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Looking Beyond The Hype To See Domestic And Sexual Violence

Congratulations, America.

We seem to be moving beyond the need for the perfect victim. We no longer require a bruised and bloodied virginal innocent to make us believe that sexual assault and domestic violence occur at astounding rates in the U.S.

Significant steps are beginning to be made toward preventing assaults and trying more cases. More importantly, we are asking ourselves why it took us so long to reach this crucial level of understanding.

We may see evidence of this hard-won and long overdue evolution in the scandals surround the NFL and Rolling Stone magazine.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently issued more stringent standards for dealing with alleged sexual assaults and domestic violence by the league’s players. The changes were unanimously approved by the NFL owners on Wednesday.

We all know Goodell did not come to this place of understanding easily.

It took massive public outrage at the two-game suspension initially slapped on former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice — the equivalent of a child’s timeout in the corner — after video went public of him dragging his then-girlfriend (now wife) out of a hotel elevator.

The sheer volume of outrage forced Goodell and the league’s owners to take domestic violence seriously — to recognize it as their problem. The public understood that, even before video of Rice making the punch emerged.

After weeks of hot media attention, Rice seems to be wriggling off the hook. In recent weeks, his penalty of indefinite suspension was reversed through arbitration. And his wife has come forward with her version of that night — a retelling that downplays her role as a supposed victim of domestic violence.

Still, nobody needs Janay Rice to volunteer as poster woman for domestic violence. We all know it’s a problem in the NFL, and in society, and we can no longer look the other way. Increasingly, fans are unwilling to support a league unfettered by reckless, violent and possibly criminal behavior off the field by players.

As for Rolling Stone, it offered up a snapshot of society’s attitudes toward sexual violence, but not in the way it had intended. In November it published a harrowing account of gang rape and bureaucratic bumbling over that rape at the University of Virginia. As the story lit up the Internet, details soon emerged showing inaccuracies and disregard for reporting standards. No fraternity event was held on the night she claims she was attacked by seven members of Phi Kappa Psi, among other discrepancies.

As the story imploded and Rolling Stone editors backpedaled and apologized, many feared the controversy would taint the credibility of other campus sexual assault claims, making young women less willing to come forward if attacked.

The University of Virginia’s president, Teresa A. Sullivan, could have cited the apparently shoddy journalism at Rolling Stone as vindication. But she didn’t. As the story unraveled, she was quoted saying that the school was “more focused than ever.” “We will continue to take a hard look at our practices, policies and procedures,” she told the New York Times.

The university has to because it is being watched by a public increasingly more aware of the scope of campus sexual assault, just as the NFL will be scrutinized.

The Rolling Stone story didn’t hinge entirely on the supposed victim’s questionable narrative of her attack. It also outlined the patterns of how such cases typically get handled, showing that victims can be inadvertently influenced not to report. And those problems exist at other campuses as well.

Despite the scandal, the Rolling Stone story nonetheless has stimulated valuable discussion. For perspective, realize that it was only in January that President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to squarely address campus sexual assaults when he created a task force to study the problem and issued guidelines for universities.

The Department of Education has been investigating more than 80 campuses for their policies and procedures. Congress stepped up as well, with significant work done on the issue before the Campus Accountability and Safety Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate in July.

The significance of these events — all of which occurred in one calendar year — shouldn’t be underplayed. Real progress on changing cultural norms, or moving institutions to reform themselves, only happens when public attention is focused.

Admittedly, journalists are often guilty of sniffing around for the perfect victim, the person whose story is too awful or too sensational for the public to look away.

But at some point, other evidence piles up. And the need for the perfect victim recedes.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO. 64108-1413, or via email at msanchez@kcstar.com.

AFP Photo/Rob Carr

A Contrite Ray Rice Says He Hopes For ‘Second Chance’ In NFL

By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

Huddled around his wife and her parents in their New York home, former Ravens star Ray Rice made his first comments since he was reinstated from an indefinite NFL suspension for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.

During an interview that aired Tuesday morning on NBC’s Today, the three-time Pro Bowl running back was asked what he would say to an NFL owner or group of fans to convince them he should get another opportunity to play.

