In light of the recent release of the Ray Rice elevator footage, I’ve watched, read or participated in conversations where people tend to state that this is their business and we should stay out of it.
It certainly is their business. But that stay out of it part is just not going to happen. Particularly when Ray Rice made the decision to knock his wife unconscious in a public space. While Ray Rice is far from the only man who abuses or has abused a domestic partner, for better or worse, he’s become the face of the issue. But more than that, we can’t ignore their relationship problems when it highlights such a grave issue in our country and world.
And one good thing to come out of that video, is the awareness it’s raised about domestic violence.
Since the video from inside the elevator was released, the number of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline has increased by 84 percent.
The hotline’s CEO Katie Ray-Jones told the Huffington Post, the organization typically receives 500-600 calls a day from victims, friends and family members. Now, they’re receiving more than 1000 calls a day.
“We had an outpouring of women saying, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t realize this happened to other people.’ They thought they were living a life that was very unique to them. One woman called in who is married to a [mixed martial arts] fighter. She said, ‘I just saw that video, and I know my husband could do worse, and I need help.”
With 15- 18 staff members during the day and 7-8 at night, Ray-Jones says the hotline had been working with a lack of staff members even before the video surfaced. And now that the calls have spiked, Ray- Jones says they are lacking the resources to sustain it.
“Last year, we didn’t answer over 77,000 calls due to lack of resources. Our advocates were really busy before, so they’re definitely feeling the impact of the video now. This is a situation where women are holding longer on the lines and waiting for an advocate to be free. But we don’t have the financial resources to bring in more staff, so we’re at a place where we’re just encouraging advocates to do the best they can.”
The hotline receives most of their funding from the federal government. But their funding was cut last year in automatic cuts known as sequestration.
Ray-Jones notes that the video is sparking a national conversation about the issue of domestic violence and hopes that it will eventually translate to pressuring Congress to give more funding to domestic violence programs and pass legislation that would ban abusers from being able to carry guns.
Ray-Jones said, “We need to take the survivors’ voices to the HIll. This is real. This issue has a face. And people saw a face with Ray Rice and the imagery of what people are experiencing.”