Recently there has been a media frenzy regarding Ray Rice’s allegations of abuse, his two game suspension and the infamous comments by Stephen A. Smith concerning the element of provocation.
In my opinion, here is where the concern lies among women, men, survivors and domestic violence advocates, provocation does not provide justification to attack someone under any circumstance. In fact some of you may feel provoked by this article, nevertheless that does not constitute violence nor does it negate the fact that one should be able to exhibit self control in the face of non verbal and verbal provocation.
As adults it is expected, or at the very least assumed, that one should be able to keep his or her hands to themselves and learn to respond in a more appropriate manner. After all, this is something that we learned from our kindergarten teachers.
I believe that Stephen A Smith's comments were not totally inaccurate. I do however, believe his choice of verbiage may not have been the best. I must agree with the controversial notion that anyone who puts their hands on someone in a volatile way can reasonably expect that person to defend themselves. Nevertheless, I do not agree that anyone should ever under any circumstances extend their hand to physical abuse be it male or female.
In dissecting this overwhelming response to Stephen A. Smith’s comments, I am compelled to believe that this response is not so much about his actual statements but rather what they represent which is the larger issue of interpersonal violence, victim blaming and lack of understanding of it.
As a society, we do not have a clear understanding of complexities of this issue and in many ways we do not know how to effectively respond to it. This unfortunate combination helps to contribute to the inappropriate media backlash, continued victimization of survivors as well as the failure to properly hold the perpetrator accountable.
It is this disconnect that often times allows society to condone gender based and other forms of interpersonal violence to continue. In addition, the intersectionality of gender, gender role, sexism, masculinity and how sexuality is played out in society helps to further perpetuate this issue of interpersonal violence. This dynamic also makes it difficult to respond to the issue; especially in a male dominated society where cultures of athletics, fraternities, military, etc. continue to make allowances for and even in some ways promote the various forms of interpersonal violence i.e. sexual violence, bullying, domestic violence, stalking, trafficking, etc. by giving the alleged perpetrators a slap on the wrist.
Another contributing factor to this systemic issue has a lot to do with how we as individuals experience sexuality. Sexuality is viewed through the lens of our upbringing, morals, values, belief systems, culture, race, ethnicity, and our other various social identities and how we interpret information and experiences within the context of them.
So in essence for me, it's not so much about Stephen A. Smith’s personal opinions and comments but rather the dominate attitudes and beliefs that society holds regarding the culture of masculinity, male privilege, sexism, genderism, hyper-sexualization of women, victim blaming, victimization of the survivor, and gender base violence whether it's rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, or some other form of interpersonal violence.
And so then question becomes, how do we become more effective at responding to interpersonal violence? Perhaps maybe the answer lies in creating this same type of media frenzy around providing education, skills building and prevention tools around interpersonal violence for everyone from the media to law enforcement, school administration, government officials, educators and everyone in between.
We must also inform policies and develop procedures that demonstrate cultural humility and break down systemic and institutionalized barriers that further disregard the legitimacy of this issue of interpersonal violence.
In the meantime, the most immediate way to resolve this issue is for everyone to just keep their hands to themselves with the exception of extending a loving touch and/or a warm embrace and that DOES NOT include hitting!