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The Image of Domestic Violence

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Twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. On the more extreme level, a 2012 Upworthy article reported FBI statistics of 11,766 women killed by a husband or boyfriend between 2001 and 2012. By contrast, 6,488 American troops were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during that same period.

In the Media

It appears there is a never-ending list of celebrities in the news regarding domestic violence which including new age musician Yanni and MASH star Harry Morgan. The problem is so extreme it sometimes feels like a contest for the most outrageous incident. One would hope the worst possible role model is Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Boxing fans seemed all too willing to overlook his violent behavior, making him the richest sportsman in the world in spite of repeated, lascivious attacks on women as if to suggest that as long as he can knock out Manny Pacquiao, then who cares how many women he knocks out?

Domestic violence in sports receives considerable scrutiny because of athletes’ role model status among youth. Plus, athletes have a high proportion of incidents, and the accusations are usually more extreme than just a bruised arm or lip. The two most recent football players to be accused of domestic violence sum up the whole of the situation pretty well.

Greg Hardy, of the Dallas Cowboys, was accused of attacking a woman at his home, including throwing her on a bed covered with automatic weapons and threatening to kill her. In court, the victim refused to appear, and there was a question of bias with the judge in admitting evidence. The case was dismissed, though Hardy was suspended by the league (but still received $13.1 million pay) for the majority of the 2014 season and the first 10 games of 2015. The 10 games was reduced to four games this past June.

In a somewhat similar turn of events, Ray McDonald was involved in a questionable circumstance last year with a woman he took home from a bar, and then again this year in a domestic assault charge against his fiance. The cases present with rather hazy evidence. His court case hasn’t been settled yet, but he has been released by two teams during the off-season. He might not ever play again, because no team seems to want him and not because of league intervention.

Preferential Treatment

Why do the Dallas Cowboys want Hardy, who was suspended for his alleged incidents, while the Chicago Bears don’t want McDonald despite no suspension or charges? One plausible answer lies in economics. Hardy’s value is exceptionally high. Hardy has a one-year contract with Dallas that will pay up to $11.3 million based on performance. Hardy is only 26-years-old and has already had a more productive career than the 30-year-old McDonald.

Domestic violence is widely considered to be related to poverty. Athletes, though typically wealthy, often come from poor backgrounds. Even though NFL domestic abuse arrests are only half the national average, they are still higher than normal for people making over $75,000.

USA Today has a running tally of NFL player arrests that exhibits some trends. There are a lot of dropped or unresolved cases, particularly when it comes to domestic violence. Most charges have been filed for drug and DUI arrests. The league has also come down harshest on drug offenses. Meanwhile, teams have taken the liberty of releasing players involved in just about any incident, provided it has been a more dispensable player. With the two notable exceptions of Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, most recent trends are that star players receive more favorable treatment.

To their credit the NFL and Major League Baseball appear to be trying by implementing new standards for personal conduct. However, it remains to be seen how player’s unions will react to strict disciplinary measures for players that have received no convictions in court.

Where’s the Consequence?

Domestic violence costs the U.S. $8.3 billion per year, $8 trillion globally. It’s more costly than any war. But the monetary cost is largely invisible. Social costs are far-reaching across generations and create cyclical problems. As the above link also shows, in domestic violence incidents involving children, only one in four are ever reported and perpetrators receive jail time only two percent of the time. Without consequences, the patterns repeat themselves over and over.

Domestic violence has only been treated as a crime in recent years. In the 1700s, England legally allowed husbands to enforce domestic discipline and, in 1910, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to not give women recourse against husbands for assault or battery. It wasn’t until the end of the twentieth century that police were given ways to deal with domestic disputes and courts started protect the rights of battered women. Overall, the historical image of wives being property of the husband has only recently started to change.

When the victims and/or perpetrators have witnessed abuse growing up, have seen a lack of accountability, and generally do not have a deep understanding of right and wrong, the situation becomes even more complicated. In short, there is no quick and simple solution.

If you are victim of domestic violence or believe you may be in an unsafe relationship, please contact the national domestic violence hotline for more information and/or to speak with a crisis counselor.

Daniel is a freelance writer and observationist, former English teacher and failed comedian. His interests include mindfulness, poverty, the environment and support for disenfranchised people worldwide. He is an ardent champion of terrestrial, freeform radio and a DJ at Radio Boise.

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