The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)

The love birds. Luckily, she can take a punch.

The love birds. Luckily, she can take a punch.

I came close to writing about the latest disturbing turn in the Ray Rice affair—the fact that the Baltimore Ravens star’s ugly domestic abuse, caught on a hotel elevator camera, was recently deemed to warrant only a two game suspension by the NFL. I think this is a fairly accurate representation of how seriously that league and a segment of the professional sports culture take the problem of domestic abuse—wait until you hear all the cheers for Rice in his first day back on the field—but I had already registered my disgust at Rice’s lack of sufficient punishment for this incident. Then ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith was pilloried by female pundits for daring to suggest that the victims of domestic abuse sometimes share responsibility for what happens to them, and need to take action to prevent further beatings. ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle, noting that she was once in an abusive relationship, erupted in indignation, saying she “would never feel clean again” after taking reading Smith’s comments, and wrote,”I’m thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend…I’d hate to think what I’d be asking for by doing so… “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abuser’s. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.”

Of course,  other pundits, websites and blogs followed Beadle’s leaddid you know there’s a war on women?—because you just don’t dare get on the wrong side of this kind of issue. The problem is that in the context of the Ray Rice episode, Smith was making a valid point that is made too seldom because of The Beadle Rule, that women who are abused share no responsibility for their fate, and to even suggest otherwise is proof positive of misogyny. That is a politically correct lie, and Smith should not be attacked for telling the truth, albeit inarticulately.

The core of his commentary was this:

“We keep talking about the guys. We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman…But what I’ve tried to employ [?] the female members of my family…and this what, I’ve done this all my life,‘Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions.’ Because if I come, or somebody else comes, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that doesn’t happen.”

I think, despite his garbled misuse of “provocation,”which is what Beadle jumped on—he also apparently doesn’t know what “employ” means— Smith’s point is clear: “Women: don’t stay with men who beat you up, because , among other things, they are likely to do so again.” That is true. That is an important, indeed life saving point. It does not deserve to be pigeon-holed with unconscionable “she wore a tight skirt so she was asking to be raped” arguments, as Beadle, in a cheap shot, suggested.

The reason why this is so clear arises from the facts of the Rice case and its aftermath. The football star was arrested  at an Atlantic City casino in February for  punching his fiancée Janay Palmer, and knocking her cold. Video showed Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator, and police have footage of the incident itself.  A couple months later, the happy couple were married.

Well, good luck, Janay. In my view, a professional athlete, or any man, who beats his fiancée into unconsciousness once has engaged in unethical conduct that represents signature significance, and obviously so. He can’t be trusted by his victim, and will never be trustworthy. Yes, yes, Rice is mouthing all the right statements about being a new man. This was in February, remember. His victim married him anyway (“Can’t help lovin’ that man of mine!”) in the Spring. If Rice beats her again, and the odds, behavioral science and domestic abuse experts say that he probably will, Janay Palmer shares some of the responsibility for her own plight. Of course she does! She shouldn’t have married him. It was idiotic to do so,  reckless and self-destructive. I can offer this rule as an absolute with no hesitation at all: if your intended cold-cocks you in an elevator, ever, for any reason, press charges, have him arrested, and get out of the relationship, because if you don’t, you are 1) enabling and excusing an abuser and 2) placing your health and perhaps life at risk.

And if you are a celebrity (Hello, Rihanna!) or in a relationship with one, the lesson you are teaching young women just might get them killed some day.

Now Smith is in full-grovel mode, apologizing and essentially giving up the field, while allowing Beadle to score political correctness points and let Jany off the hook. He is right to say “I should have done a better job articulating my thoughts,” but Smith is usually more loud and vernacular than articulate: he articulated them well enough for anyone willing to listen to what he was trying to say. (Suggestion to Stephen: Don’t use Twitter as the Medium on which to discuss sensitive and complex issues.) Beadle is the one who should apologize, and prospectively, for all the women who, like Janay, will stay with their abusers with the predictable results.


