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Ray Rice, Paul George, and a Culture of Victim Blaming

This week has shined a light on not only the prevalence of domestic violence in our society, but it has also exposed an attitude of blaming the person who is victimized for “allowing” the abuse. When most of us saw the security footage of Ray Rice dragging his then fiance out of the elevator by her hair, we were shocked, appalled, and felt a deep sense of compassion for the woman beaten to the ground. But, when we learned she married him and spoke in his defense, many felt confused and even angry that she isn’t responding the way we expect her to.

Paul George summarized the secret thoughts of many by tweeting, “I don’t condone hittin women or think it’s coo BUT if SHE ain’t trippin then I ain’t trippin.. Lets keep it movin lol let that man play!” He was quickly disciplined, he apologized, and took down the tweet because people were offended by his comment. However, I think he tweeted what many feel, “why should we care, if she doesn’t?”

There are several reasons.

It is her life and her relationship. Her experience with Ray Rice is not confined to the elevator. We have no idea what her life is like and defending him may seem like her only option. For many of those in abusive relationships, it takes a lot of strength, courage, and will to safely escape while those on the outside judge, most of the time angrily. The most dangerous thing a person who experiences violence can be told is to “just leave”. Choosing to leave an abusive relationship requires planning for the safety of the individual being victimized and others involved.

We should also understand that the assault in the elevator didn’t just impact her, it impacts the community. Paul George believes if she ain’t trippin, then who cares…we should care. When we allow any level of violence to go unaddressed, when we don’t punish those who offend, but blame the victim for staying, we are complicit in future abuse. Conversations online have focused on, “what happened before they got in the elevator?” implying she must have done something to illicit this reaction. Or, how “stupid” or “money hungry” she is, because those are the reasons she would stay.

But rarely has someone asked, what’s wrong with him? Why does he think it is ok to knock out his fiancée and drag her across the floor?

Until we instinctively ask those questions as a society, many people will remain in abusive relationship and defend those who attack because the support of the community does not exist. It’s time to shift the blame from the victim onto the abuser, where it belongs.