Wait, People Are Still Victim Blaming Janay Rice?
In case you missed it, Janay Rice has already apologized.
At a May news conference, she sat next to her husband and said she regretted “the role that she played in that night” – that night being the one during which she was attacked in an elevator by a professional football player, knocked unconscious, and dragged away.
It was awkward then, when the simple assault charges against her had already been dropped and we only strongly suspected what the first half of that Revel Casino surveillance tape showed. Now that we know – now that we have seen what happened before Ray Rice dragged his then-fiancée’s body out of an elevator – do we really want her to explain herself again?
I suspect not, and yet as the Internet exploded with calls for the Ravens to toss Rice, there was the usual nasty undercurrent of victim blaming: Why did she marry him after that? Why did she refuse to testify? How could she stand by him in public? Does she really think she can slap someone without consequences?
Whether the video actually depicts her slapping him or not, let’s agree to leave that last point alone. We’re all friends here, and friends don’t have to explain that NFL running backs shouldn’t be punching women, end of story (unless this story is playing out on Facebook, in which case, beginning of long, worrisome story).
As for why she married him and apologized at that press conference, we don’t know — and she doesn’t owe us an explanation. If we’re going to speculate, it seems logical to assume that, as the victim of horrific domestic violence, she might be vulnerable to the high-profile man who abused her and his high-profile employer, who decided the attack only warranted a two-game suspension.
What doesn’t seem logical is to impart any piece of blame on Janay Rice. Or to question her judgment following her abuse – at the hands of her fiancé, of the media, and ultimately of us.
At this point, a lot of parties owe Janay Rice an apology.
First up is the NFL. This is an organization full of smart people making smart-people money. While the Ravens did release Rice yesterday, they did so a full four months after being presented with almost conclusive evidence that he knocked his fiancée unconscious in that elevator — and after helping to justify their initial lack of action with a tweet reading “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
Make no mistake: Despite their pink fan jerseys (available, as of yesterday morning, with “Rice” scrawled across the back) and annual Breast Cancer Awareness dog and pony show, the NFL doesn’t care about women. Time and time again, they have proven that domestic violence is not offensive to them — until TMZ gets it on video.
That would bring us to TMZ, who released the now-infamous surveillance tape early Monday morning with the headline “RAY RICE ELEVATOR KNOCKOUT Fiancée Takes Crushing Punch (Video).”
I wasn’t sitting in on their editorial meeting, but I think it’s safe to say that TMZ’s editors weren’t caps-lock excited about exposing a dangerous criminal and raising awareness about domestic violence. They were excited about the clicks — the many, many clicks — that a headline like this would generate. If they had the best interests of Janay Rice in mind (if they had any interest in her wellbeing at all), they could have brought this tape privately to the NFL without sharing what was probably one of the worst nights of her life with the world.
If the NFL simply doesn’t care about Janay Rice, TMZ cares about her for all the wrong reasons.
And that, of course, leaves us. I watched the video yesterday while researching this post, and I regret it. Plenty of reliable outlets had already reported its contents, and yet I clicked without thinking. Or, more likely, I just wish I wasn’t thinking — I’ve worked in media, I write about media, and I can be pretty self-righteous about how we treat women in media when their phones are hacked. No, this video wasn’t exactly stolen from her, but she certainly didn’t sign off on its release. Like the graphic photographs TMZ previously released of a beaten and bruised Rihanna, watching it didn’t change my mind about domestic violence — it simply re-victimized an already brutalized woman.
There are plenty of people who should regret the role they played in that night. But Janay Rice is absolutely not one of them.
Follow Monica Weymouth on Twitter.