“One thing I would think they would have to be willing to look deeper into who I am and realize me and my wife had one bad night and I took full responsibility for,” Rice said. “One thing about my punishment is I accepted it. I went fully forward with it. I never complained. I never did anything like that. I took full responsibility for everything that I did. The only thing that I can hope for and wish for is a second chance.”

Rice was arrested in February after knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator. He was charged with felony aggravated assault but avoided jail time through a pretrial intervention program.

The interview with Matt Lauer touched on several topics, including a controversial news conference held in May at the Ravens’ training complex, where Rice apologized to several people in the Ravens organization, but not his wife, who sat next to him. Rice acknowledged he should have apologized to his wife. He also referenced what his wife, Janay, said during an interview that aired Monday, that the Ravens gave her suggestions of what to say.

“The reason why that press conference was the way it was is because we were still under legal situations,” Rice said. “So, there wasn’t much that could be said. I’ll be honest. We were nervous. I was nervous. It was the first time that we were available to speak and I made a horrendous mistake not apologizing to my wife.

“When we were going in we were given what to speak about. It wasn’t truly coming from us if you can understand. I made that clear the last time I was able to speak: My wife is an angel, she can do no wrong. I take fully responsibility for my actions.”

Janay Rice’s apology during that news conference raised eyebrows as well. Ray Rice said that was a matter of his wife attempting to help him at a time where they were under major scrutiny.

Rice was originally suspended for two games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who later increased the suspension to an indefinite one in September when a graphic video surfaced on TMZ of Rice knocking out his wife with a punch. Following an appeal hearing where his lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, argued that Rice was being subjected to double jeopardy and punished twice for the same violation, Rice was reinstated Friday by former federal judge Barbara S. Jones.

“In hindsight, I think she (apologized) that because she knows what I do for a living,” Rice said. “She understood my job and my profession. They were thinking her doing that to take light off the situation. I appreciated it, but that’s not what the big deal is. The big deal is for me to always protect her and that’s why I take full responsibility. She can do no wrong. This is something as a man you have to own and we’re horribly sorry and I’m horribly sorry for everything I ever put my family through.”

Turning emotional, Rice talked about their young daughter, Rayven, and what she’ll have to go through in the fallout from her parents’ high-profile fight.

“I still have to live every day and take my daughter to school,” Rice said. “She’s going to grow up, and the way the Internet works now she’s going to Google her father’s name and the first thing that’s going to come up is we know what’s going to come up. That’s the reality of it. That’s what I’m more worried about fixing.

“I want my wife, my daughter we all just want our lives back. I realize football is one thing. Now, I realize the amount of people we’ve affected, the amount of families we’ve affected.”

Keeping with a message his wife delivered, Ray Rice insisted that he and his wife aren’t involved in a pattern of abuse and that this was an aberration in their relationship.

“Domestic violence is a real issue in society,” Rice said. “We can take our one bad night that happened to be on video, but we are truly sorry for the people who’s truly going through it. It’s a real problem. I know when the time is right. I know my wife wants to help. I know I want to help.”

Rice insisted that this was a one-time incident and that he and his wife weren’t in a relationship where violence was commonplace.

“One thing you learn is we weren’t in a perfect relationship,” he said. “No relationship is perfect. We’ve had arguments but you talk about abuse that’s something that we know we’ve never crossed that path. Did we say things to each other that we want to take back at times? Yeah, we’ve crossed that line, but it never got to an altercation that went that far. That was very uncharacteristic. I take responsibility. That was very uncharacteristic.”

Janay Rice has received criticism for staying with her husband because of his status as a professional football player. Ray Rice denied that characterization of his wife.

“I knew my wife before I had anything,” said Rice, who first met Janay when they were teenagers. “She knows where I’m from. We both know where we came from. To be honest with you, she’s very independent. My wife could survive in this world without me. She could survive in this world in society without me.

“She could have done it on her own. The one thing I want people to understand is that she sacrificed her well-being for me and now the roles a little bit reversed. I’m sacrificing my well-being for her. If I never play football again, I will be honest with you, I would definitely sacrifice more so she can have a better future.”