Pointer: TMZ

Facts: Mediaite 1, 2,3


32 thoughts on “The Ray Rice Affair: Defending Stephen Smith (and Blaming the Victims Of Domestic Abuse When They Behave Like Rice’s)

  1. There’s an Italian proverb to the effect that no one else should enter into the discussions betwen husband and wife. I’m personally acquainted with one couple where things went bad after the wedding because the husband decided his wife was no longer so good-looking after she didn’t quite lose all the weight she gained during her first pregnancy. I’m also acquainted with another couple, mostly with the wife, in which the husband both verbally and physically abused the wife for months before the wedding, but she married him anyway, and now with the birth of their first child it appears that life is perfect.

    For a long time prior to the second couple’s wedding I listened to the now-wife’s constant complaining and gave her exactly the advice set forth above. It fell on deaf ears, and I paid a draining emotional price. Because of that, when the wife in the first couple came to me in tears because the husband’s attention had turned to some hot number with tattoos and piercings, I turned her away and told her to work it out, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to listen to this nonsense again, when all it would probably result in was her going back with him after burdening me with her problems, leaving me the loser. I should also mention that the wife in the second relationship had been in relationships with at least two other men who beat her prior to the one she actually married.

    It’s hard to say that there’s a war on women when some of the women actively walk into the line of fire and toss logic to the wind (“What’s the Use of Wondrin’?”) and burden society’s resources by welcoming their 911 rescue only to drop all charges once they see their men in cuffs, leaving the cops and prosecutors wondering why they even bothered.

    It’s generally an accepted practice that if you call for the paramedics because you feel ill or are injured, but decline to go to the hospital, you have to sign a form generally called an AMA (against medical advice) form, absolving them from liability. I would suggest that a similar form be adopted for domestic violence situations, where, if the woman declines to press charges, she has to sign a form saying she is doing so, and perhaps a second form where she has to sign off if she declines to leave the relationship. Then the police keep these forms on file, and when they get another call from the same address about the same stuff, they can give it a lower priority or ignore it altogether in favor of pursuing the shots fired or burglary in progress calls. It isn’t society’s job to help those who refuse to help themselves, nor to be a maid or valet service cleaning up after messy relationships but never able to get at the source. Society has an obligation to properly husband its limited resources, and members of society have an obligation not to become a drain on those resources.

    • Seldom have I read more callous thoughts expressed in such a public manner. And may I add: How very un-christian of you…

      Instead of philosophising how not to help women who don’t leave their abusive partners, wouldn’t some constructive suggestions about how to help and protect those that want to leave be better?

      As you may or may not have read in relating articles, about a third of female homicide victims knew their murderer intimately. They were killed by husbands, boyfriend or lovers.

      As you may also have read, the majority in this victim group is killed while trying to leave or after they have left their abusive partners. Battering your spouse does not get you put away for long and sometimes not at all. That makes leaving the controlling oppenent one of the most dangerous times in these relationships. Best-case scenario for women who left an abusive partner behind is that he moves on to the next woman.

      The odds of leaving your violent husband/boyfriend and surviving to tell the tale, are not in women’s favour.

      Now, just to be clear – anyone exposed to violence should always endeavor to remove oneself from the equation and thus (in theory) making the situation safer for everyone involved. But taking the story of Rice and Palmer (who apparently likes to throw a good punch herself) as a motive for generalizing the issue of domestic abuse and the parties involved is really taking simplification to the extreme.

      Also simplifying it would be to indulge in the illusion that if you take away the abused spouse, the abuser will just stop being violent. He will find a new victim – and until the justice system will find a way to put a stop to it for good, the neighbors will have to keep on calling the cops.

      • I don’t see the callousness. Declining to press charges against an abuser enables not just one abusive spouse but all of them. I’m sorry when someone gets seriously burned, but after I learn they ran into a burning house and took a nap, my sympathy is tempered by the thought: “What an idiot.” Seldom do abusive spouses fail to signal their proclivities prior to marriage (SEE: Ray Rice). Often, women go from one abusive partner after another. They are not, in such cases, absolved from all responsibility for their own fate.

        Steve-O may not be entirely Christian, but Ben Franklin, who wrote “God helps those who help themselves.” in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” (and whose quote is often attributed to the Bible) would approve.

        • >”Now, just to be clear – anyone exposed to violence should always endeavor to remove oneself from the equation and thus (in theory) making the situation safer for everyone involved.”

