By: Sean Malone
It’s time for the public stoning of Ray Rice to end; the point has been made. His conduct was reprehensible. He is paying a significant penalty for an abhorrent act. However, as Baltimore Raven Chris Canty reminded us all: Hate the sin, not the sinner.
The more productive exercise is for society to begin an earnest discussion about how we can help the Rice family and lesser-known families recover from the devastation of domestic violence and begin lives in which the assault of loved ones no longer occurs.
The sin is domestic violence, a crime that plagues too many families and garners much public condemnation, but far too little concrete action. Do not get me wrong, there are many here in Maryland who work hard to help women who have been abused.
The House of Ruth is truly a heroic organization that helps victims and offers effective therapy to abusers. For decades, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office has trained its prosecutors to prepare their domestic violence cases and present them even when the victim does not want to testify. Public officials like Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Del. Kathleen Dumais have been outspoken and strong advocates for common sense laws that punish offenders and protect victims.
However, the mishandling of Mr. Rice’s incident by venerable institutions like the Atlantic County District Attorney’s Office, the presiding judge, the NFL, and the Baltimore Ravens demonstrates how far we are from effective intervention and treatment.
By every account, Mr. Rice is engaged in intense counseling to learn the skills to handle family conflict without physical force. Mr. Rice’s commitment to improving himself by seeking help is the first step toward protecting his family from future violence. Mr. Rice hopefully will continue his counseling and become as spectacular a husband and father as he is an athlete. He cannot undo what he did, but he can seek to improve himself.
The NFL is beginning a self-evaluation of how it responds to domestic violence; they have been forced to by public outrage at their bumbling and uneducated handling of this matter. The discipline matrix that has been announced for offenders is a start. However, if the NFL truly cares about the families of the men whose physical talent and sacrifice generates billions in revenues each year, it must take several other steps.
First, the League must enlist the help of experts like the House of Ruth to develop and implement a treatment program for abusers. No offender should be reinstated until they have enrolled in, engaged in and successfully completed an intensive program.
Second, the all-male ownership and their key officials should enlist experts to provide a mandatory, annual training program to teach its personnel about the complex nature of domestic violence and provide them tools to effectively identify and refer for help those who need it. In addition, the League must require its players to participate in domestic violence education and offer similar education opportunities to the players’ intimate partners.
Finally, I would encourage the NFL and the public not to throw away Mr. Rice and his family. Instead, let’s give him the opportunity to continue his counseling and show us he can live violence-free. Then Mr. Rice could achieve public redemption, resume his career, and become an influential spokesperson against domestic violence.
Mr. Rice has brought upon himself a very public, humiliating fall from grace. His behavior has caused unthinkable pain, as expressed by Mrs. Rice in her recent public statement. Based on his long record of public service, I am confident this young man, if provided the opportunity, would do anything to regain some semblance of public respect. Mrs. Rice is right when she says that discarding Mr. Rice as a lost cause to appease an enraged public is the easy course, but it is not the most effective course or in the best interest of his family.
We have all cast our stones; now I encourage everyone who has expressed a strong opinion to actually do something other than trade their Number 27 jersey in for a new one. Those of us with means can write a check to organizations like the House of Ruth that help victims and abusers; all of us can take the time to educate ourselves and our children on the dynamics of domestic violence; prosecutors should speak with Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and emulate his effective model of prosecution; and business owners should formulate an effective way to respond to domestic violence in the workplace. Mrs. Rice, her daughter, and other victims of domestic violence deserve nothing less.
Sean Malone is a partner at the law firm of Harris Jones & Malone and has provided pro-bono lobbying work for the House of Ruth in order to promote awareness and action to protect the victims of domestic violence. Mr. Malone prosecuted domestic violence cases in his former roles as an Assistant State’s Attorney and Chief Legal Counsel to the Baltimore Police Department. The House of Ruth, a leading domestic violence center in the country, has helped thousands of victims by providing them with the safety and support they need in order to begin their new lives in peace. Learn more at www.hruth.org.