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Monday, September 15, 2014

NFL & Domestic Violence: When Money Matters More…

The NFL made a monumental move by attempting to tackle domestic violence and now are rolling over because money talks, so abusers walk. It seems the league has intercepted the first ever outrage and is supporting violence against vulnerable women and children. It appears that Peterson’s team lost its momentum and seems willing to overlook assault so they can win. Money matters more so they’re going to welcome him to play. The messages sent to victims are, “You must live in fear…and nobody’s stepping in.” If the league wants to let the legal process play out maybe Peterson and his other abusing buddies should play without pay and donate the proceeds to assist victims with the therapy they’ll need to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If they really respect the game and want the privilege to play football, they’ll do what they have to do to stay in the game.  Peterson, Rice, Hardy and McDonald’s behaviors disgrace the teams they represent. They are not being held accountable. They don’t have to take accountability.

Domestic violence in the NFL has been exposed. The waking giant has been provoked and is finally paying attention. The choice to reinstate, bring back or caudle these abominations is greedy and irresponsible. What does it take before we stop tolerating this, another OJ? When are we going to take family violence seriously? The sad part of all of this, besides the obvious, is that domestic violence can be changed. It can be eradicated. People who commit family violence are simply acting out their past with societal tolerance, endorsement, reward and passivity. Abusers don’t know what they don’t know but by ignoring the atrocities we only perpetuate and guarantee further trauma.

These players need education. They need to recognize their unhealthy behaviors. They need assistance with understanding what they’ve done. Treating them like privileged elitists instead of making them accountable is an atrocity. This is a sad day for victims as they now know they can’t get away. Domestic violence is about power and control. We just taught women and children that if you love abusers you’ve made your bed and you need to lie in it. We judge victims by asking them why they stay but then we turn our backs by rewarding their assailants and judge the victims when they tell or leave. Shame, shame, shame on the powers-that-be who are more concerned with the bottom line. Letting money matter more does an injustice to families and society.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NFL Can't Change What They've Done. They Can Only Change What They Do!

All TMZ did was report the average day in the life of every battered woman in this country and it doesn’t matter why it took so long, it only matters that society isn’t burying its head in the sand anymore. The assault against Janay Rice is what domestic violence looks like—sometimes even worse. It is the reality for victims and their children. Their plight has been minimized and disregarded for generations.

Domestic violence advocates, myself included, have been championing for justice but our “rants,” as novice people call them, have been ignored because society believes domestic violence is a private matter.  I have boycotted professional sports for 25 years because of the assaults players have been able to get away with because of their status. I literally walk out of a room or I leave the building when a game is on because of my appalling distaste for the tolerance for violence against women. People considered my ban silly, but protesting was important to me. I shouted my disdain from the mountaintops as an international speaker, author and director of a nonprofit called CHANCE (Changing How Adults Nurture Children’s Egos) to train professionals, parents and partners about the devastation of family violence.  The mission at CHANCE goes one step further in the campaign to support families: we provide replacement skills to people to assist them with getting their needs met the right way. Here’s the most amazing part: when people are given healthier tools and see that they can be heard and regarded the right way, they use them. Violence is a learned behavior based on the inability to cope and emote properly but more importantly violence is violence because we allow it.

Being perpetrators or victims are not life sentences. I see people change everyday but it starts with intolerance. In the past, I’ve heard some of the most asinine excuses for athletes’ behaviors like, “I know he tore the hinges off the door, but he’s such an awesome hockey player” or “That girl is probably lying about the rape but this guy sure can shoot a basketball like nobody’s business.”

The cover up for domestic/family violence is insidious and reaches way beyond professional sports leagues. The police officer who charged the victim in this case is no different than a lot of the police officers serving our cities and our nation. I know countless accounts of law enforcement not only failing to serve and protect but also grossly carrying out miscarriages of justice. Advocating for victims has been frustratingly perplexing because champions for the cause have experienced unconscionable roadblocks generated by people’s willingness to turn away or even punish victims for their predicaments. The catch-22 is if victims stay they are blamed for making their beds, but when they leave they get blamed too. The legal system goes beyond police officers and a victim trudging through the system is like trying to push their way through a Hong Kong traffic jam. The courts are just as guilty, insensitive and infected, as they use ridiculous terms like Parent Alienation Syndrome to describe victims’ protection of their children. Victims are forced to co-parent or often lose custody of their children to their perpetrators under the guise of failure to protect…but more disturbingly is that the courts then give custody to the very persons who abused the victims.
Case in point: one officer arrested a pregnant woman whose perpetrator had been starving her 8-year old daughter and her. They had been held prisoners in a locked room and she literally clawed her way out by scratching and overpowering him. Visualize that picture. Although this guy had four prior domestic violence convictions, the police officer arrested her and labeled her the primary aggressor!  Due to her conviction, she was ineligible for victims’ shelter because she was now labeled as an abuser. And the perpetrator taunted her because there wasn’t anything she could do. Now he didn’t even have to lock the doors because she was trapped in isolation.

Another victim was sleeping in her bed when her ex-husband broke into her apartment and commenced choking her. The police in that case arrested her because the assailant had significant scratch marks on his arms during her attempt to pry his hands away from her neck.  These stories are not the exception; it’s the reality for battered victims and their children. And unfortunately, the buck doesn’t even stop here. Judges, often female ones at that, refuse to give restraining orders to victims even when the evidence is overwhelming that the victims are in peril. What the average citizen fails to realize is that domestic/family terrorism is the reason we have so much mental illness, so much crime and so much violence, period. In my practice 100% of incarcerated prisoners I’ve worked with have witnessed or experienced family violence—one hundred percent!

I say kudos to TMZ and the NFL for exposing the Ray & Janay Rice case, but the work is just starting. Janay’s life is in potential danger because batterers externalize their behaviors. He’s going to blame her for losing his job.  The police officer’s response enabled Ray Rice to blame her. Taking this to its logical conclusion, what’s going to happen when he blames her for losing his $50 million job? Social tolerance allowed Ray Rice to get to this point because he didn’t spit on refs, he didn’t beat up other players, and he didn’t punch his coach...because those behaviors were against the rules. Let’s move away from why it took the NFL so long to switch gears and get it right. What matters, is they did. I would like to see similar intolerance for this heinous crime throughout the rest of society. Police officers need to serve and protect, judges need to hand out restraining orders whenever anyone is or feels endangered—regardless, and education and training need to be given to both perpetrators and victims alike so each can make an informed decision about how to live their lives differently. TMZ painted the picture of domestic violence for us all to see, but now it’s time for action. 

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