Domestic Violence and Power in the NFL – Again

I was disappointed (yet unsurprised) to learn of yet another case of serious abuse being perpetrated by a professional sports player against his fiancee Janay Palmer. The tape that is being circulated of NFL player Ray Rice punching then dragging Janay’s body out of an elevator, stepping over her, using his foot to move her legs, is sickening. Unfortunately it’s more prevalent than anyone would like to think. This kind of behavior is not a “first offense”. This is indicative of someone who is extremely comfortable using physical and financial power over another. Just because it’s the first time we see it doesn’t mean it’s the first time this has happened between them.

Domestic Violence is always about power and control. Period. It’s not an “anger problem” or because of too many steroids, although steroids can exacerbate anyone’s aggressiveness.

As a former facilitator of male repeat offender programs, I have sat before hundreds of men who think and act exactly like Ray Rice, and their partners more often than not keep taking them back, too.

Put yourself in her shoes. He’s famous. He’s rich. He has a lot of power. That can be very alluring, it comes with luxuries and perks, but at what cost? There is an excellent book titled “Not to People Like Us” by Susan Weitzman. She deftly explains the hidden “upscale” abuse that happens behind some very fancy and expensive doors. I would imagine that Ray Rice’s story is much the same. We call it the slot machine principle. Expensive things are prized in American society and many people use access to them as their power and control. You like designer clothes? 5-star hotels? Luxury cars? Well pay the price. Victims feel that they have subjugated themselves so much for these things that they better stay, because if they don’t, then how do they reconcile having sold their values and morals, their self-esteem, for just a bunch of things? So they make it OK by thinking that it will get better, that it was the booze or the stress or -something-, and they stay. That’s the slot machine principle. If I leave now, look at what I have put into this, what I have paid. What if it does pay off? What if he does change? If I leave then I won’t benefit, it will all be for naught. And the cycle deepens and perpetuates.

We need to acknowledge that this happens vastly more often than we like to think. Yes, physical abuse is the most obvious, but it doesn’t usually start there. It usually starts with verbal or emotional abuse, then financial, then sexual, physical and even psychological. All are real, all count. Unfortunately our law enforcement and court system can only deal with the physical, it needs “proof” to prosecute. I see emotional, verbal and financial in my office every day, and I see a lot of it. And no, I am not a hammer that only sees the world as nails. If you get the proper education and eschew the mythology, you can’t help but to see it.

Victims oftentimes are deeply ashamed of their (ill defined) apparent collusion in the cycle. They don’t want to admit to the full picture of what they have accepted and lived with, for shiny things. So they don’t call, they don’t ask for help. They might get a really nice apology gift and pretend that it was a one-time, isolated event, rather than seeing it as an escalation in a deadly pattern.

Please, get educated as to how DV works, for real, and stop allowing myths to create shame and blame experiences for the victims. It’s never easy to admit that the person you have given your heart to is abusing you, it’s extremely difficult for victims to leave, and it’s because our society in part blames the victim too. We must change that misperception.

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