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The Ray Rice Incident Forces Us to Talk to Our Kids

Photograph by AP

So I’m not a football fan, or even that much of a sports fan. Most everything I know about Baltimore I learned from watching "The Wire." And before yesterday, The Ravens might as easily have been a punk rock band or an Edgar Allan Poe-inspired something or other, as it was an NFL franchise.

So how on earth does that qualify me to have an opinion on the firing of NFL Ravens’ football player Ray Rice after video footage of him hitting his then fiancé, now wife, Janay Rice, in an Atlantic City elevator came to light yesterday?

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I am a woman and a mother raising two sons.

More sports-minded folks than me have tackled this subject for months now, since the incident of abuse first came to light. There has been ongoing debate about whether or not the two-game suspension Rice originally got hit with (pun certainly intended) was enough of a penalty for a man seen dragging a woman from an elevator.

All of that changed yesterday in a quick game of ass coverage as both The Ravens and the NFL could not distance themselves from Rice quickly enough when the new video footage of Ms. Rice getting clocked in the face and knocked out cold surfaced.

Today, Janay Rice took to Instagram to bemoan the consequences of her husband’s actions. She posted:

"I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!"

I think it’s important to see all of her words, to understand what her concerns are at this moment, and that they revolve around her husband. Janay Rice is a victim of domestic violence. Most victims of domestic violence are silenced. Most victims of domestic violence learn quickly to choose their words carefully, apply makeup strategically and not to ever cause too much of a stir. Being the victim of domestic violence and living in the public eye has not made that easy.

Domestic violence has effectively come out of the elevator, and we need to talk about it.

Janay Rice’s response, to me, seems very much in line with being the victim of abuse and violence. My first thought upon hearing the news yesterday was an immediate, “Oh, this will not be good for the wife.” That’s blunt, but true.

Folks will continue to debate this matter. Some will suggest, that “it takes two to tango,” as I saw it put so indelicately on a friend’s Facebook wall yesterday. Others will wonder what more the NFL will do to support women and condemn men who abuse.

As a mom, I am more concerned about what our children, boys and girls, will learn from this matter. And make no mistake about it — our kids are aware when this kind of thing plays out in the media.

Talk with your sons and daughters about Ray and Janay Rice. Learn what their take is on it. What are the kids at school saying? Do they agree or disagree? What do they think should happen?

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There have been many confusing messages sent to our kids about domestic violence and more will follow. Help them decode those messages, both spoken and unspoken. Help them understand that hitting, no matter who throws the first punch, is never okay. Help them see how the media and social media can make private business very, very public. Help them come to value the importance of accepting responsibility for our own actions, even when it results in horrible consequences.

Ray Rice might not like it, Janay Rice might not like it, either, but when their very private business gets splashed in the face of my kids, it becomes my business. Domestic violence has effectively come out of the elevator, and we need to talk about it.

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