Janay Rice and the House of Ruth (yes, that's the Ruth in the Bible)

Janay Rice and the House of Ruth

As the media storm continues to rage around former Baltimore Ravens superstar Ray Rice, let's pause for a moment and think about that dose of media criticism that his wife Janay offered yesterday via Instagram.

Was it me, or did the anchors on ESPN seem rather uncomfortable reading the following words?

I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media & unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is a horrific [sic]. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is! Ravensnation we love you!

In the comments on her own post she added: "Hurt beyond words…”

In a short talk with ESPN's Josina Anderson -- when his wife handed him her telephone -- Ray Rice added: "I have to be strong for my wife. She is so strong. ... We are in good spirits. We have a lot of people praying for us and we 'll continue to support each other."

At this point, I think everyone can agree (maybe) that the one true victim in this tragedy is Janay Rice. Maybe? Yes, there are a few critics who fault her for marrying the man who punched her, while seeking reconciliation and healing for their family. The implication is that she was weak or (hint, hint) wanted Ray Rice's money?

Ah, and then there is the "prayer" thing, that religion angle again. How many of you have seen mainstream news coverage that has pursued the role of the House of Ruth in this case? And what is the House of Ruth, according to its website?

The House Of Ruth Maryland was founded in May of 1977 by a coalition of women’s organizations, religious groups, service providers, and elected officials to provide a safe haven for victims of domestic violence and their children.  In November of 1977 we opened Baltimore’s first crisis shelter for these victims in a row house on North Calvert Street. 

Note that this organization, which has a lot of influence in Charm City, is not a ministry, but that the coalition that founded it included churches that were concerned about protecting women and their children. Yes, the "Ruth" in that name is the biblical Ruth, the central characters in one of the Hebrew Bible's most interesting and complex stories about faith, trust, family and marriage (click here for chapter one).

To what degree is faith, ministry and, yes, healing discussed at the House of Ruth? This leads me, as a reporter, to this question: What does House of Ruth have to say about reconciliation and healing in battered marriages? Or how about this one: What churches helped found this organization and what religious groups are active in it today?

Think about this as pure journalism for a moment: How could a nonprofit organization working on these kinds of intimate issues linked to marriage and family avoid moral and religious issues in many, if not most, of the cases?

So where is the news coverage of those issues and the role of the House of Ruth during this Rice media storm? One thing is for sure, this angle will not go away in my Ravens-obsessed city. Why? The local CBS affiliate, WJZ, noted the following at the very end of one of its reports on this still evolving story:

WJZ has learned the Ravens will partner with House of Ruth for a new domestic awareness campaign, including a $600,000 donation from the team.
"We are thrilled to partner with the Baltimore Ravens on such an important initiative,” said House of Ruth Maryland’s Executive Director Sandi Timmins. “The reaction in our society has always been ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ The Baltimore Ravens have pledged to assist us in shifting the paradigm to change that question to: ‘Why does HE think it is ok to abuse her?’ It’s time for men to speak up, to take responsibility for their behavior, and to hold each other to having partner relationships that are healthy. It’s time to ‘Man Up!’ ”
“The Ravens recognize the outstanding service the House of Ruth Maryland provides to our community and we want to help increase its influence,” said Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass. “We also look forward to the education the House of Ruth Maryland will provide to members of our organization.”

A few more journalistic questions, which I think are rather obvious: Who are the people at the heart of the prayer network that they keep mentioning, other than other believers with the Ravens? Do Ray and Janay Rice go to church? Who is their pastor? Is that church connected to the House of Ruth?

Just asking.

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