This piece is not about Janay Rice, who in February was punched unconscious in an elevator before being dragged out of it by her then fiancé and now husband Ray Rice, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. Rather, it’s about the awful message her explanation for the attack sends:
“I feel like God chose me and Ray for a reason and it was definitely to bring awareness to what people are going through every day. You know, it’s not what I am going through every day but you know it’s definitely brought this topic to the forefront, and we are ok with that.”
This sort of refrain is a classic lament of many believers, who must often square their faith in a benevolent god with terrible things that happen to them and others. To say that god chose Ray Rice to strike his wife is to deny him agency, as if he were a will-less marionette being yanked about by a celestial puppeteer. As such, it is to absolve Ray Rice of any responsibility whatsoever. Worse, it posits the existence of such a thing as “good domestic violence,” so long as the abuse will “bring awareness to what people are going through every day.”
But if god is the sort of being capable of assaulting women vicariously through their significant others to raise awareness, then surely he would have other, less violent means of doing so. Furthermore, if god is capable of manipulating Ray Rice to hit his wife, then he also must be capable of manipulating other men not to assault theirs. For example, one wonders why god, with his immense powers, did not see fit in 2012 to prevent Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher from shooting his wife to death before killing himself.
These are the uncomfortable conclusions and questions that Janay Rice’s explanation elicits, and we can only hope her view isn’t internalized by other victims and potential victims who might be inclined to agree that their abuse is divinely ordained.
Janay Rice is a victim. And while she’s taken flak for staying with her husband, that’s a decision that only she can make. It’s just unfortunate that she’s unwilling to recognize that the punch that knocked her unconscious was a decision that only Ray Rice could make.