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Will Baseball Get Domestic Violence Right?

Will the MLB’s response include accountability and monitoring?

By Barry Goldstein

In the wake of the NFL’s repeated fumbles with their response to the abuse cases of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and too many others, major league baseball is working with the players to do better. Working on this issue when there is no controversial case pending is a particularly good idea. Baseball also has the advantage of leadership that includes Joe Torre who is a hero not just to baseball fans but to domestic violence advocates and survivors, based on his long involvement in working to end domestic violence.

Domestic violence involves a specialized body of knowledge, and many aspects are counter-intuitive. Court, government, professions and many other entities have gone catastrophically wrong by trying to respond to this difficult problem without genuine expertise. This was one of the lessons that the NFL belatedly learned. There was virtually no research available when domestic violence first became a public issue, and a popular assumption was that it was caused by mental illness or substance abuse. This led to widespread responses relying on mental health professionals and therapy. The research now clearly proves that men abuse women based on a belief system that they should control their partners and make the major decisions in the relationship and sense of entitlement. Domestic violence tactics, physical and otherwise, are used to enforce this entitlement.

The Quincy Solution has demonstrated that domestic violence is not inevitable and that responses based on accountability and monitoring can dramatically reduce domestic violence crime. This proved successful in communities like Quincy, Nashville and San Diego. In Quincy, a community that averaged 5 to 6 homicides a year, they enjoyed several years with no murders while the plan was in place. The Quincy Solution requires strict enforcement of criminal laws, orders of protection and probation requirements, together with practices making it easier for victims to leave, a coordinated community response, and use of current research and technologies like GPS. In Quincy, some victims stopped cooperating with the prosecutor when their abuser sought custody of their children. Accordingly the custody courts must be part of the solution, and we do that through the Safe Child Act. This bill requires that the health and safety of children must be the first priority in all custody and visitation decisions. This prevents abusers from using the custody courts to regain control over their victims and undermine domestic violence laws.

If Major League Baseball consults with experts and follows current research, they will create a response to domestic violence that is based on accountability and monitoring, which are proven to work, rather than a therapeutic model. Not only do therapeutic models not work, but they are dangerous because they create the illusion of doing something effective. When there are credible charges based on an arrest, criminal charges or other evidence, the player should be put on paid leave. Domestic violence is a very underreported crime, and as we saw in the Ray Rice case, arrangements are often negotiated that do not include a conviction or admission. Based on our belief of innocent until proven guilty, we require a high standard of proof before someone’s liberty can be taken away. This safeguard does not and should not apply to civil issues. Accordingly, if it is proven by a preponderance of the evidence that a player committed domestic violence, Major League Baseball should impose a level of penalties similar to what the NFL ultimately came up with. Severe injuries, deception, involvement of a child and attempts to silence a witness or victim should result in increased penalties.

The most likely way for players to stop abusing their partners is for them to incur a serious penalty or see this happen to other players. All players can be provided with training and information about domestic violence as the NFL is doing. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) research demonstrates that children exposed to domestic violence and child abuse will live shorter lives and suffer more illnesses and injuries. This is the kind of information that might persuade men to avoid committing abuse. Players who are suspended for domestic violence offenses should be required to attend something equivalent to a batterer program based on an accountability model. They will receive good information, but more importantly it is an opportunity to monitor whether they are serious about complying with the order.

The best response to domestic violence is to prevent it from starting. By the time the league responds to a domestic violence assault, an abuser has caused serious damage that may never be overcome. The Quincy Solution is the most effective way to dramatically reduce domestic violence crime. Accordingly, I hope that as part of their response, Major League Baseball uses their platform and their resources to promote the Quincy Solution, making women and children safe in their homes, and reducing domestic violence crime from all men, including baseball players.



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