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NFL Should Take Action and Facilitate Change
December 11, 2012
NFL Should Take Action and Facilitate Change

JF&CS Journey to Safety's mission is to prevent domestic abuse in the Jewish community, while helping those who have been abused find a way to safety, regardless of their background or beliefs. We offer culturally competent, religiously sensitive services to survivors of domestic abuse, with specialized services for the Jewish and Russian-speaking communities.

Posted by Elizabeth Schön Vainer

purple ribbonThe intimate partner homicide-suicide involving Kansas City Chief’s linebacker Jovan Belcher is a tragedy. Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his three-month-old daughter and then committed suicide in front of his coach and team.

These are some of the questions the media has raised: 

  • Was Belcher suffering from traumatic brain injuries as a result of concussions?
  • Was the accessibility of a gun in the home a factor?
  • Did Jovan fit the “abuser” profile often seen in domestic violence relationships?
  • Did Jovan’s demographic as a young professional African American male athlete contribute to his perception that he was entitled and immune to cultural norms as they relate to womanizing and accountability?

There is not enough information to know what led to this tragedy and why Belcher acted violently and selfishly. We do know Belcher had a history of violent behavior.

Belcher’s homicide-suicide altered many people’s lives and left others traumatized. Even more profound are the friends, teammates, and Chiefs’ staff who are faced with the question, “Could we have done more to support Jovan and his girlfriend?”

It is reported that the Chiefs had previously counseled the couple after recognizing the turmoil in the relationship. Like Belcher’s friends and teammates, each of us has the potential to be a bystander to domestic violence. We must know what to do to intervene: become educated and share in the belief that it’s never appropriate for one person to control another physically, emotionally, sexually, or psychologically. Affirming the abuse with the victim and holding the abuser accountable are critical to eliminating domestic violence.

While ending domestic violence is complex, this tragedy presents a transformative opportunity. The NFL should take action by promoting the importance of respect and equality in relationships. Futures Without Violence, an organization that trains professionals such as doctors, nurses, athletic coaches, and judges on improving responses to violence and abuse, states that “a winning football team requires force, aggressiveness, and at times, intimidation.” Unfortunately, none of those behaviors translate well to real life. As reported in Slate.com, “21 of 32 NFL teams have had at least one player charged with domestic violence or sexual assault.” San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has taken a stand that violence against women is unacceptable. “If you put your hand on a woman, then you’re done,” said a current 49er. Other coaches should follow by example.

JF&CS stands with survivors of domestic violence in urging the NFL to seize this opportunity and demonstrate leadership to promote change. There are national and local resources ready to assist. The NFL is doing right by Zoey, the orphaned daughter of Belcher and Perkins, by making sure she is provided for financially. Zoey deserves to know that her mother did not die in vain.

elizabeth schon vainerElizabeth Schön Vainer is the program director of Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse. Elizabeth is pleased to bring her many years of experience collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to investigate child and domestic abuse to Journey to Safety and JF&CS. She believes that only through collaborative efforts can we truly serve our clients. Elizabeth has a BSW from the University of Tel Aviv and a MS in Organization and Management from Antioch University.

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