Dear NFL Player:
"I would never treat my wife like that."
Is that a sentence you hear yourself or your fellow teammates saying?
But not good enough. Just like when a woman says, "I would never stay in a relationship like that," the real truth is: actually, you could. Because that's how domestic violence works. A cycle of abuse that slowly grows until both abuser and victim tolerate behavior once unimaginable, domestic violence manifests itself in many subtle ways before it comes to knock-out punches caught on elevator security cameras.
Financial abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, social control and isolation - these are all weapons in an abuser's arsenal, often unleashed well before either party realizes something may be wrong in the relationship. And by then it's already too late. The abuser's sense of entitlement and control is too alluring, it's brainwashing effect on the victim too powerful.
While researching the abuser's mindset in my writing of SHE CAN FLY, I came across Lundy Bancroft's WHY DOES HE DO THAT? The answers to that titular question horrified me. Not only because of how downright insidious the tactics of abusers could be, but also because of how close to home some of the more nuanced mindsets hit. I'd seen flashes of these beliefs in my own relationships with women, including the woman I was with at the time, the woman I intended to marry. I couldn't risk allowing an unhealthy pattern to begin. I immediately sought preventative counseling and am happy to say that I maintain a very healthy relationship with my fiancée.
But it's horrifying to know that the behaviors passed down by former generations and the very images we see on TV every day set many men up to think they have the right to control their spouse, even to the point of physical violence. Still, the examples set by our peers are the strongest point of reference for what's tolerable and what's not. I applaud the NFL for taking action that very clearly says, Ray Rice is not a man to be looked up to, or even over at. He is a man to be looked down upon. As is any man who abuses his partner by any means.
It's not okay.
It's not okay to do. And it's not okay to let slide. Take every chance you can to break the cycle. That is why I am offering a free copy of SHE CAN FLY to any NFL player who requests one. Simply get in touch with us HERE and we'll send you a paperback. It's a heartbreaking story of what happens when the abuse cycle is allowed to perpetuate, about how absolutely devastating it can be to a victim's life. It's a story that doesn't need to be repeated. Unless it's being shared. And I'd like to share it with you.
Michael G. Gabel