I am writing this post as we prepare to watch Super Bowl 50. If you know Pastor Jason and I, you know that we love sports. I mean, we love Jesus, our families, our jobs, and all that stuff. But we love sports. One of our favorite things to do when we were in our first few years of marriage was to go to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament every year. We would travel to the nearest city with first round games. We have been to see the Oregon Ducks football team play in several different states and (confession) our oldest learned most of her counting and math skills watching the scores change during a game.
So back to the Super Bowl. As much as I love watching the NFL it always gives me this nagging reminder that domestic violence (DV) is a huge problem in our culture. We don’t talk about it unless someone famous is accused and then we find ourselves watching the media’s commentary on the subject.
1 in 3 women will be the victim of violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. No, seriously, 1 in 3. Every 9 seconds a women in the US is assaulted or beaten. Now DV victims can be men, but I’m a gynecologist so today we’re going to focus on women, who are 4 out of 5 victims. Oklahoma is ranked 3rd in the US for women killed by men in single victim-single offender homicide. DV costs our nation millions each year in lost wages and treatment of injuries for victims. The emotional impact on these women and their children cannot be adequately measured.
And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that the NFL has had several major incidents with DV in the last year. First Ray Rice, a wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, we caught on tape beating his wife in an elevator. The NFL suspended him two games when they heard of the accusations, then suspended him indefinitely once the public saw the gruesome footage. (He has appealed, won and is eligible to play again). Then defensive end Greg Hardy was accused of DV after an altercation with his girlfriend. He told police that his girlfriend “fell in the bathtub.” At the NFL hearing for Hardy, the defense attorney claimed that Hardy was the victim, and basically accused his girlfriend of being promiscuous. A common defense for DV perpetrators is the thinking that women need to be “put back in their place.” After he was reinstated, Hardy was then signed by “America’s Team” the Dallas Cowboys where he has continued to make sexist comments and act violent towards his teammates. And now Heisman Trophy winning Johnny Manziel has been accused of beating and threatening to kill his former girlfriend.
DV is something we should all care about. You see, DV is not limited to women who are in relationships with professional athletes. It is not limited to the poor, the black or the non-religious. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence puts it this way…
“Intimate partner physical abuse is not bound by age, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or nationality; it exists in all communities. Contrary to popular belief, physical abuse is not simply a mal-adjusted person’s occasional expression of frustration or anger, nor is it typically an isolated incident. Physical abuse is a tool of control and oppression and is a choice made by one person in a relationship to control another.”
Why do we have a domestic violence problem? Lots of reasons, but probably the foremost is that we tolerate it. We lack education and awareness. We think of DV as a problem between 2 people, and fail to recognize it as a problem in our culture. Deion Sanders characterized Manziel’s relationship with his girlfriend as “inflammatory” and that his problem is that he is in a relationship with her…I would argue that if the allegations are true Johnny Football’s problem is that he is a perpetrator of DV. We wonder how a women can’t “get out” when she is pregnant or had children. We shake our heads at women for “staying with that guy” and fail to understand the social, economic and physical isolation that often makes it impossible to women to leave the men that abuse them. We don’t understand that women who attempt to leave an abusive situation and are unsuccessful are often subjecting themselves to an escalation of violence and increasing their risk of being a homicide victim. We make excuses for men who abuse women and fail to understand that no amount of wrong makes DV a right. As a culture, a country, a community we fail to recognize that this problem belongs to us as well.
Can we love football and still work to eliminate domestic violence? I’m not sure. I hope so. What I am sure about is that we will ALL encounter someone who is a victim of DV. It might be the friend who becomes increasingly isolated. It might be the woman who visits your church. It could be your neighbor, your co-worker, your boss. I hope we keep our ears and eyes open. I hope if we see something we say something. I hope we avoid the thoughts of “she should have…” and come to understand that victims of DV are just that. Victims. They need someone to be their voice, their shelter, their advocate.
So when you watch Lady Gaga sing the National Anthem or while you’re enjoying Cam’s “dabbing” or Peyton’s pizza commercial, don’t forget that we live in a culture that hasn’t found a way to end violence against women. Don’t forget that you can do something about it. Don’t forget the 1 in 3.