With video posted online, many saw what former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did to knock his future wife unconscious. The NFL scandal has become a national spectacle as the league makes contradictory statements regarding its response to the incident.
But the spotlight on that case aside, very little domestic violence occurs on camera. And statistics, studies and previous cases indicate Garner faces its share of a global problem, one that can prove terrorizing and difficult for law enforcement to effectively address.
The overall nature of Rice’s relationship with his wife may remain largely private. But that mere fact highlights the challenges of the problem. His wife’s defenses of his character may accurately describe their relationship better than the one raw moment, but they would also fit oft-chronicaled patterns of abuse.
According to the Center for Disease Control, about 36 percent of women and 29 percent of men experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. About one in 10 women has experienced rape by an intimate partner. And 24 percent have experienced severe physical violence (compared to 14 percent of men).
Based on those statistics, Garner is home to hundreds who have at some point been domestic violence victims and, likely, several in the midst of an abusive relationship.
According to Garner police spokesman Lt. Chris Clayton, Garner police handle domestic violence calls on a fairly regular basis. So far in 2014, there have been 60 domestic-related assaults in Garner reported by police. Hundreds of other calls that don’t involve assaults are also made.
“Domestic violence is a very complicated issue for everyone,” Clayton said. “Certainly no one deserves to live in those situations.”
In cases the violence can turn deadly. In April 2013, Garner resident Latasha Pierce, 36, was shot in her Delta Place apartment, allegedly by Winston Lewis following a domestic dispute. Lewis had two prior charges for assault against a female.
The month before that incident, Kyle Christopher Miller fatally wounded Jennifer Callighan before turning the gun on himself off Old Stage Road in unincorporated Wake County near Garner’s Eagle Ridge subdivision. Callighan had taken a restraining order out against her former boyfriend.
A complex problem
In a recent Associated Press story, Baltimore Ravens fan Racquel Bailey, wearing a Ray Rice jersey, objected to the team cutting the running back after the video went public depicting him knocking out Jenay Palmer (now Jenay Rice) in the elevator of an Atlantic City Casino.
"There's two sides to every story. I saw the video. That's their personal business, and it shouldn't have affected his career. I don't agree with domestic violence, but she's still with him, so obviously it wasn't that big of a deal. Everyone should just drop it," the 23-year-old waitress said.
Her view represented a view of domestic violence expressed by a number of fans in the aftermath of the video’s surfacing, a view experts find problematic. Professionals say that a woman staying with a man that slugged her does not necessarily constitute evidence of a strong, safe, loving relationship.
“Battered Women’s Syndrome,” a model researched extensively by psychologist Lenore E. Walker, suggests psychological mechanisms by which abused partners convince themselves to stand by their abusers.
Walker said victims, generally women, become convinced the violence is their fault and can’t put responsibility with anyone else. They may also fear for their lives or their children’s lives, and believe their abuser to be ever-present and all-knowing. The syndrome develops in a cycle of tension in the relationship, violence, and gestures of contrition.
According to organizations like RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network), women stay because of economic dependence, the belief they can keep peace in the family, fear of danger if she leaves (sometimes because of explicit threats), loss of self-esteem and lethargy or loss of psychological energy needed to leave.
The Twitter hashtag #WhyIStayed has become a popular vehicle for many to express the reasons they didn’t leave. Some believe repeated apologies claiming the violence would never happen again. Others become convinced, often through verbal abuse, that they are lucky to have their abuser and can’t do better.
Law enforcement efforts
Some believe their options are limited, perhaps for the very reasons it took video to outrage many about the Ray Rice incident. Without video to prove it, victims worry they won’t be believed, leading to no prosecution and retribution. In Rice’s case, there was even video of him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator for months before the biggest media firestorm.
Officers responding to domestic violence calls have to consider the psychological impacts in play as well as the he-said-she-said nature of disputes.
“When we go investigate domestic violence, all those things are in an officer’s minds,” Clayton said. “It’s just on a case by case basis. Officers try to determine who the primary aggressor was. Who took this from an argument into something that was physically assaultive.”
The most injured person isn’t always the aggressor, Clayton said, and sometimes the first person to make physical contact isn’t either. The disputes are complex and officers interview parties apart from each other to minimize intimidation. And sometimes it’s not enough.
“Sometiems they want help but don’t want someone they love arrested,” Clayton said.
Clayton said in some cases, domestic calls are repeatedly made from the same household.
“I don’t want to say it’s a frequent occurrence, but there are people we are familiar with that we go back to on a regular basis,” Clayton said. “There are families that routinely have police involvement.”