I am a survivor of domestic violence.
What follows are my thoughts based on such an identity, position, and worldview.
While the physical scars have long faded, it’s undeniable that the emotional and psychological scars that remain. Specifically, I know all too well what fear feels like on a regular basis. The out of your control ambiguity causing you to be hyper-aware and make decisions of your every word and action to not set the other person off, which can be a constant moving target. As a child growing up in this environment it often felt like a carousel of highs, lows, and so-so moments all in one day or week. Now after various forms of therapy (I cannot emphasize enough the importance of mental health and how addressing my own has aided in my intentional-driven life that I now frame as a lovelution.), this cycle of violence felt more like a hamster wheel that I could never get off until it came time for me to leave for college when I finally felt in control, free, and safe.
While this is the first time I have written publicly about this dimension of my identity, I can no longer remain silent about a topic—domestic violence—that is too close to home. I was hopeful when our country was highlighting (though in a sensationalized way) the intersection of entertainment, masculinity, and violence just a few weeks ago. However, in the time that it has taken me to gather my thoughts, it seems the gravity of the various situations that have surfaced have since faded with the official start of the NFL season.
Even though the emphasis has been placed on the microcosm of sport and specifically, the NFL; about a month ago, the focus was on Singer-songwriter CeeLo Green and his outrageous tweets justifying rape. Since I will not give space for the misogyny of women here on this blog, I will instead share the UltraViolet info-graphic to continue to raise awareness.
The point is that women (and girls) are under attack not just in the U.S., yet sadly, worldwide. Thank goodness there are intelligent and powerful women (e.g. Oprah, Lisa Ling, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Chimanada Adiche, and the list could go on…) that have and continue to bring voice to this continued cultural and societal norm. All of this is to say, I feel uniquely positioned to weigh in on this current scenario involving sport and domestic violence.
For those unfamiliar with the series of events that have led to Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension, I recommend viewing this timeline.
First off, my hats off to Jason Whitlock*, who’s commentary—Airing Rice video assaults wife again—got it right in terms of the media’s role in creating the nightmare that Janay Rice (wife and then fiancé of Ray Rice) mentions in her recent Instagram post. I start here because reading his words and in particular, those shared by a friend of his, who also identifies as a survivor, finally put into words what I struggled to name days or even months ago when the first video of the incident was released.
Although I cannot begin to understand the experience of why as women we often choose to stay in these scenarios for indefinitely or far too long [see #WhyIStayed for further insight], I recognize without judgment that the complexity of self-esteem, shame, control, guilt, trust, blame, and love is difficult to untangle. This is what I see when I read Janay’s statement. I feel a deep sadness for her, not just in what she and so many experience, yet that it’s all playing out publicly.
Seeing these videos triggered for me a replay of my own experiences of observing and experiencing violence at the hands of my father. I know all too well that the system is full of red-tape and that a formal charge is not needed to validate or end the experience of violence. In fact, often from my experience involving the police just fueled the fire for the cycle of shame, guilt, and control to continue. While I’m still undecided if it’s our employer’s responsibility to hold us accountable for our personal actions resulting in disciplinary actions, I can’t help but pause knowing that San Francisco 49ers player Ray McDonald will be able to continue to play with no consequences until charges are made for allegedly beating his pregnant wife (see the latest here).
I recognize I have mentioned only two of the prominent incidents that have recently surfaced and that such cases are not mutually exclusive with professional football players. The truth is that I’ve been feeling quite ambivalent about football (and professional sports in general) even prior to these recent events. And now, I have even more reason to not spend my precious time watching football and showing my support of the NFL, which is the same sentiment I shared when the Oakland Raiders called me about purchasing tickets this season.
Instead I advocate for the NFL (as well as ALL while, male and economically-privileged professional sport organizations and owners) to use their social position and economic power to assist in shifting the public’s thinking to create a form of restorative justice—that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders/perpetrators (guilty or alleged) through reconciliation with victims and the community at large—versus turning a blind eye on the topic (see article). I share the sentiments of my friend Sheneka Williams, who recently posted the following comment on Facebook:
I will advocate for the NFL to examine the correlation between aggression and their players. I will also advocate for therapy for NFL players who have deep rooted issues. These issues are prevalent in childhood, but they are ignored because of the individual’s athletic skills. We see this every day in Little League. So, let’s take this back to K-12…
That said, I WILL choose to boycott the NFL this season, who in my mind has made a clear stance of protecting women’s breasts (just think about their clearly visible support of breast cancer) over the physical safety of women (and those who are associated with their organization, yet fail to bring them a profit). I recognize this might seem like an oversimplification, yet the point is we all have a choice as citizens and consumers of the world what and who we will support in our everyday action.
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In the end, there’s always a choice. ~ Unknown
What will you choose?
Please share your comments below and TAKE ACTION: Sign UltraViolet’s petition asking for key NFL Sponsors to drop their support!