Kate and Will are having another baby, the fabulous Neil Patrick Harris wed and the NFL finally suspended Ray Rice for being an abuser. These were the headlines that dominated September 8th. An interesting commentary -- both good and bad -- about the world we live in.
My Twitter feed was full to the brim with people sharing and re-sharing the horrific Ray Rice video of his brutal attack on his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer.
I didn't watch it. I didn't have to. I didn't want to.
And I wish the masses would collectively agree to not watch that video and, now that the NFL has finally responded, also now stop sharing the video.
Every time someone clicks on that video we re-victimize Janay Palmer. Every time someone watches it, we are voyeuristic bystanders to her abuse.
The real question is: why would we want to watch a woman be violated, humiliated, devalued, brutalized and abused?
Is it because we are so desensitized to images of violence against women from TV, movies, music and video games? Is it because we can't believe such a talented football player could really abuse a woman unless we saw evidence with our own eyes? Is it because we didn't believe her? Is it because the first video released months ago (that showed her being dragged out of that elevator by her hair) wasn't bad enough?
After that video was released, the public had a massive reaction leading to the NFL to finally indefinitely suspend Ray Rice. The NFL did not suspend him because they saw the video. They did it because you saw the video. So isn't that worth it? Shouldn't we be sharing and clicking to make change?
One could argue that something good came out of the public consumption of the assault on Janay Palmer. After all, the powerful NFL finally took a stand against violence against women.
But why did they have to wait for us to force their hand? Professional sports, entertainment, business, government - everyone - should have a zero tolerance for domestic violence. But they don't because our culture doesn't. It's our dirty secret kept behind closed doors. Yet the truth is that behind the closed doors of elevators, hotel rooms, high rise apartments and suburban homes violence against women happens every single day in our communities. Just because it is not filmed or shared on the Internet does not mean it isn't happening.
It's uncomfortable to talk about and maybe we grew up being taught that what happens at home stays at home and it's none of our business. We don't know what to say or what to do or how to help. But then a celebrity is caught on film and his hash tag is trending and it's in our face.
I have a challenge for us all -- instead of watching that video let's use that time, energy and that social media voice to speak out and break the silence about domestic violence. We can make sure all major sports franchises hear us -- all institutions hear us. By not watching that video we are saying we believe her, we know this is happening on every street of our country and that we are not going to be silent bystanders or contributors to a culture of abuse. Rather than following the #RayRice hashtag, read the raw and powerful statements coming from the #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft discussion.
When famous people are in the news for committing violence against women it is one of those rare times that the media and the public gets talking about abuse -- at least for a few hours or for a few days. That's a start.
But what else can we do?
- We can talk to our kids about what Ray Rice did and how it is never ever okay to assault your partner. And how it is never ever okay to abuse your partner in anyway -- verbally, physically, sexually, financially, neglect.
- Each time we see an image of violence against women in advertising, sports, film, video games or popular media we can have that conversation with our kids again and again.
- We can learn the warning signs of abuse and how to help a friend who has experienced violence.
- We can use our time and our wallets to support the countless grassroots community organizations that work 24/7 to help women and children fleeing violence - organizations like Interval House, Canada's first shelter for abused women.
Let's raise our voice and change the way the sporting community -- and our entire community -- thinks about violence against women. We can do this.
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