Who Should We Blame?

By Barry Goldstein

The Ray Rice case resonates for me because I have been working in the movement to prevent domestic violence for the past 31 years.  I have seen too many women like Janay Palmer brutally beaten by men who believed there were circumstances that could justify their assaults.  I have seen all too many stories and been involved in cases where women and children are murdered by abusers who believe she has no right to leave.  In this holiday season where we just passed Thanksgiving and are heading to Christmas, some of the best mothers in this country face another empty holiday without their children because our society has failed to reform the broken custody court system that does not use current scientific research or domestic violence experts to help it recognize and respond to reports of domestic violence.  I hate these cursed stories and the unspeakable pain they depict.

When I heard that Ray Rice had won his appeal and again avoided accountability for his vicious crime I was enormously angry and looking for someone to blame and strike out against.  Certainly Ray Rice has never received consequences that remotely coincide with the awful assault we all saw him commit.  He will have no criminal penalties, no record and just a two game suspension.  He was released from his team and is unlikely to play again this year.  He has also permanently ruined his reputation.  This is significant but not nearly enough.  So who do we blame?

Obviously, Ray Rice deserves most of the blame.  He is the one that punched the women he claims to love more than anyone in the world and knocked her unconscious.  He later pretended to be sorry, to accept full responsibility and to promise to work to prevent domestic violence.  And then he decided to use a legal technicality to avoid consequences he deserved.  In doing so he demonstrated that he has not learned a lesson from the harm caused by his assault.  I hope the public and NFL teams will recognize his failure to embrace a fair punishment (regardless of whether it was a fair procedure) as demonstrating a deep flaw in his character.  He is far better at manipulation than making the needed changes to his behavior.

I would like to blame Judge Barbara Jones for an outcome that is unfair, but it appears she was limited to the issue of whether the NFL followed proper procedure.

Commissioner Goodell is to blame for his initial mishandling of the case.  He attempted to correct his error based on his belief that he had critical new information from the second tape, but it was his initial leniency and failure to understand domestic violence that now prevents the NFL from imposing a fair penalty.

I wish the NFL Players Association had refused to file an appeal in this case.  They are probably right about the need for a fairer disciplinary procedure, but this was the wrong case to pursue that reasonable goal.  I have no knowledge of whether the NFLPA attempted to discourage Rice from filing the appeal.  I believe that when we look back years from now we will understand that Rice’s crime has changed society.  Actions that were previously acceptable are now intolerable.  The NFLPA appears not to realize this and instead sent a message that nothing is more important than the rights of the players.

The prosecutor in Atlantic County deserves significant blame.  Their general policy of giving first offenders a pass is based on their failure to understand domestic violence dynamics.  They seemed anxious to treat Rice like everyone else, but he isn’t.  He committed a more serious crime that literally could have been fatal and he is a well known celebrity so refusing to demand any accountability sends a widespread harmful message.  They have continued to defend what should be now be clear to be a bad mistake.  The lax response by the prosecutors encouraged Roger Goodell to mishandle the case.

In the end I must reach the horrible truth that society would like to avoid.  We are all to blame for tolerating a system where Ray Rice had every reason to believe he could assault his partner and get away with it.  With this decision ending his suspension, he is proven to be correct.

The Quincy Solution is a proven plan that helped communities like Quincy, San Diego and Nashville dramatically reduce domestic violence crime and save lives.  I appreciate the NFL participating in a message to stop domestic violence.  But if they really want to end men’s abuse of women, it is time to take the next step and promote a solution that will actually make women and children safer.  So if you are angry at this decision, if you never want to see a video like the one in the elevator again, if you believe women and children have the right to be safe in their homes, don’t get mad–get Quincy.

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