          As I wrote above, I don’t call it either responsible nor good judgement to stay with an abusive partner. I also consider someone deliberately falling asleep in a burning building to be of unsound mind. As I do women who stay with their violent husbands. My statement did not absolve anyone of responsibility.
          And you are right: there are battered women who find themselves in one abusive relationship after another. But I also know that they are not the only ones following a pattern: Violent men are predators and just like paedophiles they recognise and single out their victims – which child will make the least fuss when asked to get in a strangers car, which child can be shamed into secrecy, and so on.
          What I deemed “callous” was the mode of Steve’s declaration, his simplification of the matter and that officials should seize to help battered women who do not help themselves for whatever reason.

          Regarding your last sentence: I find the idea that one has to qualify to be deemed worthy of divine intervention questionable. That phrase isn’t anywhere in the bible and I dare you to prove it. But I do remember lots of “Trust in God” equivalents, so I don’t see how Franklin’s phrase applies to being of a christian disposition based only on his opinion.
          So what I deem un-christian is the idea of denying help if one is in the position to give it.

          But Franklin’s right in this case because the women who help themselves by leaving and pressing charges against their abusive partners, do need the help of God, because, going by the number of murder victims, the officials apparently deny their’s.

  2. Rule #1. Don’t argue with a drunk. Wait until he/she is sober to attempt to settle your differences. You can’t expect rational results from a discussion with a person in an irrational state. If you can’t keep your mouth shut, walk away. If you can’t walk away, run. If you can’t run, call the police. If you can’t make a call, hide, protect yourself as best you can. Leave as soon as possible.

    Rule #2. Don’t argue with a pissed-off person, especially when he/she is bigger than you. See rule #1.

    Rule #3. Don’t try to have the last word, because he/she wants to have the last word as well and then nobody has the LAST word – for years.

    Rule #4. Avoid physical contact at all costs and follow the one-shot rule. Hit me once, good-bye.

    Married 58 years, many of them turbulent, but the closest I ever came to getting hit was many years ago when I broke Rule #3. He swung, I ducked,. he hit the wall leaving a hole, and I ran out of the house – laughing. Still do when I think about it.

    As for the war on women: there is one, but it was declared by women and is perpetuated by women. And who suffers the most? Young women who don’t realize that they would have been better off before “equality.” Feminists lost me starting with the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas fiasco and they have done nothing to improve my daughters’ or granddaughters’ lives. In fact those of us who remember the days of real discrimination probably had an easier time of it than young women today (I was told by a college professor not to bother taking the med or art courses that I wanted to because I, as a woman, would never get a job as a medical illustrator.). Today, nobody seems to know what they’re supposed to do, or what they’re supposed to expect and self-esteem is a bigger issue now than ever. Self-control, responsibility, thoughtfulness, respect, consideration, manners – these things don’t seem to exist in some segments of society anymore and seem to be replaced with rage, entitlement, selfishness, self-loathing that lead to violence, substance abuse, and misery.

    Can it be that political correctness prevents us from making an accurate diagnosis of our sick society because we ignore (silence) the symptoms?

  3. Here are the rules that I have told every boyfriend when we started dating. (1) If you ever do illegal drugs, I will leave you; (2) If you ever develop a mental illness and refuse to seek treatment, I will leave you; (3) If you ever cheat on me, I will leave you; (4) If you ever wake up and have “found” religion, I will leave you; and (5) If you ever hit me, I will leave you. With any of these, there will be no discussion, there will be no couples’ counseling. There will be your crap sitting on the lawn waiting for you to pick it up. If you wait too long, it may or may not be set on fire.

    But here’s the difference. I am an educated woman with resources. I don’t need a man in my life — for money or any other reason. I have a man in my life because I choose for him to be there.

    I know people who don’t have the same resources (mental or tangible) that I have. Many of these women come into these relationships already broken. Others are stupid. Others are in fear of their lives — or perhaps their children’s lives — if they leave their abusers. I think all of these comments of the day are in bad form because you can’t pretend that one victim is just like another victim. I have a great-aunt who was killed in a domestic violence incident. In her day, the police did nothing about it. And she had no resources and could not leave. I babysat for another woman who endured domestic abuse for years until she saved up a few thousand dollars — enough to seek a divorce and custody of her two children.

