…they’re being infuriatingly irresponsible and unprofessional in their coverage of the elevator incident and, in their manner of doing so (not discussing Mrs. Rice’s behavior), propagating the belief that only women are (or could possibly be, because they’re little and weak, not big and strong like men!) #abuse victims, which then discourages abused men from seeking help.

On this morning’s Today Show interview with Robin Givens, who spoke about her relationship with Mike Tyson and recently wrote the essay “Why I Stayed” (which launched a Twitter conversation whose participants, primarily women, share why they stayed in abusive relationships), Maria Shriver asked Givens how she felt about a female football fan wearing a Rice jersey who said (paraphrased) a woman shouldn’t hit a man if she doesn’t want to be hit back.

Givens lumped the fan in with standard victim blamers who would ask the victim, “What did you do to get hit?” “What did you say?” (Similarly, “What did you wear that got you raped?”)

Except, in this case, we have video footage of Janay hitting Ray at least three times before he hits her back. This doesn’t fall under “victim blaming.” It’s a legitimate question, in this case, because she did do something. She hit first. How can we not even ask? How can we not, in such a case, give him even the slightest benefit of the doubt?

Yet, no one is talking about her repeated assaults on him on that short walk to the elevator (and who knows how many times before they came into the camera’s field of view?). Most likely because he’s a man and she’s a woman. And, apparently, if you’re a woman it’s perfectly fine to hit a man. And hit him and hit him and hit him and hit him.

Obviously I’m not “for” men hitting women. But I’m also not for women hitting men, and I’m even less for a story with this much attention not inspiring “journalists” to ask questions if even out of mere curiosity. Find an expert. Ask the expert, “How common is it for a female abuse victim to physically assault/intentionally goad her abuser?” “What might the dynamics be of a relationship like this?” “Is it possible they are both victims, maybe two people involved in a mutually volatile relationship?”

.

Ray Rice Press ConferenceWe don’t know anything but what we see in the video (which includes her hitting him first). What if she’s been hitting him for years? What if she’s been belittling him at the same time? Tearing him down, calling him worthless (smack!), stupid (smack!), and anything else that might cut as far as an insult can go (smack!)? That may not be close to the truth, but shouldn’t someone at least ask instead of making the assumptions they’re making? There are so many questions they should be asking but are ignoring out of fear of someone accusing THEM of being victim blamers that they’re shirking their responsibility to act, at the very, very least, as the public’s collective curiosity.

“In a female-perpetrated assault, the male victim is more likely to be kicked, slapped, or have objects thrown at him.” – National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

“An abused man faces a shortage of resources, skepticism from police, and major legal obstacles.” – Helpguide.org

“Hidden Hurt” is the name of a website for male victims of domestic violence. I wonder if one reason it’s hidden is that in spite of any possible evidence to the contrary, we WILL NOT SEE that he might – just even the tiniest itty bittiest maybemaybe possibility – ALSO (not only, even – ALSO) be a victim in the relationship, because he’s a man and she’s a woman and he’s stronger and that’s that. Even if it’s right there in a video in a section the media conveniently ignore unless it’s to sneak in a “victim blaming” remark.

Mandatory note: Rice should not have punched his wife. [/end note]

But isn’t it possible his “closed fist” could just as easily have been a woman’s shotgun after the man has beat the crap out of her one too many times? When that happens, don’t a lot of us think, “Well, I mean, that’s what he gets…”?

He’s bigger, yes. His strength is definitely an advantage. (In much the same way that a shotgun is an advantage…hm… And those women do go to prison, but the men who abused them still receive a lot of scorn from the public, at least.) And it’s all nice and stuff that we’re talking about how “men shouldn’t hit women.” Because they shouldn’t. (Duh.) But an equal “Duh” is that WOMEN SHOULD NOT HIT MEN. (And if they do, they really should expect to be hit back. We aren’t precious just because we have vulvas. We don’t get a “hitting” pass. If we do, that means we’re also saying, “Sorry, men. That equality thing is a cool idea, and everything, and we do want it, but we also want the right to whack you in the face whenever we want because we’re just girls. Cool?”)

While we slam Ray Rice all over the place, we should simultaneously question Janay Rice’s behavior toward him. I wish people – reporters included (and maybe especially) – didn’t see this situation as if commenting on her behavior would be the same as absolving his.

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. This is an excellent post.

    Would I be correct in thinking that you don’t *generally* give much credence to the battered woman’s defense getting used for killing by a woman?

    Reply

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About Kris Tsetsi

Kristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the novels "Pretty Much True..." and "The Year of Dan Palace" and the short fiction collection "20 Short Stories," all published under the name Chris Jane. Website: http://kristenjtsetsi.com

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