And then Ray Rice and Roger Goodell had to Ruin the World
By Barry Goldstein
My domestic violence education started when three children told their mother that their father was physically and sexually abusing them. She tried to protect them by filing a petition for custody and a protective order and reporting his abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS). Initially the children were protected. They told the judge, evaluator, law guardian and caseworker what their father did to them, but as often happens in these cases, the professionals assumed the mother encouraged them to lie and threatened to take the children from her unless she stopped.
Before the first visitation could occur, the baby-sitter for the family confronted the father in the presence of the law guardian and he was forced to admit he kissed his daughters on their privates. The law guardian immediately filed a motion to stop the visitation which I supported. The judge consulted the evaluator who said the father used bad judgment but there was no reason to stop the visit. The four-year-old was penetrated during the visit.
I called CPS and made a new report based on the father’s admissions. When the judge found out he yelled and screamed at me saying how dare you complain when they already investigated and found nothing. This time a different caseworker conducted a more thorough investigation and learned the father acted even worse than we realized. They filed charges against the father and he never again was alone with the children.
The caseworker and I were invited to a dinner to celebrate when the mother won custody. The children had gifts for us, but even better were their words. They called us “believers” because we believed them when all the other professionals assumed they were lying.
We would like to believe this is a rare story, but in this country and many others this failure to protect children is all too common. The psychologist was the favorite evaluator of most judges in Westchester County, New York and later said he would always discredit allegations of child sexual abuse. The judge continued to be hostile to abuse complaints. By the time they reach eighteen, 25% of our children have been sexually abused, usually by someone they know, and we continue to fail to take effective action to prevent this. Although false complaints by mothers of child sexual abuse occur less than two percent of the time, in 85% of custody cases where sexual abuse is raised, the alleged abuser wins custody. This means we are sending many children to live with their rapists.
Reaction to Ray Rice and Roger Goodell
The attack on his partner by Ray Rice has probably drawn more media coverage than any domestic violence story since O. J. Simpson. Ray Rice and Roger Goodell have been severely criticized for their actions and in fairness they would be the first ones to agree that their actions were wrong. By all accounts I have heard they both had good reputations and had made many valuable contributions to society before his assault in the Revel elevator. To whatever extent it is fair or not they both will probably be forever remembered for the recent events. Ray Rice’s life from now on will likely be far less enjoyable, profitable or filled with the opportunities he would otherwise receive. And this will be the lead in his obituary. The one positive is that the consequences to him may discourage others from acting similarly. Unless Roger Goodell can use his mistakes as a springboard to take a lead in dramatically reducing domestic violence, his reputation will also be permanently tarnished.
In recent days I have read and heard many people emotionally criticizing Ray Rice and Roger Goodell. I am sure that in the moment they were completely sincere and would like domestic violence to end. It is normal to want to separate ourselves from abusers who commit the most horrific crimes. There is certainly a benefit in terms of discouraging men from abusing their partners to creating meaningful consequences. Accountability and monitoring are the only responses that have been shown to reduce domestic violence. But ultimately, focusing on individuals who acted improperly will not make women and children safe. This is a societal problem and only by creating fundamental reforms can domestic violence be prevented.
A group of women Senators wrote to Commissioner Goodell to convey their concern and seek a change in practices. So did several Representatives on the House Judiciary Committee. Many journalists have weighed in, some with admirable eloquence complaining about how this case was mishandled. Ordinary citizens have expressed how upset they are with what they saw on the video and the inadequate response from the NFL and the prosecutors. I appreciate their interest in a topic I care deeply about, but these expressions will not change our culture. However,together we have the ability to create the needed change.
I am well known in the domestic violence and protective mother community because I have written some of the leading books and articles on this topic. As a result, every day I hear more horrific stories not only about unspeakable abuse, but the inadequate and often counterproductive response of police, prosecutors, evaluators, judges and caseworkers who continue to place women and children in danger while encouraging abusers in their sense of entitlement. Complaints routinely elicit defensive responses. I hear how upset people are to see Ray Rice punch Janay Palmer in the face. I wonder what their response would be if they learned about five new stories every day. I know my reaction. I hate these stories with a passion and just want them to stop.
Domestic Violence Is Not Inevitable
I find this especially difficult because we know how to prevent most domestic violence crimes. I have done the research and seen how communities have developed a group of best practices that take domestic violence seriously. The result has been a dramatic reduction in domestic violence. In Quincy which originated these practices, a county that averaged 5 to 6 domestic violence homicides every year, they enjoyed several years with no murders. Cities like Nashville and San Diego also enjoyed great success with similar practices. This is why I had to write a book about the Quincy Solution so that we can implement these good practices and make our homes safe for women and children.
I would gladly spend substantial resources to prevent domestic violence because of the impact these painful stories have had on me. I realize this issue means much more to me than the average person and particularly public officials. But then I learned about medical research that demonstrates we are spending $750 billion every year on health costs because of our tolerance of domestic violence. Conservatively, implementation of the Quincy Model would save $500 billion every year. In other words there is no excuse to continue to tolerate domestic violence.
Roger Goodell, here is your chance to make this whole painful experience a benefit to our nation. The NFL could help the NCADV and Stop Abuse Campaign fund the campaign for the Quincy Solution. You can use the platform the NFL has to bring attention to our ability to prevent domestic violence and perhaps create public service announcements to inform the public of our ability to make women and children safe. The Senators and Representatives can pass legislation providing grants and other support for communities that want to use the Quincy Solution to stop domestic violence. Journalists can cover the story and make the public aware that ending domestic violence saves lives and money. People who wanted to express outrage at the assault can help prevent future assaults by becoming part of the campaign. There is so much we can accomplish as believers.