Why do we need video or photo evidence to believe victims of domestic violence? What the heck is wrong with us?
Deadspin has released disturbing photos of Greg Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, Nicole Holder, taken after Holder accused Hardy of beating her up last year. Ostensibly, this “proves” that Hardy got away with a sickening crime. As Deadspin writes, in comparing Hardy to fellow abuser Ray Rice:
Hardy hasn’t become a pariah. That’s partly because he’s more valuable on the field, but also because of the perception that nobody knows what really happened that night.
There are two issues with this:
1. We do know what happened that night. SI reported on Holder’s testimony last year:
First he flung Holder onto a bed, then he threw her into a bathtub. Then he tossed her onto a futon covered with a cache of firearms. An inventory of the guns later filed with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office revealed 10 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. (In North Carolina, permits are not required for firearms other than handguns.) According to Holder, Hardy asserted that the rifles were loaded.
Next, Hardy ripped from Holder’s body a necklace that he had gifted her. He threw the jewelry into a toilet, and when Holder attempted to fish it out, Hardy slammed the lid on her arm. He then dragged her by the hair from room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat. “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” Holder later testified. “I was so scared, I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.’”
SI also reported, “Emergency room photos reveal bruises on Holder’s foot, wrist, neck, chin, face, forearm, elbow and back.”
That’s pretty damn clear. He threw her into a bathtub ... slammed a toilet lid on her arm ... dragged her by the hair and put his hands on her throat. There are photos of bruises all over her body. If anybody says they didn’t know what happened, they are lying or fooling themselves. And yes, I’m looking at you, Jerry Jones.
2. Publishing the photos now may not help Nicole Holder. She took a settlement from Hardy and then stopped cooperating with authorities. With the settlement, Hardy could remain free and play football.
I can’t get inside Holder’s mind to say how she feels about the photos. Maybe she is thrilled that people will finally believe her. Maybe, like Ray Rice’s wife Janay, she is mortified to have such a painful episode splashed in front of the world. Maybe it’s a mixture of both. Again, I have no idea. She is entitled to whatever reaction she has.
My problem here is not really with Deadspin.
It’s with society.
Why do we need video or photo evidence to believe victims of domestic violence? What the heck is wrong with us? If your daughter told you the story that Nicole Holder told police last year, would you demand to see photographs?
Again: This story been public. It was not a secret. A lot of teams would not have signed Hardy last off-season because of what happened. Jones’s Cowboys signed him. If the Cowboys have not received enough grief for that, it’s because we’re so enamored of video and photographic evidence and too skeptical of anything else. And shame on us.
The Rice case is different in some ways, but still instructive. Last year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games. Then TMZ released the video, and Goodell immediately showed extreme concern for his own reputation. He suspended Rice for the year and claimed Rice had misled him about what happened. An arbitrator later dismissed Goodell’s contention, which was implausible in the first place. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen had accurately described the video in detail on the radio long before TMZ released it.
When Goodell altered Rice’s suspension (with no real grounds to do so), he was just reacting to how the public deals with these things. When there is no video, we throw up our arms and say, “Who knows what happened?” When there is video, we get outraged. Goodell could get away with a two-game suspension when there was no video. Once the video dropped, he had to respond to the outrage.
Rice has since been apologetic and claimed responsibility for his actions. Whether that’s enough for him to deserve another chance in the league is open to dispute. So far, he hasn’t gotten one. If he were a better player, he probably would.
Hardy has not apologized or taken responsibility. The Cowboys signed him because he was a better player than Rice, and because they thought they could get away with it. So far, they have.
But the Cowboys had to know what kind of person they were getting, and what Greg Hardy had done. It was very clear and very public last year.