ELLSWORTH — Kelly Brown has mixed feelings about the release of the video footage of NFL star Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in the face in an Atlantic City casino elevator.
Brown, a community educator with The Next Step Domestic Violence Project, spoke to the Noontime Rotary group at Ellsworth City Hall Sept. 12, four days after the video was first made public.
Brown said she appreciates that the video has “made the NFL have to take action.” She also said it underscores how images can help substantiate a victim’s claim.
“Cameras being used are helpful tools,” she said.
However, Brown said she is bothered by people who have put the focus on Rice’s now-wife, Janay Palmer — asking why she stayed with Rice after the assault, rather than leaving.
“She’s not doing anything wrong,” Brown said. “She loves somebody. She’s hoping that he’ll change. And I hope that he does.”
Brown said what she saw in the video concerned her greatly, because she believes the way Rice acted in the video suggests it was not the first time he had done so.
“You can certainly tell that was not a one-time incident,” Brown said. “I really am scared for her.”
Brown said Next Step serves more than 1,000 people every year in Hancock and Washington counties, and gets more than 10,000 calls on the organization’s crisis hotline.
She said although Rice’s assault is one example of how domestic violence can manifest itself, it is not the only way it can occur. Whether it is holding a woman hostage financially, threatening to keep her children from her or beating her up, Brown said the common theme for an attacker is control.
“It’s not always about ‘I’m hitting you,’” she said, noting that many abusive men aren’t necessarily physically abusive. “It’s about, ‘I am in control.’”
On the subject of financial abuse, Brown talked about the Purple Purse Challenge — a nationwide effort sponsored by the Allstate Foundation to raise money for Next Step and hundreds of similar groups across the country.
As of Tuesday, the Purple Purse website (purplepurse.com) reported that more than $500,000 had been raised so far. Donations can be made through The Next Step website (nextstepdvproject.org). Brown said all of the money donated via The Next Step website will be used locally.
The purse symbolizes the financial component of what many domestic violence victims go through, and it’s purple because that’s the color associated with domestic violence awareness. The Purple Purse challenge is taking place now, in the lead-up to Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
Brown told Rotary members, many of them local business leaders, that businesses can help fight domestic violence by holding awareness events or by doing something as posting a sign in the window that says “This business stands against domestic violence.”
“It lets victims know they’re not alone,” Brown said. “They may not say anything, but they see it, they recognize it and they appreciate it.”
She said signs also help tell abusers that their behavior is not acceptable.
It will take more than just signs, however, to eliminate the problem of domestic violence. Brown said doing that is “going to take culture change.”
She said society needs to get past stereotypical gender identification ideas — that men are tough and strong, and that women are sensitive and emotional.
“We have to allow people to be who they want to be,” she said, “and stop the idea of, ‘This is what a man does, this is what a woman does.’”