Changing the Question from “Why Doesn’t Janay Palmer Just Leave?” to “Why Can Ray Rice Get Away with Punching Her?”

TMZ released the complete footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then fiance in a casino elevator. While truly disturbing to watch, this uninterrupted footage lets us see this particular physical altercation in totality.


So her then-fiance knocked her out…cold. She was clearly angry once she actually regained consciousness because she knocks away his hand when he tries to touch her. Why would she not only apologize for her “role” the incident, but then go on to marry Rice a month later?

Thing is, I am not going to answer that question. Only Janay Palmer can truly say why. But I do have some suspicions and observations. Yes, these are individual people making “personal” choices. Yet, we must consider some current cultural realities and norms.

What stands out to me the most in this video is how Palmer’s body is treated, literally, like a trash bag dragged along the floor. Neither Rice nor the security guard who stand over her once the elevator doors are open will touch her. Finally a woman rushes over to Palmer and actually gets down on the ground to soothe her. The message is clear: only women belong on the floor, and they are filthy.

I was also shocked when both Rice and Palmer were charged in the incident. This clearly sends the message that women are suspect, even when victimized. The very fact that the question “What did she do to provoke him?” is even considered shows that women are living in a world where violence towards them can be considered their own fault.

Finally, the fact that Rice only received a two-game suspension is proof that men know they can harm women with any fear of their own station and status being threatened. Thankfully,  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saw the error of his ways and not only admitted their mistake, but also quickly adopted a new domestic violence policy for all NFL players and personnel.

Yes, both Rice and Palmer have individual choices to make, but we also cannot dismiss social rules and boundaries that not only allow violence against women and children to exist, but to flourish in our society. Is Ray Rice truly sorry? Will Janay Palmer stay with him? Unfortunately this scenario is all too common. But due to Rice’s fame, “celebrity culture” creates demand for seeing a video a “domestic matter” that is usually kept secret and behind closed doors.

So now we are given a choice. Will we continue to ask “Why doesn’t she just leave?” or will we see the larger picture and demand that men who batter be held accountable for violence? Until we change the questions, women who have been hit will continue to be treated as “trash” who just happened to get tossed on the floor.



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