Tue | Oct 17, 2017

Domestic violence is a two-way street

Published:Friday | September 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

In the last few days, the Ray Rice issue has threatened to completely destabilise the NFL. It seems the whole world is talking about it. A few weeks ago, a video surfaced showing the Baltimore Ravens running back pulling Janay, his now wife, out of an elevator after she was lying unconscious on the floor. He was suspended for two games, which was widely condemned to be too lenient. Now other video releases are making the rounds, one which shows the vicious punch that Rice threw and the callous way he appeared to treat the prostrate body. Other footage shows both parties appearing to be spitting at each other at different points.

Now the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell, is coming under increasing fire. He has now suspended Rice indefinitely, but that alone isn't appearing to appease the American public. The public is convinced that Mr Goodell is merely trying desperately to save face, if not his job.

The obvious question is: Did Mr Goodell see the footage that is currently making the rounds? He says he didn't, and his initial two-game suspension was based, essentially, on what he thought happened. If so, is that good enough? Did the commissioner do all the due diligence to get the necessary evidence on which to rule? If he didn't, now that this 'new' evidence has come to light, should he still keep his job?

What makes this all the more interesting is that Mr Rice faced a superior court judge a few weeks ago, following the incident, and was merely asked to enter, basically, a yearlong anger-management programme. Did the judge have the footage that we are now seeing? If not, why not? And now that this horrifying footage has now been released, can the judge change his mind and now put back his case on the docket?

Can Mr Rice's lawyers claim that any further punishment on their client is, in effect, double jeopardy, which, in essence, means trying someone twice for the same offence and which is illegal in basically every state? Those few minutes of confrontation between Mr Rice and his then girlfriend (now wife) is raising several legal questions in the United States.

At the heart of this matter is domestic violence. Depending on which survey you work with, somewhere between one in three, or one in four, women in the United States has been a victim of domestic violence at some point. No wonder the outcry has reached the crescendo that it has. The support group clamouring for the heads of Messrs Rice and Goodell is too large to be ignored. The NFL has had a reputation, fairly or unfairly, for turning a blind eye to players who abuse their spouses, but this case will ensure that things won't be the same.

The American society - especially women - is baying for revenge. This has spread to Jamaica, where the case is being closely followed. I have earned some flak for daring to suggest that women should not feel inclined to lift their hands against men, in the same way we find it reprehensible that men hit women. What is wrong for the goose should be wrong for the gander. My position is reasonable, but now is not the time for reason.

NOT what I am saying

Every time I say that, somebody accuses me of supporting domestic abuse. Some say I'm a potential wife-beater, if I am not already guilty! Every time I say this, I hear I am suggesting that Mrs Rice caused her own beating, which is NOT what I am saying at all. For the record, I condemn domestic violence.

But domestic violence is a two-way street, however much we want to pretend it isn't. One study I have heard quoted is that 85 per cent of domestic abuse is by men against women. The bottom line is that hitting one's partner should be condemned, whatever sex you are.

Ray Rice was behaving like a monster, based on what I saw on that video, and he should face serious consequences, at least a year from the sport, I believe. But if it can be proven that his outrage was sparked by a woman who hit and spat on him first, two people were wrong here, even if one was 'wronger'.

While we deservedly feed Mr Rice to the wolves, we must also say a quiet word to all women: Hitting a grown man is definitely not something you should be inclined to do.

Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host on KLAS ESPN FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.