NFL Athletes Abusing Women

NFL players and other professional athletes have recently been called to task over violence in their relationships.  Violence directed at women isn’t new nor is it limited to professional sports. It can be found in all walks of life and in relationships throughout the United States…including marriage and dating relationships in Salt Lake City, Utah.

By now you’re likely all too aware of Ray Rice’s assault caught on camera of his then girlfriend in an elevator where he punched her and knocked her out.  A article authored by Ken Belson stated that the video shows the former Baltimore Ravens running back punching his fiancee’, now wife, in the face, leaving her motionless on the floor of a hotel elevator in Atlantic City this past February. He then dragged her unconscious body from the elevator.  Initially charged with a felony, the charges were dropped when she declined to press charges.  The league’s response of just a two game suspension was roundly criticized as too lenient particularly when compared to suspensions handed down for performance enhancing substances.  When new video surfaced recently that showed the entire attack, the Raven’s cut Mr. Rice and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.  The league is now reviewing its policies  and implementing tougher penalties for such violent behaviors.  Will this help? Would adding counseling to address the deeper issues underpinning domestic violence help? Only time will tell.

Unfortunately, intimate partner violence (IPV) isn’t new…nor is it likely to just “go away.” We live in a culture that has long seen women as subservient to men and thus open to abuse, discrimination, and violence.  For example, Women’s History Expert, Jone Johnson Lewis has stated that  “…there can be no doubt that wife-beating was once common and, in most legal circles, acceptable if it didn’t ‘go too far’…but that doesn’t make domestic violence, past and present, mythical. Nor is it a myth that culture has tolerated such violence. Domestic violence was, and is, very real.”

Just how common is violence towards women? According to, one in four woman will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Sadly, the following is also true:

  • Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.
  • Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men
  • Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
  • Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

Violence either witnessed or directed at children is also appallingly effective at damaging their fragile lives.  I’ve blogged on this previously stating that “Children growing up in a home where DV is prevalent are at risk in many areas.  For example, often the DV perpetrator lives two separate lives. That is, he will be abusive verbally and physically at home while maintaining the appearance of amazing decorum and stature at his job as government leader, church leader, business owner, etc.  The children are often told by those that know their father or step-father in the community what a “wonderful man” he is.  This can lead to dichotomous thinking where children ask themselves whether they are the ones who are messed up since he abuses them but apparently is well liked and admired elsewhere.  Essentially, ‘what is wrong with me/us?”  Please follow this link for more key information

While high profile athletes such as Mr. Rice or former NBA star Jason Kidd get mega media attention, the sad fact is that many cases go unreported and families don’t receive the support that they so desperately need. As a domestic violence (DV) treatment provider and counselor in the state of Utah, we see primarily victims of DV. Many have experienced multiple traumatic experiences and for many years.  Some experienced the abuse as children, and are impeded in their progress as adults by these violent events in their past.  Effective treatment is multifaceted in individual or group settings. It includes dealing with past events that often includes treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Please also know that the prevalence of DV crosses most cultural and economic boundaries and is found in all Utah communities, including those in the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys. DV includes physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and economic abuse.  The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition ( defines DV as the following:”

“We define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”

While physical abuse is horrible, it is often the emotional and verbal abuse that does the most long term damage.  Being told that “you’re worthless”, “hideously ugly” or “stupid” repeatedly leaves deep emotional scars.  Other demeaning comments made by DV men to their wife or partner include:

* “If I were to leave you, no one else would ever want you”

* “You’re lucky to have me around”

* “You’re a horrible cook and the house is always a mess!”

*  “You’re so (fill in the blank), e.g., slow, terrible at parenting, stupid, fat”

Additionally, DV men that seethe, rage or tower over their spouses in a very controlling manner often produce extreme fear in both their wife and children.  Thus, even though he may not be a classic batterer and striking their wife, they direct incredibly frightening emotions and fear upon her.  Unfortunately, this is all too common of a circumstance.

Please know that should you or someone you know be a victim of DV, or a recovering survivor of such terrible circumstances, help is available in the local Salt Lake City or Tooele area support and counseling community.  Reaching out to local treatment facilities, shelters, or visiting the Utah Domestic Violence Coalitions web site is very important.  Our treatment staff primarily see victims and are available for consultation and to provide counseling. Please follow this link to contact us.  The oft used statement of “There is No Excuse for Abuse” is no more correct than in today’s world…even when directed at professional athletes, the blue collar worker, and the local business professional or church leader.

Michael Boman, LCSW, is a relationship and marriage expert. He is the clinical director for England Counseling Services and LifeSTAR Oquirrh. He blogs and writes often regarding critical issues in the community.  Should you wish to contact Michael or have him speak to your church, community, or school group or function, please reach out to him at [email protected] 










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