Domestic violence not restricted to sports

Reflections on Life
By Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD
“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Of spurious origin, that old dictum has been interpreted in various ways. One common understanding is that people should not criticize in others some fault that they see in themselves. Another is that people who are in a vulnerable, fragile situation should not engage in destructive actions.
In any case, the axiom’s relevance is not lost on news analysts, reporters, NOW (the National Organization for Women) and people at large who are up in arms about spousal violence in the National Football League. For days the talk of the nation, virtually everyone is hot and bothered over the antics of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald and others.
But, while 69 percent of Americans think that the NFL has a widespread epidemic of domestic violence problems, official arrest numbers for domestic violence by NFL players are less than half the arrest numbers for the general population. This ignorance amid the public of the facts of domestic violence is part of the problem. The media and the public blithely mouth clichés about the NFL’s being a major expression of America’s culture of violence, and yet the public at large is guilty of even more violence. Oh, those glass houses!
No one doubts that our ambient culture of violence is the main stage on which acts of violence take place. Yet, the individual elements that spark violence are usually an unruly will to control another, a tit-for-tat attempt at revenge for something said or done, anger at another’s opinions or attitude that conflicts badly with one’s own way of thinking. Some folks simply refuse to be content with agreeing to disagree about anything.
After a slap on Ray Rice’s wrist that created severe backlash, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell got tough, declaring a new policy of a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. Subsequently, the Baltimore Ravens summarily released Rice. But should professional sports have a violence code that does not reflect the status of the general population and of organizations like law enforcement in particular?
Something is grossly wrong with all these maneuvers. If police officers, who are much more frequent domestic violence offenders than professional athletes are, are not fired and often not even taken to task for spousal abuse, why are athletes being cut off from their livelihood?
Plastered all over TV news, dozens of actors, actresses, vocalists and sundry entertainers are shown in mind-blowing episodes of fury and violence. Why are they not punished by the same fickle public who self-righteously want to punish athletes?
Now don’t get me wrong, folks! Some kind, some measure of effective punishment should be meted out to both amateur and professional athletes who engage in spousal abuse. However, the waters and solutions are left murky by the prevalence of domestic violence in the general population at a rate more than twice as frequent as in sports.
High-profile people such as superstar entertainers, actors and professional athletes definitely live in glass houses. However, so does an even higher percentage of the clueless people at large, since their percentage of spousal abuse is more than two times higher than the percentage in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the world of entertainment.
It may come as a shock to learn that domestic violence is highest among members of police families. On a heavily-footnoted information sheet, the National Center for Women and Policing notes, “Two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10 percent of families in the general population.” Even a study among older and more experienced officers still registered a 24 percent higher incidence than among the general population.
To make matters worse, cases of domestic violence by police officers are regularly swept under the rug because of wayward, lawless influences like blind solidarity among police officers and uninformed, unethical politics of civil authorities and even judges.
In pure irony, the very group of law enforcement people to whom battered women must run for refuge and help are trained fighters and killers plagued by a high incidence of domestic violence in their own families. On a similar note, military-trained fighters and killers have a very similar rate of incidence of spousal violence in military families.
In our search for gentleness and peace, we should follow the Man himself depicted in Isaiah 42:3, “Here is my Servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.  Upon him I have put my spirit… He will not cry out, nor shout… A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice.”
For sure, people who live in glass houses should keep their clothes on. “God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.”   (1 John 4:16)
(Father Jerome LeDoux, SVD, is pastor of Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written “Reflections on Life since 1969.)
(Editor’s note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.)