On-field violence is a part of sport.  Often time’s players are rewarded for their aggressiveness on the field but this can lead to problems related to violence and aggression off the field.  The most recent suspension of Ray Rice for two games following his arrest for domestic violence is just part of a long history of athletes engaging in violent behavior off the field. This behavior troubles the American public and sends the wrong message: that violence is acceptable.  However, despite your opinions on the length and severity of punishments it is important that we as a society start to recognize and understand the factors that influence domestic violence so that we can begin to change this unacceptable behavior.

Domestic Violence Statistics

Domestic violence is defined by the “willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against one another.” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).  Based on the recent statistics 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and 1 in 14 males report being assaulted by a partner.   That breaks down to an estimated 1.3 million women being assaulted every single year.  While men are certainly victimized as well 85% of domestic violence victims are female.  Women in the 20-24 year old age range are at the greatest risk for a domestic violence episode and, most shockingly, most incidences of domestic violence will go unreported to the authorities.

Effects of Domestic Violence

The effects that domestic violence has on society are shocking.  Children who witness violence between parents creates the strongest risk factor in transmitting violent behavior to the next generation.  Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their partners as an adult.  Finally, between 30-60% of perpetrators of domestic violence also abuse children in the household.

Economically, the cost of intimate violence exceeds 5.8 billion dollars a year with 4.1 billion dollars going to medical and mental health care.

Understanding Domestic Violence

At the core of domestic violence is one partner’s desire to exert Power and Control on his/her partner.  This is achieved in many forms be it violence, threats of harms, economic abuse, blaming the victim, intimidation, etc.  While we label this broad category “Domestic Violence” it is not always violent behavior that causes harm to the victim.

While statistically speaking athletes are at no greater percentage of committing domestic violence episodes than the general population the publicity brought about by the events certainly is great.  Everyone can agree that domestic violence/abuse against a partner man or woman has got to end.  Sports leagues, teams, and individual athletes have to address the societal issue of violence against partners in an effort to start to shift the tide on our societal issue.  More importantly, victims have to start to speak out even though it can be incredibly difficult and frightening because of the fear of exposing the perpetrator.  This is not just an athlete problem, this is everyone’s problem.  If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence assist them in getting help, judicially, medically, psychologically, etc.  If you are perpetrating abuse you cannot stop on your own, seek help from a qualified professional so that you can address the issues that create a situation where abuse occurs.  This is a big issue and it is difficult to witness or even hear about.  Lets all be part of a movement to end this cycle of violence.