The sacrificial lamb on the altar of denial

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Oh, shock and horror! Until the videotape of Ray Rice coldcocking his girlfriend and dragging her unconscious from an elevator, we had no idea that domestic violence was rampant in the NFL! Put that man in stocks in the public square, that we may ridicule and assault him in order to convince ourselves that this isolated incident may never happen again!

In the time it took me to write that paragraph, four women reported being victims of domestic violence in the U.S. About three times that many couldn’t report it because they were terrified, restrained, unconscious, or simply dead. Seriously. I googled around a bit on domestic violence statistics, and discovered that 2.2 million calls per year are made to local and national domestic violence hotlines. Do the math.

Ray Rice isn’t an anomaly. He’s a sacrificial lamb on the altar of denial, as Pete Rose was 25 years ago when — gasp — Rose was discovered to be only person who had ever gambled on a sporting event. Rose was banned from baseball for life, just as Rice has been from the NFL. Kind of odd, isn’t it? Busting a woman’s jaw carries the same penalty as dropping 20 bucks on a Cubs game? Something is askew here. Moreover, will either penalty stop illegal gambling or domestic violence? Can we give that a big, confident, collective “Hayull no”?

Rice isn’t the first NFL player to assault his partner, and the salient point is that domestic violence is not an NFL problem. All this focus on the NFL is a distraction. Domestic violence amongst the NFL is a small piece of our national disgrace. Consider these statistics posted by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

* 4.2 million women in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by and intimate partner within their lifetime

* One in three women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner

* Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime

* 10 percent of intimate partner violence involves a weapon

* One in five women in the U.S. have been raped within her lifetime; 9.4 percent of women in the U.S. have been raped by an intimate partner

* 19.3 million women have experienced stalking in their lifetime; 66.2 percent of these women were stalked by a current or former intimate partner

* 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94 percent of murder-suicide victims are female

To be clear, men can also be domestic violence victims, but statistically, victims are predominantly women. And — newsflash — the vast majority are not dating or married to NFL players. So, while the NFL recoils from their domestic violence poster child as if he has leprosy, and everyone is busy vilifying the NFL as a hotbed of misogyny, let’s consider the reality of our overall domestic violence issue. Rice is merely one guy amongst thousands who punched his partner unconscious. Just this morning. It’s not the NFL. It’s us.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough reported that the local police department didn’t even charge Rice with domestic violence. They charged both Ray and Janaye Rice with a misdemeanor. Both. Yes, Janaye Rice got the same charge for giving her hulking boyfriend a sissy-pop on the chin as he did for laying her out cold.

Maybe the local police are simply lazy and dull… an assault is an assault is an assault, regardless of the results. More likely, I’m guessing the police department just swept this incident under the “Oh, it’s just domestic violence” rug. The word “domestic” makes violence much more palatable. It’s time we separated “domestic” from “violence” and call it what it is: assault. Or worse

Here in Winters, we know how much worse it can be. The trial for the man who murdered Leslie Pinkston begins next month. Leslie was trying to cut ties with her former boyfriend, and oddly enough, she bailed him out of jail and he promptly shot her in the head. Some say that since Leslie bailed him out, it’s her own fault. Those who say that don’t know anything about being so terrified of someone that you’ll do anything to appease him. I’m guessing Leslie’s killer said something like, “Just do this one thing for me and I swear I’ll leave you alone.” Well, he told the truth, didn’t he. There’s nowhere more “alone” than the grave.

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton recently drew a line between Leslie and Janaye Rice, and while there are some very significant differences, he correctly identified “blaming the victim” as the common thread. But, there’s a cleaner way to say “don’t blame the victim”: Blame the assailant.

The domestic violence discussion has focused on women for far too long, teaching them how to stay safe on the street and prevent getting raped, and how to use pepper spray. Besides not blaming the victim, let’s stop preparing the victim too, and refocus our attention where it rightfully belongs. Rather than self-defense classes for women, how about self-control classes for men? Beginning in childhood. Teach them to respect other people’s bodies and boundaries, and that they’ll go to jail if they don’t.

If Ray Rice had punched some random person rather than his girlfriend in that elevator, he’d be in jail for assault, not pouting on the sidelines while other NFL players are still out on the field while their partner’s cuts and bruises are still fresh. Rice knows it’s B.S., the players and owners know it’s B.S., but the rest of us don’t know it’s B.S. because we’re too busy yapping about the NFL. As for the NFL’s response, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, but it sure does look good on the surface.

Bad boy, Ray. Go sit on the bench with Pete. Everyone else, carry on.

Meanwhile, in the time it took me to write this column, 100 more women reported domestic violence. Except for the ones who are terrified, restrained, unconscious or dead.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at; read more of her work at and

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