Stephen A. Smith, a co-host of First Take on EPSN, just got suspended for a week for his ridiculously awful victim-blaming comments.
These comments came about as a result of the controversy around the slap on the wrist (2 game suspension) that Ray Rice received for beating his then-fiancee unconscious and it being caught on video.
Smith said the following on-air:
"What I've tried to employ the female members of my family — some of who you all met and talked to and what have you — is that ... let's make sure we don't do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come — or somebody else come, whether it's law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know — if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn't negate the fact that they already put their hands on you."
Unfortunately, Smith isn't alone in the idea that victims shouldn't "provoke" their attackers. I've heard this from countless people both in person and online. "He shouldn't have hit her," people say, "but she provoked him." They comment, "I would've hit her too if she'd messed with my car." They declare, "If she hadn't been up in his face, he wouldn't have decided to hit her."
This hits home for me because one of my closest and dearest friends was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband. On multiple occasions, when she called the police to report the abuse, they told her that she was partially responsible for provoking her attacker, and that they'd have to arrest her too if they took in her abuser. Thankfully, she eventually found an officer who didn't blame her, took her report, and ultimately helped her press charges, end the marriage, and get a long-term RO issued against her attacker.
Here's the thing: abusers will use any excuse they can to say that their victim provoked them. Didn't make dinner the way I like it? Provoked me. Didn't want to have sex with me when I wanted it? Provoked me. Didn't do all of the chores the way I wanted them done? Provoked me. Stood up for herself? Provoked me. Anything that the victim does or does not do counts as provocation and justification for hitting her. In other words, the fault is entirely that of the abuser, not of the victim.
As Michelle Beadle, another ESPN commentator, tweeted the following in response to the Smith controversy:
Violence isn't the victim's issue. It's the abuser's. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting.
I really wish people felt that way, but unfortunately, many don't.