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article imageJanay Rice plea for privacy reveals troubling complexity of abuse

By Calvin Wolf     Sep 10, 2014 in Crime
TMZ has released new surveillance footage of NFL star Ray Rice punching his fiancee and knocking her unconscious. While outrage against the football player grows, Janay Rice is protesting his being dropped by the Ravens and banned by the NFL.
The world is full of violent and abusive bullies, those foul beings who prey upon anyone weaker. Many people accuse NFL star Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, of being one of these loathsome creatures. In the spring, he was condemned for apparently assaulting his then-fiancee, now wife, in an elevator. As a punishment for the domestic violence, which critics blasted as being far too lax, Rice was banned for two games.
Then TMZ released the full elevator footage, revealing that Rice did indeed knock his fiancee unconscious with a brutal punch, and the blogosphere went berserk. The Baltimore Ravens have fired Rice and he has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Sponsors are fleeing. Everyone, it seems, is hating Ray Rice.
Except his wife, Janay. Despite having been punched and rendered unconscious, she married the man and is standing by his side. According to CNN, she is protesting the punishments levied against him by his former team and former league. She is appealing for privacy. She says she does not want to have to keep reliving that day.
Janay Rice's reaction to the release of the new TMZ footage reveals the troubling complexity of abuse, particularly domestic abuse. Spouses and long-term partners are intricately connected emotionally, reputationally, infrastructurally, and financially. Though we abhor abusers, how far should we go in respecting the wishes of victims when they desire no punishment for their abusers?
Is it wrong to keep pillorying and punishing Ray Rice if his wife wishes us to stop? Should we seek punishments for abusers that do not hurt the married victim? For example, will Janay Rice suffer hardship because her husband has lost his job? These are agonizing questions. Her fate is intertwined with his. His money is her money, his home is her home. We want to punish him and not her...but how?
We must decide whether or not it is acceptable to report criminal behavior even when it is against the wishes of the victim. Does the public have a right to know of alleged criminality in our midst? Does a victim have the right to his or her privacy? To continue to pillory Ray Rice and examine his brutality may further traumatize the victim, his wife. To respect her wishes and leave the situation alone may only embolden Rice and other abusers.
Media outlets must decide on policies to deal with these situations, perhaps only reporting non-graphic detail of abuse if the victim requests privacy.
More about ray rice, janay rice, Spousal abuse, Domestic violence, Media
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