by law enforcement as a nuisance. Domestic violence is a serious crime; tell your legislators to take action.
Poor women and their children are more likely to be abused than other groups. Complaints are so numerous that several cities have adopted ‘nuisance ordinances.’ The law is aimed at those living in subsidized housing.
A woman living in Norristown, Pennsylvania, was repeatedly beaten by her boyfriend. She refused to call police, and begged neighbors and family to refrain from doing so as well. An ordinance in Norristown stipulated that an individual who called police complaining of a domestic violence three times within a four month period, could be evicted, and lose their housing subsidy. She feared that she and her three-year-old daughter would become homeless. The law has since been repealed after the woman was awarded damages resulting from a lawsuit.
Domestic violence and child abuse was not only covered up by NFL teams, it is frequently hidden by families. A child who is abused is more likely to grow up and be an abuser himself. He is also likely to take part in acts of bullying in his formative years.
The NFL had an opportunity to set an example for all men who abuse their wives, girlfriends, and their children. Instead, Commissioner Roger Goodell lied about the Ray Rice incident from the time he first met with Ray and Janay. When a second surveillance tape emerged, he increased Rice’s punishment from two games to life. Sadly, nothing has been done about this issue which was fully exposed; about a situation that is far too common throughout the NFL.
The NFL is the most profitable sports venue in the world’s history. Protecting the NFL ‘brand’ is about money. On November 2nd, the Ravens were to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Pop singer Rihanna was scheduled to sing a song at the opening of the game. Rihanna herself was a victim of domestic violence. The song contained references to the issue exposed in the media. The NFL insisted that Steeler officials cancel Rihanna’s appearance. Because Ray Rice had been a member of the Ravens’ team, Commissioner Goodell considered it a damaging public relations ploy. Instead commentator Jim Brown made a speech about the evil of domestic violence.
Child abuse is treated far more seriously. Most laws deem that all persons in the home are responsible if a child receives a physical injury at the hands of an adult. The child can be removed from custody, and placed in the care of proper authorities.
Legal action involving domestic abuse varies. Frequently law enforcement is reluctant to take action against a single person who was involved in a physical altercation. They claim that their reasoning is due to unsubstantiated proof regarding who actually initiated the incident.
Domestic violence perpetrated on women is seldom a singular incident. All too frequently there is no punishment; the issuance of a restraining order is the sole outcome. Definitive legislation requiring adequate punishment must be passed at every level of government.
Domestic violence is a crime; it is not a misdemeanor. Fifty years ago a reported case of spousal abuse was not considered illegal. Officers responding to a residence where a call for help originated did nothing unless the perpetrator himself agreed to talk to them. The situation has not been greatly improved today.
Roger Goodell had an opportunity to do the right thing. Now, who will be at the forefront of the battle for fair legislation which recognizes a woman’s right to feel safe and secure; that she will not be physically harmed?
By James Turnage