    In a first world country like ours, it will still take several generations for the majority of this violence to leave us because women just now are starting to have options. There will always be some women who will not escape this abuse or will stupidly walk head-on into it, but there are many more who will never have to endure it — like me. And for that, I thank feminism. I am a one-percenter because of feminists who paved the way before me. I was able to go to college and grad school — grad schools who didn’t even accept many women until the generation before me. But for feminists (and I include men in that definition), I most likely would have been another poor farm girl or a waitress or a maid like many of my friends from my community. And there is nothing wrong with their occupations — but I’d also be lying if I told you that none of them have ever endured domestic abuse.

      • It does harm to any family where the parents do not agree on religion or the absence of religion. The children suffer — I know from first hand experience.

        • Shifting goal posts. You stated a condition causing an automatic response prior to any harm occurring. The attitude itself of “finding religion” doesn’t automatically generate harm.

          Unless you are tipping your hand that you know you’ll automatically create a hostile environment towards a significant other for even potentially harmless philosophical pursuits.

          I think you progressives refer to that as being close minded.

          • I think Beth is more thinking of a potential partner taking a sudden hard turn philosophically or religiously. I can kind of buy into that because then the person isn’t the same person and it’s a jolting change. If the person you’ve come to love was previously lukewarm about religion but is suddenly a strict Christian demanding not just service attendance but full-day Sabbath stuff and telling you you can’t take a drink, that’s a problem. If my previously secular Arab gf suddenly goes full-on Muslim, starts wearing hijab, gives me grief about my (admittedly fierce) patriotism, and tells me I have to come over to Islam, forget it. The same applies with major philosophical changes – if a gentle pacifist suddenly goes far-left and becomes a latter-day Weatherman, that’s an issue. If a family-values conservative suddenly goes extreme right and becomes a skinhead, yikes. I hope this is more what she’s aiming at, rather than out-and-out hostility to religion, which is a recipe for disaster in any relationship except with a like-minded person.

          • This is not a conservative vs. liberal problem. I was raised by two conservative, religious people who disagreed on the subject and it causes havoc for the children.

            I don’t care if I have a partner who has religious or spiritual beliefs. I just need to know if they are compatible with mine. And if not, he is not a suitable partner.

          • I think your being uncivil here texagg04. Even if Beth were being close minded in how she manages her relationships (and I’m not convinced she is), it still wouldn’t be unethical or unreasonable, and criticizing her for it would be inappropriate. Matters of the heart are necessarily free from the usual standards of reason and ethics. The subject at hand is proper accountability for some women’s self-destructive relationship decisions, the fem-mafia brigade that denies any shred of that accountability, and the high profile men/women who normalize those destructive decisions.

  4. These days anyone can pick up the phone and call the cops. There’s no excuse for not doing so, or for not following through with the complaint if actually hit. Oh, there are excuses you will hear, and you’ve already outlined a bunch of them above. Frankly I don’t put a lot of stock in most of them as excuses, they are more rationaliations or vulnerabilities. They did come into play in both the circumstances which I am acquainted with, in one case the wife was already pretty broken from a strict set of parents and two very physically abusive relationships, one of which left her lying in her own blood in the snow and the other of which left her unconscious from being choked. In the other the wife came from a very strictly religious family and was married at 22, not quite ready, I think.

    I can’t disagree with any of the five grounds for walking away from a partner, I don’t want a drugged-up, insane, unfaithful, fanatical, or physically abusive partner in my life. I’ve known people who fell into all of those traps, and none would I choose.

    Thankfully I am also an educated person with a few resources of my own, and I don’t need a partner, but if I did there would be #6 – if you suddenly go all feminist and witchy on me, we are done. It may have disappointed my recently-departed mom that her eldest never got married, but her second son gave her the one thing she was really looking for: a grandchild.

  5. Thank you for saying this because I basically made the very same comment in that Michelle erroneously took everything he stated out of context based on one word (provocation) and sent women libs in heat by simply misquoting his implications on the subject at hand. Michelle be a woman, and do the correct thing, tuck your tail and apologize.

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