By Rebecca Greenberg

By now, you know the story. Ray Rice, the running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was captured on video surveillance abusing his wife in an elevator last February. The security video was leaked by TMZ and showed Rice punching his then fiancée, Janay, in the face, knocking her out cold. He then proceeded to drag her immobile body out of the elevator and leave her in the doorway. The video caused immediate outrage from the public, but it was the future of Ray Rice’s career – and not Janay’s safety – that became the subject of discussion.

“The focus is not on the well-being of her and her family. The focus is on whether the NFL has done the proper thing in order to be compliant with some understanding that then makes everybody feel better,” said Heather Turcotte, assistant professor of political science and women’s gender and sexuality studies at the University of Connecticut.

Janay Rice posted an open letter on Instagram, expressing her disgust with the media for stripping her husband of something for which he worked so hard. Although Janay asked the public for privacy, Turcotte believes this is an issue people should be talking about.

“This isn’t an NFL problem by itself or an individual couple’s problem. It’s something that’s longer, bigger and systemic,” Turcotte said.

It’s also something that hits close to home for many on college campuses across the country, including for students right here in Storrs. When current and former UConn students joined last year to file a lawsuit against the university for failing to handle accounts of sexual assault, questions emerged: was the university doing enough to address sexual violence on campus?

UConn is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for violating the anti-sex discrimination law Title IX, and many students claimed that both the UConn administration and its police failed to handle reports of sexual assault in an adequate manner.

“UConn has failed and UConn needs to figure out how to do a better job,” said UConn professor Barbara Gurr.

The Task Force on Civility and Campus Culture was formed in the spring of 2013 to address sexual violence at UConn, but Gurr said the task force’s recommendation to hire more police does not go far enough.

“We don’t need more police, we need better training for our police. Maybe we need better resources for our police, including that training and other things as well, but we don’t need more police, we need better training,” Gurr said.

Two of the four UConn allegations in the Title IX suit involved complaints against student athletes. Turcotte sees similarities between the way the NFL handles domestic violence and the way universities handle sexual assault.

“They’re different contexts, but they’re one in the same,” Turcotte said.

As universities across the country continue to grapple with sexual assault, Gurr believes that there is only one solution to this problem: “This is really about our whole culture needing to talk about rape culture and male privilege and entitlement and power and what all of these things mean and look like in a tight microcosm that is college campuses.”

Photo Credit: wolframburner

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