Everyone’s talking about the NFL’s action (or inaction) on disciplining Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after video surfaced of Rice punching (and knocking out) his fiancée (now his wife) in an Atlantic City casino elevator earlier this year.
This is by no means an isolated incident. According to a USA Today database of NFL players charged with domestic violence or related charges since 2000, dozens of players have been arrested on similar allegations, including a number who are still playing despite their arrests.
Violence against women is not confined to the NFL. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, approximately 42.4 million women in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Of that number, 3.2 million women have suffered severe physical violence. Shockingly, intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes.
Which means that the problem is ours—and not just the NFL’s.
Fortunately, the focus on this critical issue is generating attention as well as innovative responses.
The UK’s Hidden Hurt website provides a wealth of information to help people identify and help possible victims of domestic violence as well as a venue for survivors of domestic violence to tell their own personal stories.
The SafeNight mobile app alerts individual donors of the need to help an abuse victim fund a hotel room for the night when local domestic violence shelters are full.
And just last October, Robin McGraw, wife of TV’s Dr. Phil, announced the launch of The Aspire Initiative, an educational curriculum that seeks to end intimate partner violence. An associated smartphone app, designed to look like any other app, allows users to create pre-written text or voice messages to be sent to designated numbers (911 or other chosen contacts) with just the tap of a button, and tapping app’s “go button” also starts a recording to capture the details of the domestic violence encounter or other dangerous event underway.
The Junior League also has been a source of innovative ideas over the years, and a great example is the Junior League of St. Paul’s Silent Witnesses initiative. The Silent Witnesses were life-sized silhouettes of 27 Minnesota women who died in 1990 as a result of domestic violence. The Silent Witness National Initiative, under the direction of the JLSP’s advocacy chair Jane Zeller, then went onto the national stage, bringing many different organizations and advocacy groups together, including more than 100 Leagues. The campaign, which was adopted in all four Junior League countries, ultimately was credited with contributing to the addition of the Violence Against Women Act provisions to the 1994 Crime Bill.
Other examples of League program innovation include:
- The Junior League of Northwest Arkansas’ Domestic Violence Community Council League brings together League members with local law enforcement agencies, victim advocates and other individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting domestic violence awareness throughout Northwest Arkansas.
- Under the direction of the Junior League of Collin County, the Collin County Community Coordinated Response Plan has served for more than ten years serves as a blueprint for public response to family violence in the community. The program emerged from JLCC’s Collin County Council on Family Violence.
- The Junior League of Birmingham partnered with the Birmingham (AL) YWCA to develop Children in Crisis, which provides members with hands-on opportunities to interact with children 5-17 years old who have witnessed violence, particularly in the home.
- Inn Transition, the flagship project of the Junior League of Miami for the past 20 years, provides housing and resources to women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. In addition to Inn Transition, League volunteers are currently working with domestic violence survivors at Whispering Manes, a therapeutic riding center, on programs designed to promote healing and increased self-confidence and self-esteem.