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The Ray Rice Effect

14-10-01 TheRayRiceEffect

My Legal Assistant and newly certified Family Law Paralegal, Courtney M. Howard, took a 40-hour domestic violence training earlier this year to become a certified advocate.  In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she felt this was a particularly poignant time for our firm to speak out on the current events surrounding this topic.  In the article below, she examines The Ray Rice Effect, particularly how easy it is for us to re-victimize survivors by blaming them instead of the perpetrators and thereby perpetuating the cycle of violence.  Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS


By now, most of us know of the elevator incident in which the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice knocked out his fiancé, Janay Palmer.  While the incident occurred in February, it did not become big news until the video from inside the elevator emerged in recent weeks and horrified the nation.  Unfortunately, the lack of social understanding of domestic violence has led many to blame Palmer for the incident.  She has received further criticism for having married Rice, the father of her two-year-old daughter, one month after the incident (and the day after he was indicted on criminal charges, which were later dropped).  In a press conference, Palmer even apologized for her role in the incident.


Though some have taken this opportunity to inform the public on the issue of domestic violence, others have wrongly heaped shame and blame on Palmer.  This puts the negative focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator, and is one of the many reasons domestic violence victims are hesitant to report abuse.  This is likely one of the reasons Palmer felt the need to apologize for the incident, which only led to further criticism from the media.

Despite common beliefs, the typical perpetrator of domestic violence is not a sick sociopath.  These beliefs allow people to distance themselves from the idea of domestic violence but, in reality, perpetrators are seemingly normal and often so intelligent and manipulative that they are easily able to fool society.  This is why anger management rarely works as a treatment, though it is often used by the court system.  Batterers are people who purposely use power/control in their relationship.  They do not necessarily have anger issues. 

Obtaining a Domestic Violence Restraining Order does not require a court fee, but you must be able to prove abuse or imminent threat in a domestic violence situation.  Whether survivors are issued an order or not, it is imperative that they come up with a safety plan.

While restraining orders hardly guarantee survivors their safety, there are many reasons why they are still beneficial.  Some abusers are afraid of the law, so a restraining order will be very effective.  For other abusers, it might have the opposite effect.  It is ultimately up to the discretion of the individual whether or not to seek a restraining order.  At the very least, obtaining one will leave a paper trail that can come in handy should the survivor wish to pursue a case in the future.

It is not a surprise that Palmer has stayed with Rice.  It is not a surprise that she has repeatedly defended him.  It is not a surprise that she has taken on the blame for a violent episode that was in no way her fault.  It is important, however, to understand the cycle of violence and that her actions are the result of the increasing psychological hold Rice has had on her since they began dating in 2008.  It is important to realize that, whatever happened prior to the altercation in the elevator, she did not bring the violence on herself.  It is important to realize that this is not an incident far removed from our lives but, rather, we all know a Janay Palmer.  We just might not be aware of it.

***If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, please be aware that there is help available.  If you need immediate attention, please call the Haven Hills crisis line, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, at (818) 887-6589.  For those living outside of Los Angeles, CA, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for a domestic violence program near you.***



Courtney M. Howard, Paralegal

The Law Collaborative, APC

((818) 348-6700  F(818) 348-0961