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Victims and victimizers


Updated below

Six weeks ago Ray Rice allegedly hit his fiancee hard enough to render her unconscious.


On Thursday, Ravens running back Ray Rice was indicted for aggravated assault of his fiancee. On Friday, he married her.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Janay Palmer and Rice exchanged vows last night, in a ceremony that had been scheduled for weeks.

The conscious coupling could insulate Palmer from having to testify against the man who allegedly rendered her unconscious. But the niceties of New Jersey law won’t matter. Since the incident happened in a casino, chances are that the only evidence needed will be the videotape of the alleged punch that knocked her out.

The video reportedly exists, and it will go a long way toward proving beyond a reasonable doubt that assault was committed, regardless of whether Palmer takes the stand.

Rice faces three to five years in prison on the felony charge. In the wake of his indictment, the Ravens have expressed support for the veteran running back.

The temptation in this situation is to plunge straight into victim-blaming — a temptation which will prove even more difficult to resist in the not-unlikely event that Janay Palmer eventually ends up getting murdered by Ray Rice.

It’s possible to have sympathy for everyone in this situation: for Palmer, who has grown up in a culture in which it’s totally normal and to a great degree socially acceptable for a woman to marry a man who severely beat her last month; for the law enforcement officials who understandably get sick of trying to prosecute cases featuring victims who do everything they can to interfere with prosecuting their victimizers; and even with Rice, who after all has been rewarded richly for engaging in an ultra-violent profession, that in turn expects him to leave that ultra-violence at the office, so that he can live a nicely compartmentalized life.

All of which is to say that structural problems need structural solutions, rather than emotionally satifisfying moralizing.

Update: Some of the comments in this thread are reprehensible. Brien Jackson in particular seems to think that alluding to the ways in which the violent world of professional football intersect with what appears to be the very high rate of domestic violence committed by NFL football players is some sort of crypto-racism. Others go to the other extreme, arguing that any attempt to place what appears to be a fairly severe act of violence (a very muscular man hitting a woman literally half his size hard enough to knock her unconscious) within a larger cultural context is some sort of excuse-making for that violence.

Rice is due his day in court, and perhaps the facts in the case are less damning than they seem to be on the basis of the publicly available evidence. It’s too bad that trying to talk about the complex cultural forces at work in this sort of context triggers these sorts of comments.

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