The claim that domestic violence is at its peak on Super Bowl Sunday has been repeated so often that it’s widely accepted as fact. It certainly jives nicely with popular ideas about the ways in which alcohol, stress, male bonding, loyalties, gambling, and sports contribute to violent behavior. But as it turns out, it’s false. Risky behaviors such as drinking and gambling may contribute to an increase in fights, depression onset, and suicidal ideation, but violence against women remains largely unchanged on the day of the most-watched sporting event of the year.
The everyday statistics on domestic violence are disheartening enough. A woman is abused every nine seconds. Three women in the United States are murdered by husbands or boyfriends every day, and about one in three report experiencing some form of domestic violence. There’s no need to manufacture panic when the statistics are this bad. Many people overhear or witness domestic violence among neighbors or suspect their friends are in abusive relationships, and the false statistic about Super Bowl Sunday provides a great opportunity to remind people of what to do when the reality of domestic violence affects those they love.
If You Hear or Witness Something
Domestic violence can be enraging. But don’t rush to intervene, no matter how many guns you have or how many self-defense classes you’ve taken. This can escalate the situation, and perhaps even get you injured or killed. Don’t ignore the situation, either, or reason that it must be a private matter. If you’re mistaken about the abuse, the police can sort it out later. If there’s abuse going on and you ignore it, the victim could lose her (or his) only chance to get help. Call the police and, if possible, do so discreetly. Batterers sometimes escalate or leave if they know the police are coming. Instead, get information about the location of the incident and call the police from around a corner, behind a door, or some other secure area.
If You Suspect It’s Happening
Knowing a friend is being abused can be gut-wrenching, but many people are unsure of what they should do. Your first and most important duty is to provide support to your friend. Express concern, but don’t judge. Victims of domestic violence are often isolated from their friends, who are needed more than ever. Be willing to respect your friend’s wishes, but encourage the person to get help and let her (or him) know that you’ll support the decision if help is, in fact, sought.
While it might seem like a good idea to let your friend stay at your place if she (or he) decides to leave, this can be a dangerous strategy if the abuser knows where you live. Instead, offer to help find a safe place such as a hotel or battered women’s shelter, and go along. Abusers are significantly more likely to kill after their victims leave, so it’s important that your friend is somewhere safe and, ideally, unknown to the abuser.
If you know children are involved in a domestic violence situation, consider reporting the abuse to a teacher or other mandatory reporter. The most important thing you can do, however, is to give children a safe place to be and a friendly ear. Don’t judge their parents or try to confront them. Children love even abusive parents, and instead simply need to know that there’s an adult they can trust and rely on.
For more help dealing with domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
- Domestic violence and the Super Bowl: If, when, and how to engage. (2011, February 2). Futures Without Violence. Retrieved from http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/content/news/detail/1661
- Domestic violence statistics. (n.d.). Domestic Violence Statistics. Retrieved from http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/
- If you suspect abuse. (n.d.). University of Michigan Abuse Hurts. Retrieved from http://hr.umich.edu/stopabuse/colleagues/detect.html
- Super Bowl legends explored and exposed. (n.d.). PolitiFact Rhode Island. Retrieved from http://www.politifact.com/rhode-island/article/2012/feb/05/super-bowl-legends-explored-and-exposed/
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