One powerful punch jolted America awake. We’ve snoozed through thousands of others.
Ray Rice’s left hook to the jaw of his then-fiance Janay Palmer cost him his job, put NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the cusp of losing his and shocked the nation with its raw display of violence.
But not everyone has a video camera in their elevator, or in their bedroom. If they did, those videos would show the Ray Rices of the world thousands of times over, and worse. Men are punching, shoving, kicking and, yes, sometimes shooting dead the women and children in their lives every day in this country. Put all of those attacks on the nightly news and you have the awareness that Ray Rice only begins to arouse.
With Rice’s transgressions, and those alleged about other NFL players, domestic violence is on the public’s mind like it hasn’t been since perhaps the O.J. Simpson trial. That’s a positive development, but it shouldn’t take a celebrity spotlight to reveal this scourge.
Consider the numbers in Mecklenburg County alone. Each year:
• About 37,000 domestic violence-related calls are made to 911 – or about 100 every day.
• More than 11,000 calls come in to the shelter hotline from people needing immediate help or information regarding domestic violence.
• More than 400 abused adults and about 400 children stay at the Safe Alliance shelter, which is almost always at or over capacity.
• And in North Carolina, about 60 to 80 people are killed every year in acts of domestic violence.
If one Ray Rice punch can grab more attention than all of that, so be it. It’s an opportunity for all of us to remember what a pervasive phenomenon it is, and our role in reducing it.
For victims, it is a reminder that you can get help and you will be taken seriously. Contact a counselor about how to leave your situation safely and quickly.
For employers, it is a reminder that this could be going on with an employee of yours. A perpetrator could show up at your office door, or absenteeism could hit your bottom line. Be alert for the signs.
For educators and advocates, it is a reminder that children who grow up in homes marred by domestic violence are more likely to be abusers themselves, and that prevention is cheaper and more effective than treatment.
And for the rest of us, it is a reminder not to withdraw. If you suspect someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, it is your moral and legal obligation to report it.
The NFL may be on the verge of getting serious about stamping out domestic violence in the ranks. It’s time the rest of society did so too.