Ray Rice case gives league a chance to help women.
Close to 30 women in the United States – in the time it takes you to read this column – will be beaten physically by someone they love.
That number, based on other studies, could be higher.
The exact statistics are impossible to determine, but even the most optimistic estimates tell us this much:
In the time it has taken you to reach this point, at least one U.S. woman has become a victim of domestic violence.
Just something to think about while everyone is busy firing Roger Goodell, investigating who knew what and when they did or didn’t know it and determining whether the NFL really is a sleazy, lying, immoral machine of corruption. Or something worse.
Yeah, it has been quite a week, one that began with Ray Rice’s suspension and ended with Adrian Peterson’s indictment, a week that officially concludes Saturday – precisely on the 20th anniversary of a monumental event in the push to curb domestic abuse.
On Sept. 13, 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was formally signed, providing funding and other resources and enhancing the tools available to law enforcement officials in the prosecution of abusers.
A few days ago, President Obama issued a proclamation celebrating this anniversary, his statement reading in part “our country has changed its culture.”
While studies show a decrease in the reported cases of domestic violence during the past two decades, this wasn’t the week for anyone to be feeling great about our progress.
Twenty years. That’s also how long ago Nicole Brown Simpson became a victim. And when, in San Clemente, Laura’s House was established, a nonprofit that takes its name from another victim, a woman who died at age 38 at the hands of her abuser.
“The (Rice) video is very shocking and upsetting to the public, but it’s a very sad reality for all of us involved in Laura’s House,” says Andrea McCallister, the organization’s director of development and communications. “It’s everyday life for so many of the people we serve.”
Let’s remember those people today, let’s think about those people, and, just as importantly, let’s remain aware of all the silence still unbroken even as the clamor and noise and chaos swallow Goodell and his once-precious shield.
When this story began, it was about domestic violence and the NFL’s remarkable callousness in refusing to take the problem seriously. The story has become something much different now, of course, but its roots are no less strong, no less significant.
“This is an opportunity to continue an important national conversation,” McCallister says. “It’s a chance to really help people who are in these situations who now know they aren’t alone. The thing about domestic violence is it has no boundaries. It cuts across all social strata and socioeconomic levels. It exists everywhere. It exists here.”
Since its inception, Laura’s House has provided shelter and services to more than 4,000 battered women and children and counseling, life coaching and legal assistance to more than 45,000.
The organization’s 24-hour crisis hotline received nearly 3,000 calls in 2013, a number that might shock and certainly will disappoint in that it represents a 9.4 percent increase from the previous year.
“It’s someone you know,” McCallister says. “It’s a neighbor. It’s a friend. It’s a friend of a friend. And it isn’t always physical abuse, like was depicted here. It can be psychological. It can be sexual. It can be financial abuse. There are many different kinds of abuse.”
A lot of people this week have called domestic violence an NFL problem, rightly accusing the league of failing to take a more proactive approach and a harder stance. It’s just too bad the problem isn’t that isolated.
Domestic violence is a problem for all of us, a problem that produces more than 12 million victims each year.
And now, a once too-private subject, something that happened only in other people’s houses, has walked into all of our living rooms, appearing as a video from a hotel elevator.
The NFL has a real crisis. And a real opportunity.
“In my perfect world, I would love to see the league create a program that promotes awareness of domestic violence,” McCallister says. “This could be a very big movement by the players because they’re so influential. They could use their popularity and power for positive things.”
She’s right. They could wear armbands or patches or messages written on their cleats. And why not? We see this sort of thing all the time.
Who knows? They could even wear jerseys that express their support of the victims of abuse.
“That would be so powerful, so inspiring for so many,” McCallister says. “For men who are out there in the public eye to stand up and say, ‘I’m against domestic violence. We stand proud and we’re going to end domestic violence together.’ That would be amazing.”
Sure, they could even wear jerseys, jerseys in the official color of domestic violence awareness. By the way, that color is purple, just like the purple worn by the Baltimore Ravens.
This article was published this weekend in Orange County Register and Los Angeles Register. You can see the original article online here.