You may agree or disagree with how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handled the recent assault perpetrated by football player Ray Rice, but it’s clear the act of domestic violence exposed in that elevator video has brought much needed attention to a ubiquitous and ongoing problem.
One in every four women in the US will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. The cost of domestic violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services. Victims are everywhere. Abusers know no boundaries – they exist in every single race, religion, class and geographic area. And in spite of the prevalence of violence against women, many victims feel alone and isolated – perhaps because most cases are never reported.
After the incident with Ray Rice some members of the media asked why his fiancée would stay with him. Many women stay with their partners after abuse occurs.
Why? It’s complicated. On Twitter, brave women brought to light how complicated the situation can be, using the hashtags “whyIstayed” and “whyIleft.” For example, “Because I wanted my children to have a father #whyIstayed” and “Because I wanted my children to have a mother # whyIleft.” Additionally, the financial security of a victim and her children is all too often intimately tied with that of her abuser.
Domestic violence is not limited to those with violent jobs – pro football players, members of the military or pro boxers, for example. In fact, those in the NFL commit domestic violence at lower rates than the rest of the public. The NFL to implementing domestic violence prevention training with their players is a good step. But the rest of us should not take it as a free pass to do nothing.
There are many ways we must act if we want to put an end to domestic violence. Some of the ways that we, as a state, can help are:
- Helping victims find safe, temporary, housing for them and their children.
- Making sure there are easily accessible mental health services and support groups.
- Training law enforcement to properly deal with domestic violence incidents.
- Taking firearms away from domestic violence perpetrators.
- Ensuring victims don’t lose their jobs or their paychecks when they go to court proceedings.
- Keeping confidential the location of victims who must hide from their abusers.
- Spread awareness about the problem of domestic violence so victims do not feel alone.