At this time of year, Ray Rice is used to being in the news, but not in this way. As anyone who watches the news on the internet or on TV by now, Mr. Rice was indefinitely suspended by the NFL because a video surfaced showing him punching Mrs. Rice in the face and knocking her out. Both husband and wife are dismayed by the media coverage and feel this is a private matter left to them. I am sure they are both worried about his professional prospects in the future. To me though, what it highlights isn’t at its core about the Rices (certainly not just about them). If at least for a moment, with our short attention span in our society, it highlights the cultural norm, worldwide and historic, of violence against women.
Here are just a few fast facts to refresh us on the topic:
~ In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
~ In India, 8,093 cases of dowry-related death were reported in 2007; an unknown number of murders of women and young girls were falsely labeled ‘suicides’ or ‘accidents’.
~In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partners.
~In the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, 66 percent of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members.
~Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16.
~An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone.
~The first sexual experience of some 30 percent of women was forced. The percentage is even higher among those who were under 15 at the time of their sexual initiation, with up to 45 percent reporting that the experience was forced.
~Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.3 million) and sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million). Violence and abuse characterize married life for many of these girls. Women who marry early are more likely to be beaten or threatened, and more likely to believe that a husband might sometimes be justified in beating his wife.
Is it just that the Rice’s are singled out for what is a worldwide phenomenon? No. Kind of like getting a speeding ticket, sometimes if you are in the eye of the law, you are going to get caught at something you might never have if you were elsewhere doing this same thing (and many others have and will continue to do the same). Regardless, and even if provoked, a man should control his anger and never act out in violence against anyone, more less his wife. Men and women are given their strength to protect one another – not abuse one another.
But far more significant than this one case is that the litany of facts listed above (and these are but a few) do not stop us in our tracks about what is “normal” for half of the human race. We have got to train up a new generation on what is and is not acceptable. And using your strength against someone weaker is not who we are called to be. For Christians, it is the absolute last thing Christ ever would do.
When is it time for change? Now. Let us get the word out, particularly to those closest to us, that violence against women is not like an epidemic (something new that has just swept in). It is an unhealthy norm for humanity. It has been true for countless generations. Yet, we have unlearned many harmful practices in the past and we can unlearn this one.
If you are a woman experiencing violence in the home, let someone know. There are many professionals, including your clergy person of choice, who will help connect you the support that you need. Do not suffer alone.
This is not just a personal issue for the Rice family. This is an issue that plagues humanity.
By God’s grace, may we change.
Until next time,