COLUMN: Domestic violence is bigger than the NFL

Last week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated, “There will be changes to [the NFL’s] personal conduct policy.” This is step one, but the NFL still has a long way to go. As fans we must demand a hard stance against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Historically, the NFL’s position on domestic violence has been weak at best. According to NBC News, “Domestic violence and related incidents rank among the NFL’s biggest off-the-field problems, with 87 arrests involving 80 players over the last 14 years.” Yet, USA Today points out of the arrests from 2000 through last season, “no player received more than a one-game suspension.”

The catalyst for changing the NFL position started with the two-game suspension of Ray Rice after his arrest for assaulting his then-fiancée. This would have been business as usual for the NFL, but for the released surveillance video from inside of the elevator showing Rice punching his fiancée in the face and knocking her unconscious.

For many, seeing the surveillance video made the harsh truth of domestic violence real and personal to them. The two-game suspension all of a sudden became too light of a punishment for such a violence act. The ensuing public outrage resulted in the changing of Rice’s suspension from two games to indefinite and forced the NFL to review its code of conduct.

Yet the focus on domestic violence and sexual assault is larger than the NFL.

According to a CDC report, nearly three in 10 women in the U.S. will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. When you put this study in perspective of the women you love – your wife, daughters, sisters, mothers, and female friends – the significance of this statistic is staggering. And this does not just impact women. According to the same CDC study, one in 10 men are also impacted.

In Utah, domestic violence is the fastest growing and most serious violent crime the state faces, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Even more compounding for Utah, sexual assault and domestic violence are reported less often compared to national numbers. According to the report, “Rape in Utah: A Survey of Utah Women”, it is estimated that nationally only 16% of rapes are reported to law enforcement, but Utah is even lower at 9%.

This pandemic of domestic violence and sexual assault must be stopped. While the NFL only represents a piece to this problem, their change to the personal conduct policy is important.

How you can help. Martin Luther King once stated, “In the end, what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” …and the silence of the fans. As the NFL works to change their personal conduct policy, NFL fans must speak up and demand a hard stance against domestic violence and sexual assault.

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<em>James Boyd Jr. is the Director of Marketing and Development for CAPSA. CAPSA is a nonprofit that provides advocacy and shelter for victims of domestic violence and works to stop abuse through education and outreach. Visit <a href=”http://www.capsa.org” target=”_blank”>www.capsa.org</a> to learn more and to donate to CAPSA.</em>

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