A Punch Felt Around The World

I can still hear her screaming. The scream isn't a scream you typically think of. No, this scream, this scream is an deep-gut wrenching scream when someone has a death grip on your neck and your trying hard to get help by making whatever sound you can. I can still hear her screaming. 

Ray Rice, an NFL Running Back for the Baltimore Ravens, was recently suspended for an incident earlier this year. Rice was arrested and indicted for third-degree aggravated assault on March 27, 2014, relating to an incident where he punched his then-fiancée (now wife) in the face. The blow knocked her unconscious. The incident became a prominent controversy after TMZ released a video of the encounter

On a flight back to Columbus, GA this weekend, I'd read on my Instapaper that the NFL may lift Rice's suspension in the next month. I've been watching this story carefully and whenever I see it on the news or read about it, I get flashes of my childhood. 

That's my mom, Ingrid, and I at my wedding two years ago. My mother is a survivor of Domestic Abuse. When I look at her, I see a survivor. I see a strong woman. But I can still hear her screams.

I've never really spoken about this subject to many and now that I think about it, not even my wife who knows me better than anyone. It's just too difficult to bring it up.

I can't remember how they met or when they began dating but from as far back as I can remember, he (I'm being courteous by not naming him here) had been an intimidating man. Tall, strong. A boss. He could charm his way into and out of anything. He could make any situation, conflict, or problem at home seem like a joke or not an issue at all. This was the problem. Eventually they married. 

He always needed to have his way and when he couldn't, he'd find a way. Usually by his the might of his hand.

As far back as I can remember, he would take my mom into their room, slam the door, and beat her. Their would be sounds that were excruciating to me. The sounds were the type of sounds that flesh to flesh hits make. Or flesh to wall. Or object to flesh. And even in that, I could hear the screams. She would scream for him to stop. She would plead with him to make him stop hitting her. She would scream for help...but it seems help would never come. 

And when he was done...he would act as if nothing had just happened.

I can remember seeing holes in the door and in the walls in the aftermath. 

I remember the abuse happening even while she was pregnant twice with his child. She would later miscarry both. These were the times where the screams were most enraging in me. I remember the moment he grabbed her by her throat and slammed her head into the wall.

Over and over I witnessed things like this at home. It became normal. It became what home was like. I watched my mom cover for him out of fear. I remember my mom being terrified to tell her best friend, Sharon, so much that it would be months before she could actually say something. 

Coming home from school each day was terrifying. In fact, I remember getting home and most afternoons going straight to my room. There was no talking or happiness. Just the stale air in anticipation of him losing his temper again...and again...over nothing.

One Christmas, he bought me a Sega Genesis. I was stoked! I had never had a gaming system. I was able to play it only on Christmas day. The next day, I remember going to play it and being told that I couldn't by him. He wanted to play. My mom stepped in and said, "but you bought it for Meiko". I saw the look that he gave her. I knew what was coming and so did she. He had bought several boxing games for the system and thats what he did in his off time. He boxed on Sega and in our home. 

As I watch the case against Ray Rice unfold, and I watch how his now wife defends her husband, I immediately think, "Dear God, she's trapped". She was punched in the face and the world heard it yet she will defend him and remain in the marriage. That scares me. I don't want women, or anyone being in a situation like this to remain afraid. I don't want any child growing up hearing the sounds of his mother or father being abused. I want the cycle to end. 

A lot of NFL fans have been on the side of Ray Rice and upset with the league and the team for suspending him. And although we should not be judge and jury in the public court of perception, I think this is a time for an organization like the NFL and others to really recognize that we have a problem with Domestic Abuse. People turn their heads when a couple fights or when they hear something like an argument. I've even heard that when a woman tries to admit that she is being abused, often times, she can be looked at as the issue, the problem and her grievance is never truly heard. This is something we need to change. 

Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
— Americanbar.org
Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women in 2001.
— Americanbar.org

I mentioned my mother's friend, Sharon, earlier. My mom had finally gotten the courage to really tell her what had been going on. Sharon didn't ignore the plea for help. She helped my mom secretly open a bank account, get an apartment far away from him, and eventually help us move out and away while he was at work. 

She survived. 

Nearly two dozen men of the NFL use their voices voices, their commitment, and, perhaps most significantly, a new and deeply stirring expression of their formidable power to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault.


Meiko SeymourComment