Domestic violence is an issue near and dear to my heart. I don't address this very painful and personal issue often but members of my immediate family have suffered from domestic abuse. I witnessed it. Decades later, what I witnessed is still too painful to talk about. Yet recent media coverage of high profile incidents have led me to write this post tonight.
Deion and Pilar Sanders have been involved in a very public and nasty divorce over the past year. Deion filed for divorce back in December of 2011. Since then, Deion has seemingly moved on while Pilar has challenged their prenuptial agreement, asked the court to annul their thirteen year marriage, gotten into a couple of physical altercations with Deion and his family members, and after her arrest back in April began claiming she was the victim of domestic violence. The Sanders' court proceedings were recently the lead story on the local news for several weeks.
Several days ago and shortly after another seeming defeat in the ongoing divorce battle against Deion, my former Football Wives cast mate Pilar released an open letter alleging domestic violence and infidelity in her marriage (claims Deion has denied). She also released several pictures of her bloody finger, busted lip and bruises she allegedly sustained in the altercation with Deion that resulted in her arrest.
After spending the night in a Collin County jail, Pilar staged a tearful press conference in which she alleged that she, in fact, was attacked by Deion and that she was merely a victim. I addressed the incident and her allegations in a previous blog post. There is no question there was some sort of altercation and that things had clearly gotten out of control in the Sanders house that afternoon. But what troubled me was Pilar's framing of her abuse claim. In essence, she and her lawyers argued that Deion was most likely the aggressor. Why? Because he played football. Here is the gist of what her attorney said at that press conference:
The only party that had injuries was his client, that his client weighs 120 lbs and that Deion is a big football player who is used to tackling people for a living and that we can draw our own conclusions from that.
Just what conclusion were we to draw? That because Deion was a football player he was the aggressor and Pilar was the innocent victim?!? I'm sorry but suggesting that football players beat their wives is disgusting. It's just not true.
Sure enough, Pilar has reiterated this connection in recent comments in an effort to elicit public sympathy and become the poster child for domestic violence. In an interview with Sister 2 Sister magazine that addresses the "growing pattern of athletes who physically abuse their spouses," Pilar states, "[there is a] very drastic increase of athletes, football players who snap and unfortunately take their lives and other people's lives with them.... It's very, very, very not uncommon when you speak with other NFL wives, football wives, athletes' wives..." I'm not sure what drastic increase in player-related murder suicides she's referring to. I only know of one that happened recently.
While I could CARE LESS about Pilar and her shenanigans, I am deeply bothered by her flippant remarks regarding athletes and domestic violence and specifically her attempt to link NFL players with spousal abuse in an attempt to save face and garner public sympathy. Professional sports are not immune to domestic violence but despite Pilar's contentions, being a pro-athlete does not make one more likely to be aggressive off the field and commit spousal abuse.
There is no shortage of media coverage when a high-profile athlete or celebrity is involved in some sort of domestic abuse incident. From O.J. Simpson and the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson to the more recent tragedy involving the murder of UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love at the hands of her lacrosse playing boyfriend George Huguely, we hear about these situations because they are newsworthy based on the parties involved, not because there is a drastic increase of domestic incidents involving athletes or because athletes are more likely to commit these violent acts. Several studies have been done yet none have conclusively linked participation in sports to a greater propensity to commit domestic violence. These unfortunate and tragic newsworthy tragedies involving professional athletes are merely a reflection of a greater societal problem.
And because Pilar has a public platform, she has a responsibility to get her facts straight.
Here's the reality:
- Every nine seconds a woman in the United States is beaten or abused;
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women;
- Studies suggest that over 10 million children witness domestic violence annually;
- Everyday in the U.S., three women are killed by their husbands/boyfriends;
- Men who as children witnessed their own parents' domestic abuse are twice as likely to abuse their own spouses;
- One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime;
- Women are not the only victims - men are victims of more than 3 millions assaults every year at the hands of their spouses;
- 85% of domestic violence victims are women;
- Women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk for becoming victims of nonfatal domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a societal problem, not one that is unique to professional sports. I visited numerous websites to collect these statistics. There is a statistic that is obviously missing - I didn't find one statistic on any domestic violence awareness website that said athletes are more likely to commit violent acts against women because they play contact sports. There is certainly no conclusive evidence that football players who make a living playing a violent sport are more likely to be abusive to their spouses.
Several recent domestic violence incidents have attracted international attention. Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson battered his reality star wife Evelyn Lozada during an argument shortly after their wedding. Evelyn quickly got a restraining order against Chad and Chad was almost immediately cut from the Miami Dolphins as a result of the incident. He went unsigned for the rest of the football season. More recently, Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher murdered the mother of his infant daughter then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in front of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli at the Chiefs' practice facility. While both incidents are incredibly tragic, the media attention given to them is not indicative of a drastically increasing problem of domestic violence in the NFL. Pilar has compared her situation to the Belcher tragedy on more than one occasion, trying desperately to find some sort of common ground to suggest she was somehow at risk of suffering the same fate at the hands of Deion Sanders. These attempts are pathetic and dishonor the short life of Belcher's victim Kasandra Perkins.
I question just how many NFL wives Pilar has actually spoken to. I have plenty of football wife friends (a lot of them - we were on five teams over the course of seven seasons) and while I can say that I have heard of some spousal abuse issues, these situations appear to be the exception rather than the norm. I understand that domestic violence is the most under-reported crime but trust, we talk to each other. The NFL is a small world...
This blog post is not meant to attack Pilar, but I hope it makes her think before she speaks next time she wants to erroneously link football and domestic violence. Pilar may actually be a true victim of domestic violence, but making unsubstantiated and false claims linking football and violence against women in an attempt to slander and disparage her soon-to-be ex Deion is just wrong. If she's truly concerned about the well-being and best interest of her children as she suggest, I'd suggest she stop releasing pictures of the alleged violence all over the internet (see point above about children who witness their parents' domestic violence). I'm all about using our situations to bring awareness to societal issues, but if one chooses to do so, she should do so responsibly.
And before Team Pilar hops on my blog talking smack and telling me I don't know the whole story, this blog post is based on the information she has publicly released and I am perfectly within my right to draw my own conclusions from it. You don't like it, don't read my blog.