NFL finally acts, but do we get it yet?
October is normally Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the U.S., but this year September has taken over this distinction due to the NFL. Just in case you’ve not read or heard, running back Ray Rice was recently fired by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL for hitting his then-fiancee at an Atlantic City hotel in February.
Originally in July, Rice was given a two-game suspension by the NFL. It was not until the video of the incident was released by TMZ.com on Sept. 8 showing that Rice hit his fiancee and dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator that Rice lost his job (or at least for now). The Ravens and the NFL knew about this incident back in February, but pretty much looked the other way, which has been the status quo in the NFL for years.
Also, just in the past week: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Viking running back, was indicted with the child abuse incident; Ray McDonald, San Francisco 49ers defensive end, was arrested in August for domestic violence; and Greg Hardy, Carolina Panther defensive end, was convicted of domestic violence last month. These are just the most recent NFL players who have legal issues stemming from “bad” behavior with their loved ones.
I’m glad to see the NFL has made some significant strides in educating our country on domestic violence in American society this past week. However, I want to say it’s about time. Change in our society comes slowly. Even with the Ray Rice incident being televised, blogged, Facebooked, etc., do we as a society really get it yet?
Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality. Intimate partner violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and is only a fraction of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, even death.
While the NFL incident has shown us what physical abuse looks like, it is important to note that emotional abuse and subtle manipulations can be just as harmful and more difficult to identify. The devastating consequence of domestic violence crosses generations and lasts a lifetime.
Domestic violence doesn’t just occur in the “big city” with the “big athletes.” I know it’s a defense mechanism for many of us to think this so that we can feel safe in our community, our neighborhood and, for some, even our own home. Domestic violence occurs on a daily basis in Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley. During 2013, Advocate Safehouse Project handled over 2,600 calls, worked with 490 clients and provided 30 families with 40 children for a total of 70 individuals with 2,050 nights of emergency shelter.
Advocate Safehouse Project’s (ASP) mission is to promote healthy relationships free from violence through education, advocacy, empowerment and safehousing. We are the only program in Garfield County offering comprehensive and confidential services to survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence and their children. In fact, we have the only Safehouse Program in the Roaring Fork Valley and one of only 11 domestic violence shelters on Colorado’s Western Slope.
Many of you may be asking yourselves how you can help our community stop domestic violence.
• Educate yourself: Invite ASP to present information to you and/or a group you’re affiliated with.
• Volunteer: Become a volunteer advocate by attending our 30-hour training to answer our 24-hour Help Line.
• Donate: Donate to your local domestic violence agency. ASP is located right here in Garfield County.
However, it’s not enough to respond to domestic violence in our community. We need to prevent it to help our sons and daughters. I know we all want the best for our children. Often abusive behaviors take shape and start to express themselves in adolescence. We don’t want our children to become domestic violence victims or perpetrators.
• Model characteristics of healthy relationships with those you love. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with each other, but you can disagree in a respectful manner, not a controlling manner. So in other words, “walk the talk.”
• Encourage schools and/or youth groups to participate in “Safe Dates” (evidence-based) training to teach youth how to establish healthy relationships.
• Encourage your son’s coaching staff to participate in the “Coaching Boys Into Men” (evidence-based) training. All it takes is 15 minutes a week of a focused discussion with the coaches and the team to help our sons.
• Use our “Healthy Relationship” bookmarks especially with your children to begin a conversation about what is healthy and what is unhealthy in any kind of a relationship.
We’re here to help. For more information, call 970-928-2074. You too can be an active participant in the goal to end intimate partner violence.
Julie Olson is executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project.
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