Stop airing the Ray Rice footage

Clips of the domestic abuser attacking Janay Rice have been all over TV, exploiting her abuse for our consumption

Published September 9, 2014 2:52PM (EDT)


Janay Rice does not want us seeking justice for her -- at least not by releasing footage of her then-fiancé, now-husband Ray Rice hitting her in a hotel elevator, or airing it over and over again on a loop. She told us herself. In an Instagram comment posted on Tuesday, Rice blasted the media for invading her privacy and causing pain to her family "just to gain ratings." "If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happines away," Rice wrote, "you've succeeded on so many levels."

Near the end of the day on Monday, I watched Rice get punched in the face four times on a loop. I watched her abuser drag her limp body from an elevator while an out-of-focus bubble blurred out her bottom half, which I can only assume was totally exposed in the original version of the clip I've now seen countless times. She is no less exposed with the blur; the footage was released without her consent. The television programs on which I saw these gruesome images eventually moved on from them, flashing photos of the royal family beneath headlines about Kate Middleton's pregnancy. But I couldn't -- still can't -- get Janay Rice's limp body out of my mind. I have seen her hit and dragged too many times already.

The clip is everywhere, from Deadspin to MSNBC to Fox News, but let's be clear about something: There is no good place for this footage to appear. No matter where it shows up, no matter how it's framed, the video was released without Janay Rice's consent. It turns an instance of grotesque domestic violence into salacious spectacle. The footage is also often shown without warning about its contents before it is played over and over again in slow motion, ripening the savage attack for an indelible memory while commentators talk over it about seeking justice for Janay Rice.

I guess I could have changed the channel if I didn't want to see Janay Rice demeaned and violated again and again on my television. But the clip would still be playing without me watching it, and that's precisely the problem. Networks cavalierly airing this footage are doing so without the victim's consent, repeating Rice's victimization in order to make some sort of example of her. They have sanctimoniously attempted to defend her while monetizing her abuse for ratings. It doesn't matter if a segment intends to support or demean Janay Rice; the effect is the same. Playing this clip on a loop turns the violence against her into another anonymous part of the news cycle, and networks are doing just that without warning viewers of the images they'll see.

But what purpose does it serve to show Rice's abuse on a slow motion loop? What new knowledge do we gain every time we see her husband's fist collide with her face? Is the blur over most of her body supposed to trick us into thinking that this footage doesn't leave her completely vulnerable and exposed for our consumption? There is no trickery here, no deeper thoughts to be sparked; there is just a woman being attacked by a domestic abuser on a loop, whose privacy and dignity are being violated while we all watch.

Yes, we, the viewers, are to blame for clicking links to the video and for pressing play; we are to blame for failing to change the channel. But, as has already been noted, this footage should not be available for us to watch in the first place, because we should not need an intimate understanding of one woman's abuse to believe that domestic violence is a problem.

By Jenny Kutner

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