By Sal Bommarito
The video of Ray Rice, former star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, has inspired a national debate about domestic violence (“DV”) that is long overdue.
The current state of play for the Rice incident involves a controversy about whether Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, had seen the horrendous video before he suspended Rice for a mere two games several months ago. Goodell says he did not see the video until this week, after which he suspended Rice indefinitely. The Commissioner’s contention is being questioned and investigated.
Frankly, all this intrigue relating the NFL detracts from a serious dialogue about DV. The more important issues are that DV offenders are plentiful in all walks of life, and the punishment meted out to offenders for serious crimes committed in the privacy of their own homes has been inadequate. The latter enables abusers to do their dirty work without the specter of extraordinary risk.
The purposes of this essay is to provide details about DV that most people are probably unaware of, and then to suggest that DV be classified as a hate crime with significant minimal jail time.
The facts about DV are significant and eye-popping. Here are some provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
-Definition: DV is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner.
-DV affects every community in America regardless of race or economic status.
-1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
-85% of victims are women.
-Most women victimized know their attackers.
-20-24 year old women are most vulnerable to attack.
-Most cases of DV are not reported to the police.
Children Who Witness DV:
-Boys who witness DV are 2 times more likely to abuse their own partners and children.
-30-60% of DV perpetrators also abuse their children.
Homicide and Injury:
-1/3 of female homicide victims are killed by intimate partners.
-In 70-80% of intimate partner homicides, men physically abused women before the murder.
-Less than 20% of DV victims sought medical attention.
-1 in 6 women experiences an attempted rape or a completed rape during their lifetime.
-7.8 million women have been raped by an intimate partner.
-Sexual assault or forced sex occurs in 40-45% of abusive relationships.
-The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year; $4.1 billion is for medical and mental health services.
Clearly, DV is a national problem that has been swept under the rug for far too long and results in billions of dollars of costs. What is happening nationally to combat this epidemic, which is just as harmful as any serious disease? Frankly, very little.
In the case of the NFL, Ray Rice initially received a two game suspension after punching his fiancée with enough force to kill her. Even if the NFL did not see the video until later, it had the facts, and the NFL’s response was timid at best. Maybe the league was trying to protect its brand, or protect a popular player, both unacceptable rationales for their original decision.
Law enforcement authorities had the video and a confession from Rice. The court decided to assign Rice to counseling and not force him to spend time in jail. Many think that the viciousness of Rice’s assault could easily have been handled as attempted murder, or at least assault.
Beyond the NFL, it is estimated that 12% of businesses have a DV program according to a 2005 Bureau of Labor Standards survey. 4% of businesses provide training relating to DV.
It is important for the issue of DV to be addressed now, before more women are assaulted and killed. Ironically, DV, when witnessed by a child, is passed on to the next generation in many instances. In other words, DV that occurs now is the reason for DV in the future.
An effective way to address this issue is to greatly increase the penalty for convicted DV perpetrators. Surely, the societal impact of DV warrants more action on the part of police and the courts. Why isn’t DV considered like any other felony assault, which subjects the convicted to hard time in jail? Further, why isn’t DV classified as a hate crime? Law enforcement agencies aggressively seek out individuals who commit crimes against other races and people with different sexual preferences. Why not do the same to men who commit crimes against women?
The expected response from the naysayers, it will be impossible to enforce stricter laws. Perhaps, but if women have a more reliable way to report abuse with the threat of real jail time, the amount of abuse can be decreased.
Men may be kings of their castles, but castles should not be prosecution free zones where they can commit crimes against women and children. The sanctity and privacy of marriage should not protect cowards who prey upon the weak.