by Jenna McDaniel
Fact: In the majority of cases of domestic violence, men are the attackers and women the victims. According to the NCADV (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence), one in five women and one in seven men are victims of severe physical violence during their lifetime. Because women are statistically more often the victims, it is natural to assume that a man was the aggressor in just about any DV case we hear about prior to being informed of the actual details. The problem with this assumption is the little-publicized fact that men are also victims of domestic violence. Broadly portrayed as the weaker sex, women are increasingly more likely to be perpetrators of abuse, as well as victims.
We hear stories about domestic violence through the media, and recently, they have featured prominent cases involving professional athletes. Many of us have read about the NFL running back for the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice, and his two-game suspension. Rice was issued the suspension after being caught by a surveillance camera punching his then-fiancée, Janay Rice, in the face. In a seemingly unlikely role reversal, the goalie for the U.S. women’s soccer team, Hope Solo, was also recently charged with domestic violence. Solo pled not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree domestic violence in an alleged assault of her half-sister and 17 year-old nephew last summer. As she awaits her upcoming trial in November, and despite the charges, she continues to practice with the team as they prepare for the Women’s World Cup.
Professional athletes are role models to younger generations and represent so much more than just a team name. For audiences both within the US and internationally, they are the face of America. With the public’s perception of athletes’ reputations being compromised by illegal acts, it is critical that all athletes be subject to equal punishment for the same transgressions. Although men’s athletics garner more publicity than women’s, both are equally important in shaping a particular image of our society. In Rice’s case, video footage provides direct evidence of his crime; whereas Solo’s case has only a filed police report. Solo is one of the biggest and most marketable stars in women’s sports, and was just recently honored with the captain’s armband in celebration of setting the team’s career record for shutouts. Before this shutout record was set, a spokesman for U.S. soccer, Neil Buethe, told USA Today that she was dealing with a “personal situation,” which downplayed the gravity of the accusations against her.
“At the same time, she has an opportunity to set a significant record that speaks to her hard work and dedication over the years with the national team. While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognize that in the proper way,” said Buethe.
The point here is that professional athletes should face the same consequences for violent behavior, regardless of gender. Sports fans live vicariously through these athletes and their “living the dream” fame as we tune in to bowl games, championships, and World Cup games year after year. Granted, there must be many stresses and pressures that come along with being a professional athlete and public figure. But ultimately, a crime is a crime. Keeping equality and balance throughout each case is essential. Punishments for assault and battery should be the same for everyone, irrespective of the attacker’s gender.