When I was in my 20’s I was a volunteer crisis counselor for a domestic violence hotline in Philadelphia. For two nights a week, I waited for the phone to ring, prepared with lists of shelters, crisis procedures, a working knowledge of how to obtain a restraining order and an open heart.
The voices I heard on the other end of the line belonged to women of every walk of life. They fit no stereotype. What they had in common was that they were physically injured, in danger, frightened and ashamed. I listened and helped them through one of the darkest moments of their lives.
Given that experience, I have been following the Ray Rice story closely, watching the familiar circular media banter that surrounds public domestic violence cases. It is amazing to me the repetition of the naive and ill-informed questions of Why didn’t she leave?, Why did she marry him?, Why would she stay?, Why would she provoke him?
These are the wrong questions.
It makes me sad that there is a large percentage of the public that doesn’t understand the dynamics of an abusive relationship. Again and again the public asks about her choices, when he is the one who chose to knock her out. His choice was extreme violence and I have yet to see one news program call in an expert to discuss why he chose to hit her. I was losing hope.
Until today. I came across a story that gave me hope. So much so, that I had to share it.
“On Monday morning, I was genuinely excited to come to work and break down what I thought was a fascinating first weekend in the NFL. Instead, I kicked off ESPN’s coverage of the horrific Ray Rice elevator video. Meanwhile, one of my daughters has her first Fantasy Football team this season. But at breakfast this week, instead of discussing how her team was doing, we watched the Ray Rice video play out again in all its ugliness,” said Storm. “I spent this week answering seemingly impossible questions about the league’s biggest stars: ‘Mom, why did he do that? Why isn’t he in jail? Why didn’t he get fired?’ And yesterday, ‘Why don’t they even have control of their own players?'”
“So here’s a question: What does all of this mean for the future? What does it mean for female fans, whose dollars are so coveted by the NFL, who make up an estimated 45 percent of the NFL’s fan base?” she asked. “Are fans and are families, are we as parents supposed to compartmentalize everything that’s happening? Are we supposed to simply separate a violent game on the field from violent acts off the field? And if we do, what message does that send?”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is called: Asking the right questions.
Thank you, Hannah Storm, for landing on the right side of this terribly amorphous issue, thank you for passing that same critical eye for the truth to your daughter, and thank you, most of all, for using your platform to speak out with clarity on this issue.