By Monday night, Charles Ramsey — the Cleveland man who aided in the rescue of kidnap victims Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry that same afternoon — was being touted (rightfully) as a hero. Then on Wednesday, days after his post rescue interview had gone viral, his own history of domestic violence came out, leaving some to wonder if you can ever win. Now Ramsey has spoken publicly about his rap sheet, telling TMZ that "Those incidents helped me become the man I am today and are the reason why I try to help the community as much as I can...Including those women."
In a case as vile and violent as the one surrounding these three poor (and tough as nails) women in Cleveland, discovering that the supposed hero of the event was at one time an abuser himself can feel like the cherry on top of the worst fucking cake you've ever been served in your life. In 1998, Ramsey was found guilty on two counts of spousal battery. He was then charged with domestic abuse again in 2003 and was indicted for felony “domestic violence with prior conviction." He served prison time and has since apologized to his ex-wife who says that they are now on an "okay basis."
"I've made amends with the people involved and we've all moved on and grown up," Ramsey tells TMZ.
Whether or not those involved in the disheartening situation have moved on, Ramsey's previous charges have led many to question his hero status — but they shouldn't. The fact is that we exist in a world of nuance where most people spend their lives oscillating in gray area between good and bad. In multiple situations, Ramsey acted terribly and he has served time accordingly. This past Monday, however, he acted magnificently. If redemption exists (and I believe that it does) then surely breaking down the door to answer the pleas of a woman crying for help qualifies.
In the words of Salon's Joan Walsh:
Maybe his own experience played a role in his response; maybe there was some hope for redemption. But at any rate, the fact that a convicted abuser intervened to stop abuse is a good thing, not a scandal… To dismiss the character Ramsey showed in rescuing Berry is to suggest that nobody who’s ever done something bad should try to do something good, because the bad will always matter more.
Truth is that we can only speculate as to the real reason why Ramsey decided to help Amanda Berry, though I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I doubt he acted solely with the self-centered intention of making up for his past mistakes (and I don't think that's what Joan Walsh is saying either). He acted the way that he did because it was the right thing to do. People often choose not to help, whether it's because they're scared, dismissive or disinterested, but Ramsey did help and for that he deserves admiration.