BETHESDA, Md., August 7, 2014 —
Dear Ravens Organization:
I am a native of Maryland and grew up in the small, mountain town of Cumberland in the western, Appalachian region of the state. I was an honors student and cheerleader. High school football was a major part of the community connectivity, and like many in my home town, I loved the energy of any given Friday night in the fall under the Greenway Avenue stadium lights rooting for my fellow classmates on the field.
When I was a senior, I dated a local football star, who was a member of the 1988 High School Class 2A Maryland Championship Football team. I thought he had integrity and pride. After all, it had been ingrained in me that star athletes possess a high degree of integrity and determination and respect for themselves and others. How else could these players be as successful as individuals and as a team if their morals were anything less?
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Within a few short months of dating this 18-year-old boy, he beat me, threatened my life by pointing a gun at me, smothered me, tried breaking my arm behind my back while I was driving on the local interstate, kicked me from behind as I tried running from him down residential streets to safety, and raped me.
One night I mustered the courage and strength to report him to the police. The police were less than sympathetic to my pleadings to have him arrested. At 18 years old, I learned the reality of the consequences when a presumable respectable young man is accused of harming another person: absolutely nothing.
Do you have any idea how this injustice affects the logic and reasoning conditioning of a still cognitively developing 18-year-old victim’s mind?
From the moment the police dismissed my allegations and my pleadings, my brain was stamped, hard stamped. I was lead to believe that no matter how honest I was about sharing my abuse with the authorities whose duty it was to protect me as a citizen, I would be dismissed as a whining, complaining and indignant bother.
I was a bother to the police? I was a menace to the peace, because I chose to report it and seek justice, any justice? What an unfortunate and confusing message to receive as a young woman who was setting out on a new journey as a freshman in college. Who in the world could I trust if I couldn’t trust the very people charged with protecting me? The message I received was not based on any misperceptions or misreading of cues. I interpreted the message perfectly:
My value as a person did not matter.
Do you realize that by not terminating Ray Rice‘s contract and banning him from ever playing again in the NFL you are sending the same message to young women, current domestic violence victims, and survivors ?
You are also sending a message to your future and current players that Rice’s behavior is not taken seriously by your organization beyond a few fines and salary deductions, thereby subconsciously lowering their standards of self-accountability.
In addition, you are sending a message to your male fans that if their hero can get away with abuse, so can they. It’s “no big deal.”
Simply stated, your decision to allow Ray Rice to don the Ravens’ jersey diminishes the collective integrity of the rest of the team members, your dedicated fans, and your club’s identity in general. This diminishment of integrity seeps insidiously from our newspapers/television screens/hand-held devices into society, impacting the attitudes of our police departments, justice systems and citizens who form flawed and destructive opinions against victims of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse.
Are you rolling your eyes because I sound too dramatic and unreasonable? Do you perceive me as unfair and merciless? Maybe you should watch the elevator video one more time to remind yourself who is being unfair, merciless, dramatic, and unreasonable. You may also choose to educate yourself regarding why women in these situations stay. It is not for reasons you have been conditioned to believe.
Today, after nearly 20 years of victim-denial and years of healing, I am finally happy, healthy and free with a loving husband and son. I live and work in Maryland. I self-published my personal abuse story in August 2012, and I advocate daily on my blog and in my CDN news column for the improved rights of victims and survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse. For two years, I have dedicated every ounce of my spare time to providing as much support and knowledge as I can to the victims and survivors at every stage of their recovery and healing process.
I am not a therapist or a trained medical professional. I work full time as a web content developer for a Fortune 500 company, and I recently earned a yoga teaching certification. I am highly informed, educated and accountable. More importantly, I am a survivor of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse and a thriver with a single mission:
To transform the misconceptions society has about domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, the face of its perpetrators and the face of its victims in hopes that future victims will receive the justice they deserve to foster successful healing and recovery.
Making the easy choice is easy and mindless. Making the hard choice is hard and requires energy, foresight and applied integrity
Unfortunately, the easy choice also results in the need to make the same easy choice about the same issue, ad nauseam and infinitely into the future, because easy choices do not address the source. Easy choices only serve as band aids.
The hard choice, on the other hand, reaps freedom from ever having to address the issue again.
As a lover of integrity, honesty, fairness and justice, I am asking your organization to consider making the hard choice and terminating Ray Rice’s contract and establishing a no-tolerance policy on violence against women, children, men and animals for any and all players drafted by your organization.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Paula Carrasquillo, M.A.
yogi. author. advocate.