At that point, Janay Rice said: “I know he wants to play football, but regardless I know he’ll support me in anything I want to do. If he doesn’t play football again, maybe I’ll step in and I’ll be the provider.”

At the start of the interview, Ray Rice said the entire situation has brought him closer to his family.

“For me, it’s definitely been a coming together for all of us,” he said. “Me and my wife my mother and my father, my relationship with my father is something that I cherish. It’s something I didn’t have growing up. I’m just blessed to be in this family.”

Rice and his wife have been in counseling since the incident last winter, and he was asked what that experience has done for him as a person.

“Counseling, I’ll be honest, what my counselor basically did is rip me apart and build me back together,” Rice said. “I couldn’t resist it. That was the thing. I was able to let somebody else in and literally tear me down. There was so much you didn’t know about yourself. You grow up and you think you know it all.

“I had a ceiling over my head. I was a professional athlete. That ceiling, you sometimes put yourself in a place and you don’t really understand where you’re going, but somebody else tells you that’s not reality.”

AFP Photo/Andy Lyons

Ray Rice Suspension Overturned

Los Angeles (AFP) – Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was suspended indefinitely earlier this year for domestic violence, won his appeal Friday, meaning he could return to the National Football League.

Rice — who was cut by the Ravens — is now a free agent, and eligible to play if another team signs him, his lawyer Peter Ginsberg told USA Today.

The 27-year-old Rice had been sacked by the Ravens and kicked out of the NFL indefinitely in September after the emergence of video showing him punching his now-wife Janay Palmer unconscious in a casino elevator in February.

A former federal judge, Barbara Jones, presided over the appeal hearing earlier this month in New York as an arbitrator appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Rice, who helped the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2013, was initially suspended for two games when a first video of the incident surfaced.

But a second video, showed him punching Palmer in the head, sparked a nationwide furor and prompted the Ravens to sack Rice and the NFL to ban him indefinitely.

Many had criticized Goodell for his handling of the case, saying the initial two-game suspension was too lenient.

The Rice case is one of several violent off-field incidents that have roiled the hugely popular and lucrative NFL, sparking criticism from fans, sponsors and even U.S. lawmakers.

AFP Photo/Andy Lyons

NFL Will Put ‘House In Order,’ Commissioner Says

New York (AFP) – Embattled National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday promised to put the sport’s “house in order” amid a firestorm over the NFL’s handling of off-field violence involving players.

Goodell nevertheless said he had not considered stepping down over allegations of domestic violence and child abuse involving players — while admitting the response by the league and individual teams had been less than ideal.

“We will get our house in order,” Goodell told reporters.

The NFL plans to set up a new personal conduct committee and draft new rules for the league’s players, which Goodell said he hoped would be in place by the season-ending Super Bowl, which takes place in early 2015.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said.

Goodell has come in particular criticism over his handling of Ray Rice, the running back who helped the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title after the 2012 season.

The commissioner initially banned Rice for two games over a February incident in a casino elevator in which Rice knocked Janay Palmer — then his fiancee and now his wife — unconscious.

After a video of the actual punch was posted online in August, Rice was promptly cut by the Ravens and banned from the league indefinitely by Goodell — a punishment the player’s union is appealing.

“The same mistakes can never be repeated,” Goodell

The commissioner insisted he had the support of team owners and, when asked if he had considered resigning, responded: “I have not. I’m focused on doing my job, and doing the best to my ability.”

The furor over Rice was followed by similar NFL vacillation in the cases of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy — convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend and threatening to kill her — and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who has been charged with child abuse in Texas after allegedly whipping his four-year-old son.

The cases have put fans — and sponsors — on edge.

Hardy played the first game of the season for the Panthers after launching an appeal of his conviction.

The Vikings had planned to welcome Peterson back to action after he missed one game.

But amid a growing public uproar, both teams negotiated deals with their players to place them on paid leave as their legal cases proceed.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller will lead an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the Rice case, and Goodell previously announced the hiring of three domestic violence experts as senior advisers to the league.

Forbes magazine estimated in August that the average worth of the 32 NFL teams is $1.43 billion — the highest in 17 years.

AFP Photo/Elsa