Playing the Blame Game

by Cass Clemmer

Since the release of the Ray Rice video and the ensuing commentary behind it, several voices have come out of the woodwork to place blame on one figure or another. Blame Roger Goodell for only giving Rice a two game suspension, blame the media for not finding the video sooner, blame the NFL for not being aware of their players’ actions, blame the police for not taking further action, blame Janay for staying with Ray, even blame Ray for taking the elevator instead of the stairs.

It’s his fault, her fault, their fault.

The story of a woman knocked unconscious in an elevator by her intimate partner has morphed into a public battleground with citizen soldiers flinging judgments with the tap of the keys in an effort to make sense of the violence we witnessed in that three and a half minute video.

But we’re fighting the wrong battle. We’re tossing the blame around like a mindless game of hot potato instead of working together to admit this isn’t just a one-time occurrence, in fact, it’s a 20-time occurrence per minute in the United States.

My point is not that Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, and the NFL aren’t to blame – my point is that in spending all of our time blaming individuals, we forget to look at the big picture and we forget to blame ourselves.

We participate in a society that discusses women’s bodies as if they are figures built for our appreciation, criticism, and judgment. We participate in a society that says it hates violence against fellow human beings, yet portrays women as intimate objects we can manipulate as we please. We participate in a society full of diverse opinions, views, and complex backgrounds, but we believe that we can put ourselves in the shoes of a victim we don’t even know and tell them to walk out of their relationship. We participate in a society where “all men are created equal”, but we forget to be honest about the qualifications and exceptions to equality.

We live in the land of the free, but young girls and boys, men and women, are not free to choose what to wear or how to act, and we reserve the right to judge them for the violence they face should they attempt to explore that freedom.

Let’s take this horrible act of violence turned public, pull our eyes away from one of Janay’s darkest moments, replayed on a loop for the world to pick apart, take our fingers away from the keyboard snapping hatred toward those that disagree with our judgments, broaden our minds from wondering who should take the blame, and focus instead on how we can do better.

Domestic violence will not come to an end just because we’ve figured out who was at fault for this tragedy. Will a lesson be learned? Sure, absolutely. But will the problem be solved? Sadly, no. We can do more than just point fingers – and we should. We need to go beyond blaming individuals and look at how we can do more to combat domestic violence, whether that’s by becoming more educated about the issue, calling out friends and family who refer to women as objects in jokes or daily discussion, encouraging your community to speak out against violence, or even joining us in pressuring the NFL to observe of Domestic Violence Month as a part of a #Nevermore campaign. There are hundreds of ways you can make an impact, big or small, that will not only help victims and survivors, but will help turn our society into one that stands on the belief that everyone is created equal, no exceptions or exclusions.