Janay Rice, wife of Ray Rice, posted on her social network, asking for privacy as they deal with the domestic violence that took place in an elevator months ago. While I fully understand that they do need a modicum of personal privacy during this time, a measure of reality came to me.
Recently, I personally posted on a social network something that turned out to be regretful. It was me, in my passionate manner, speaking out against abuse of animals. As it progressed, it soon became apparent there were many sides to the story. I was publicly called on the carpet, choosing to remain quiet, but privately asking for privacy, so that the other involved party and I might resolve the issue just between the two of us. I was devastated to think I might have caused pain or embarrassment for someone I didn’t even know. It came down to the point of being told that what I saw was not what took place.
After being verbally attacked, I reached out to a close friend who is prominent within the local media. She pointed out to me that I am now considered a public figure, and I must be more cognizant of how my words and actions come across. At first, it was hard for me to accept the things she said. I am not a celebrity, I have not won awards for the work I do, I’m just me. Having said that, I now address Mrs. Rice asking for privacy. With no lack of compassion for her on my part, I would be remiss in not pointing out to her, football fans and the general public that for whatever reason a person is cast into the public eye, we are just that—in the public eye. Doing what we do and asking for privacy are not always compatible. With probably very little exception, every player in the National Football League dreams and chases after becoming a star. Those who rise to the highest levels are paid astronomically and are expected to earn their keep. Part of that is knowing they have become an official public figure. Asking for privacy when you are at such a high level of visibility in the public is understandable, but unlikely to happen.
I would say to Ray Rice and his wife that they have the opportunity now to take a despicable action, deal with it with integrity and character, then find a way to make this an instrument to help teach the public what they learn through this experience. Asking for privacy can be more easily understood and given based upon the attitude and manner with which it is requested. When Ray Rice signed with the Baltimore Ravens, surely he considered the high possibility of becoming a great player in a bright spotlight. To whom much is given, much is required. I may appear on an occasional television interview or speak intermittently at various venues, and I don’t see that as making me anything special. But, it obviously puts me under a microscope lens. Experience has taught me, with great pain attached, that once we make the decision to step into any public arena, we have chosen to become a role model, whether we want to accept that fact or not. The type of example we set for others is crucial. Young people will learn from the incident in the elevator. Whether the lesson teaches them how to avoid an abusive relationship or instigates abusive behavior, Ray Rice must step up and be accountable for the example that he has set and the expression that accompanies it, as to how it should be followed. He has an opportunity to turn this to good, and save lives. With that will come admiration and appreciation, the things he says he wants.
This writer would point out that whether it is a teacher asking for privacy, a politician or an entertainer asking for privacy, a coach, player or National Football League president asking for privacy, once you are in the public arena, asking for privacy and getting it is no longer a simple issue.
Carolyn S. Hennecy is the author of ORANGE BLOSSOM WISHES: Child Molested, Woman Abused – Her Victorious Journey to Freedom and her most recent book,
a guide for victims of domestic violence, BeLEAVEing – Safely Leaving Abusive Relationships. She is also an international speaker, consultant and trainer.