Sports and Domestic Violence: All Blacks’ Julian Savea Is Latest Athlete To Be Charged

There is no evidence that definitely proves playing sports makes athletes more prone to violence toward women than the rest of the population. But there are some statistics that do highlight some alarming trends involving male athletes.

In 2010, Jeff Benedict, an English professor at Southern Virginia University who has written extensively about athletes and crime, released a thorough examination of arrests for professional and college athletes during a sixth-month span.

There were 125 athletes arrested during that period, including 70 college football players. Domestic violence cases accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total.

These are not even the statistics for the number of women assaulted each year that fall outside of the “domestic” category.

There is one important difference between regular guys who are charged with domestic violence and professional male athletes, at least in the US. Jemele Hill again:

And even if you believe violent crimes committed by athletes aren’t more of an issue than those committed by the general population, there is research that shows the conviction rate for athletes is drastically different.

The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes cites a 1995 study that found that people in the general population accused of assault were convicted 80 percent of the time while athletes facing similar charges were only convicted 38 percent of the time. [...]

It also raises questions about how violence against women is marginalized by the legal system and how some coaches, based on the weak punishments, desensitize athletes to the issue.

There is a reason that male athletes need to speak out against domestic violence, both to combat the desensitization that may be happening within their own ranks and because their platform means that men are paying attention to them when they mess up but also when they do good.

Don McPherson, a former football player and a current social justice activist, recently wrote this about the mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, beginning a program in that city to galvanize men in Dallas to put a stop to domestic abuse:

Men do not just need to stop being violent. The vast majority of men are not violent. But men do need to stop being silent. Calling violence against women, whether street harassment or sexual harassment or rape or murder, a “women’s issue” allows men to ignore it as if we have no responsibility for it or stake in ending it. We all have grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters and female friends and colleagues. Our lives are inextricably interwoven; women’s issues of safety and equality directly affect our lives as men.

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