By now, anyone who reads or watches TV knows that a video released by TMZ, a celebrity site, shows NFL star Ray Rice punching his then-girlfriend, now wife into unconsciousness, and dragging her out of an elevator like a sack of potatoes. http://tinyurl.com/oufrr2d
BUT. . .
This story dates back to February. Back in the spring, Rice was suspended for the first two games this season based on an investigation into the incident that NFL Commissioner claims did not include seeing the video from inside the elevator. Where was it? Hiding under a rock? Certainly, law enforcement had it. Did they really not share with the NFL investigators? I seriously doubt it.
Missing from coverage is the fact that Rice was not held accountable in the Criminal Justice system. The victim’s decision not to testify was the reason given for not pursuing the original felony charges against Rice. Really? The crime was available on VIDEO! This case was provable without victim testimony.
Although Victim Rights Center strongly supports each victim’s right to input into decisions about prosecution, sometimes it may be appropriate for law enforcement to pursue a prosecution even when the victim chooses not to cooperate. Given the common dynamic of recantation by victims of Domestic Violence, the prosecutor is placed in a difficult position of ignoring victim input or protecting the public (and the victim). That debate is on-going, and I don’t pretend to have ONE answer, because there is not one answer.
Here, however, you had a provable case involving violence sufficient to knock the victim out. Too often, the next incident escalates the violence, and Ms. Rice might not survive it. We (and the media) should at least be talking about the decision not to proceed with the prosecution. I would certainly lean towards prosecution (with the caveat that I do not know the full facts available to the prosecution — second guessing may be too easy, and wrong.)
Sadly, this case is not unique. It just involves a prominent sports figure. The media is holding forth on the evils of DV. For a while. On the sports page. Then the subject will disappear again. It is unlikely to lead either to an ongoing discussion of violence (primarily against women), nor to policy changes that provide more public and private support for DV shelters, counselors, and prosecutors.
Just like Sandusky. For months, the media held forth on the evils of child abuse. And moved on. Two years later, today’s NYTimes reports that the sanctions against Penn State have essentially been cut in half. http://tinyurl.com/ozqpnvn Included in the story is that the $60 million fine PSU paid will not be administered nationally, but will all go to a fund in Pennsylvania. Let’s watch carefully how the state uses that largesse — we are sure to learn something, good or bad.
Will it take two years before Ray Rice is playing in the NFL again? See Michael Vick.