On December 1st, Jovan Belcher shot and killed his long-time girlfriend and mother to his child, Kasandra Perkins, before shooting himself.
While it is not clear the exact catalyst for this murder, apparently the couple's relationships was strained and they had been arguing frequently. It would be unsurprising to discover Perkins had attempted to initiate a break-up before Belcher had shot her. Eight times. Clearly there was a lot of anger involved in this situation, and according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater risk of severe injury or death. Belcher's mother, who was living with them, reported hearing him say "You can't talk to me like that" shortly before shooting Perkins. The couple had also been getting counseling.
NBC's Bob Costas' response to the tragedy was a call to action for gun control. This is a huge problem. The response of the media blames weapons and excuses domestic violence as the root of the problem. Remember the old adage 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people'? True story.
Anything can be a deadly weapon, including a person's bare hands. Gun control will not eliminate domestic violence or murders, these horrible things will still happen via different means. The root of the problem needs to be addressed, and the root is domestic violence.
Approximately 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during there lifetime. Domestic Violence results in nearly 2 million injuries and 1300 deaths in the US every year. 31% of all women murdered are killed by a current or previous intimate partner.
It is extremely unfortunate that Costas didn't take advantage of such a prime opportunity to address the dangers and unacceptability of domestic violence. He had millions of viewers tuned in, a large percentage of which who would likely not otherwise be reached by anti-violence campaigns.
The NFL itself may be an important target area for addressing domestic violence. While many NFL coaches claim to uphold certain standards for their players, ultimately those players are hired who will be the best athletes, not the best role models. 21 of 32 NFL teams, at one point this year, had employed at least one player with a domestic violence or sexual assault charge on his record.
Another problem associated with domestic violence in the NFL, is that while arrest statistics are similar to the general population, conviction rates are significantly smaller. In a 2010 Harvard Law Review article, Bethany Withers wrote that “conviction rates for athletes are astonishingly low compared to the arrest statistics. Though there is evidence that the responsiveness of police and prosecution to sexual assault complaints involving athletes is favorable, there is an off-setting pro-athlete bias on the part of juries.” This is a sort of 'hero phenomenon' in which society is more forgiving of cultural heroes (read: athletes and movie stars).
The Chiefs did hold a moment of silence in honor of victims of domestic violence the game following the murder-suicide. This was a great first step, albeit a somewhat empty one. Players receive 4-game suspensions for taking Aderall, but only 1-game suspensions for connection to domestic violence, and these suspensions are rarely doled out. Only 10 players have received a suspension for domestic violence since 2006. A glass of skewed priorities, anyone?
The NFL raised awareness about breast cancer (for the six people who weren't aware) by wearing pink apparel. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, but twice this will experience domestic violence. Imagine the impact the NFL could have raising awareness about this deadly issue. You can sign a petition to encourage the NFL to wear purple jerseys in awareness of domestic violence here.
Myra Fleischer of The Washington Times wrote a response to this murder-suicide, explaining that domestic violence is not an NFL problem, it is a societal problem. I wholeheartedly agree, but at the same time I adamantly think that subgroups in which violence is pervasive can absolutely benefit from being directly targeted and also I believe that such a publicly renowned institution as the NFL could have an enormous impact on societal attitudes if it were to stand up and say 'enough is enough.' Unfortunately, the NFL and society at large shares many of the attitudes that Fleischer portrays in the remainder of her article (which started out as informative and quickly descended into victim-blaming).
Her solution to domestic violence? "Women must protect themselves and their children from being a victim." She lists a multitude of behaviors that women should inact, both preventative and responsive to domestic violence. Not once does she ever imply that men should maybe, I don't know, not be violent! Every aspect of her article implies that men can't help themselves from becoming violent when a woman initiates a break-up with them, so the woman must take every possible precaution before breaking up with them to avoid them becoming violent. She isn't even addressing this to women who are trying to leave an abusive relationship, she is addressing this to ALL women. Apparently, women must accept that they are at risk of being harmed or killed if they break up with someone, and try to avoid it as best they can.
<Bangs head against desk>
This is so messed up. We should be calling for harsher punishments and stricter enforcement of punishments for perpetrators of domestic violence. We should be educating our youth on healthy relationships behaviors. We should be depicting in the media positive role models for healthy relationships. And above all, we should make very clear that domestic violence is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
The answer is not stricter gun control and the answer is not to force women to go to extreme means to protect themselves. The answer is for society to stop tolerating and end domestic violence.
What do you think (if anything) the NFL should do about this issue?