Does Celebrity Ensure Immunity?

Ray Rice and his fiancé at a press conference, where he apologized for assaulting her in an elevator this past winter.

USA Today

Ray Rice and his fiancé at a press conference, where he apologized for assaulting her in an elevator this past winter.

Aliyah Symes, Staff Writer

We live in a world where there are events we can relate to on a visceral level. They are the moments in which we are the outsider looking in, but can feel those very events resonate within us as if we are experiencing them for ourselves. That familiarity can be haunting, or can bring intense joy. However, there are some moments that should never strike a familiar chord within us, moments that nobody should have to suffer, and in turn watch others suffer. One event people should never suffer through, or even relate to, is domestic violence.

Domestic violence, defined by the United States Department of Justice as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”, is an act that many consider unforgivable. Constantly condemned by the public, it is astounding to see how many cases emerge regarding prominent people, and even more surprising is how these people always seem to come out of the situation with nothing more than a light scolding.

Ray Rice, a football player for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended for two games after assaulting his wife in an elevator at an Atlantic City Casino last year. This past week, the video of the altercation was posted by TMZ, and Rice was promptly terminated from the team and suspended indefinitely from the National Football League (NFL). The issue is not with the punishment Rice received but with the lack of a severe penalty when the incident first occurred. It should not have gained such popular appeal only when a popular tabloid posted the incriminating evidence.

“I think if you’re a celebrity and are involved with domestic violence, you are only punished if you’re exposed. If people can hide it, they can easily get away with it,” senior Manuela Silva said.

What does that say about the way society works, that the individuals people idolize manage to injure and harm others while facing only mild consequences? Do fame and fortune ensure safety from the legal system as long as every piece of evidence gets swept under the rug?

“There tends to be this innocent till proven guilty general consensus and I think people are more likely to ignore it and not face the hard truth. It’s a real and pressing issue,” senior Susana Rudin said.

While many people look at this situation as a prime example of celebrity status ensuring unfair immunity, others look at this situation as a fortuitous circumstance. People have used Rice’s scandal to raise awareness about domestic violence, and others have restored faith in the legal system, considering the fact that while initially ignored, the public outrage worked to make people open their eyes to the gravity of the situation.

“Even though he should have been penalized severely beforehand, I think that this situation shows the power of the public. Rice wouldn’t have been punished unless we all got angry, and we did. People–especially celebrities–only get away with things if you let them,” junior Gaby Martinez said.

Domestic violence is a serious issue in everyday life, so are diseases, cases of infidelity, and civil unrest. Issues of such pressing importance shouldn’t have to emerge from obscurity after being buried years ago; they need to be targeted immediately and efficiently. They shouldn’t stir a nationwide call to arms because of an ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,’ or when another celebrity manages to have an affair. Pursuits for public change and improvement start with the world making an effort to be informed, regardless of what’s going on in the lives of iconic actors, athletes and musicians. After all, nobody deserves to be allowed to suffer in silence until proof is shoved right under their noses. That undermines the importance of the case, and ultimately gives people a reason to forget about it all over again when all the ruckus dies down.