Unfortunately, we are having the discussion of #DomesticViolence and the NFL again. We covered the Josh Brown situation on "Undisputed" on FS1 Friday.
It is disappointing and frustrating that we still haven't reached a place where the NFL can hold abusers accountable. It is not the NFL's job to be the law, but when they continue to hand out uneven justice, react only to outrage and struggle to make good on their own policies it sends a message that they don't take abuse of women seriously. This reinforces the perception that the league is not equipped to manage this issue.
I wrote about my story when Ray Rice was in the headlines, so I will share it again today...
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I will never forget the first time I was abused. Everything happened so fast, the attack, the police, my family getting involved, it was the worst night of my life. Until the next time it happened, and the next, and every time after that. When I hear the names that people call Janay Palmer (Rice) I cringe knowing that I was ridiculed the same way. Idiot. Stupid. Weak. I know the judging looks, the shame, the excuses, it seems like it never ends. I also know the pain, the torture and the fear and I am lucky enough to know the relief of being free of an abusive relationship.
It is very easy to judge someone who stays in an abusive relationship, especially if you've never been in one. If you've never woken up next to the person you love only to later go to sleep next to them after being beaten, you might not understand. If you've never been holding hands with them and a minute later had to beg them to stop hitting you, you might not understand. If you've never cried and screamed while they kicked you, as lay on your back in an alley, after they've dragged you by your hair from your car, you probably won't get it. Maybe you've never been thrown around or been choked on the floor while your abuser is on top of you trying with all his might to kill you. If you did, maybe you will understand. Of course there are many out there who have never been abused that do understand, and for those people, I am grateful.
I've heard so many angles on this Ray Rice situation. The amount of ignorance surrounding the story made me angry at first, but now, it just makes me sad. Don't be so presumptuous to assume you know what goes on in their relationship, that this was the first time, or the last.
Don't assume that it is so easy to get up and leave an abuser. You have no idea how compelling the man you love can be on his knees begging and crying for your forgiveness. Reminding you of your beautiful daughter and your family, and all the people and the money and the time and on and on. You love this person, and one night of darkness may not be enough to make you forget that.
Only once you forgive them, they turn on you. Convincing you that you brought it on yourself. You had an attitude or you didn't do what he wanted. They degrade you and manipulate. Making you think no one will ever treat you better, they tell you you're unlovable, useless and you believe them. After all, you must be terrible to make someone treat you so horribly.
I am not a weak person. I have endured years of abuse since I was a child. I never thought as an adult I would allow someone to take my power and control me. I defended him and stood by him. I lied for him. I threw out my morals and convictions. I was very blessed to have people around me who were stronger than me. People that pushed me to leave and reminded me every day despite my depression and darkness that I could take control and leave.
Some people are lucky enough to get out at the start. I made the decision to forgive my abuser, and I suffered the consequences. I don't know what happens in the Rice home, I don't know how long the abuse has been going on or if it has continued, but this story is bigger than Ray and Janay.
The NFL let down its millions of fans in the way they handled this situation. Men and Women. As a survivor of domestic abuse I'm completely disappointed in their lack of a compelling punishment, lack of integrity and lack of compassion towards the victim. They put her in a room with her abuser and demanded she tell her story. They placed blame on her through the Ravens twitter account. They rolled out a weak suspension and then justified it fiercely in interviews and statements. It wasn't until the "truth" was unveiled that they felt compelled to do the right thing. If the NFL had done the right thing from the beginning, they would not be dealing with this public outrage.
There is one good that has come from this terrible story and embarrassing moment for the sport. That some people have learned about the issue of domestic violence and have educated themselves on just how elaborate it is.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please get help. Visit www.thehotline.org National Domestic Violence Hotline.