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(updated 9/21/14)

As entertainment, sports is exciting, unpredictable and full of dramatic examples of triumph and agony. It is also a high profile mirror into real tragedies and triumphs related to health and public health. Case in point: Ray Rice (former running back for the Baltimore Ravens), the National Football League (NFL) and intimate partner violence.

Over the past few months, the NFL has been the center of a nationwide focus on domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence). The whirlwind of attention began when a video of Ray Rice carrying an unconscious Janay Palmer (his fiancée at the time) surfaced in February 2014, prompting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to suspend Rice without pay for two games and give him a fine.

Though many protested the leniency of Goodell’s penalty and the avoidance of prosecution in exchange for participation in a pretrial intervention program, Goodell defended his actions based on Lewis’ prior reputation and stated remorse, support from Palmer, etc.

Recently, additional segments of that same video were made public and showed Palmer and Rice assaulting each other before Rice punches Palmer unconscious and drags her from the elevator. Needless to say, all heck then broke loose on the NFL and Rice. In the midst of this outcry, the Ravens cut Rice from the team; he lost endorsements from sponsors; Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely; and some folks are re-examining his pretrial deal.

One positive outcome from this situation (and similarly high profile ones)  is how organizations that help victims of abuse and victims themselves have publicly engaged by sharing stories, insights, information and resources that can inspire and help others. Now, we need to also hear from abusers so that we have more of a focus on prevention.

(credit: NoMore.org)

Though I have never experienced an abusive relationship, I have volunteered at a shelter that supports families who have. I know from observation some of the very personal and sometimes complex factors that result in assaults that physically and mentally harm millions of women, men and children each year. I hope the attention brought to this issue by this tragic event will help break cycles of intimate partner violence for many, many families.

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Report finds women carry burden of sexual, domestic violence” (9/9/14 in The Boston Globe)

  • Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey
  • “One in four women has been severely physically assaulted by an intimate partner.”
  • “About 27.5 percent of men have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner,” though are much less likely to be intimated by that partner.

Domestic Violence: Statistics – Facts

Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project (a domestic violence research database)

30 years of Research on Partner Violence: Denials and Distortions of the Evidence and What to do About it (a 55 minute film…and others)

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There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories about the NFL and this issue. Here are a few:

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