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Does the Biggest Football Game of the Year Really Coincide With Increased Domestic Violence?

A few decades ago, an alarming statistic started making its rounds with the national media. According to a Boston Globe reporter at the time, the biggest Sunday matchup of the NFL season was also the most dangerous day for women in abusive relationships. Due to factors like the on-screen violence happening in the game, the consumption of alcohol, and other factors like lost bets or anger at the game’s results, abusive male partners watching the game were said to be prone to violent behavior towards their partners.

The Reports

It was widely reported in the 1990s that women’s shelters and domestic abuse hotlines received a major influx of contact on the day of the Big Game. At a 1993 news conference in Pasadena, California — the site of the Big NFL Game that was soon to be played — Sheila Kuehl of the California Women’s Law Center cited a study from Virginia’s Old Dominion University, highlighting that it found a 40 percent increase in police-reported beatings and hospital admissions in northern Virginia after the Redskins’ victories during the 1988-89 season.

The Public Debate

Snopes and other prominent fact-checkers were quick to label these reports as false, but that’s only because the official numbers on this subject fail to tell the whole story. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, most domestic violence cases are never reported to the police:

“Only approximately one-quarter of all physical assaults, one-fifth of all rapes, and one-half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.”1

And according to the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, there are many reasons why domestic abuse is chronically underreported in America:

“The reasons so many cases go unreported are both personal (embarrassment, fear of retaliation, economic dependency) and societal (imbalanced power relations for men and women in society, privacy of the family, victim blaming attitudes).”2

With all of that being said, the NFL Championship is a day when intense emotion, binge drinking, and problem gambling are all considerably more prominent across the entire nation — and those factors have a correlation with domestic violence, as shown in this infographic:

Infographic showing the correlation between problem gambling and domestic violence

So, while it’s clear that available data only shows a minor spike in domestic violence incidents on the day of the Big Game, it’s also clear that this is a chronically underreported crime, and the reasons people have for not reporting — embarrassment, fear of retaliation, privacy — are magnified on a day when the entire nation comes together to binge drink, gamble, and yell at the TV in a party setting.

The NFL’s Efforts to Spread Awareness & Help Victims

Take a look at this powerful-but-gut-wrenching commercial that aired during SB49:

This commercial, among many others that aired during high-stakes matchups, was sponsored by the NFL and a group dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault called NO MORE.

Do you know someone who struggles with a gambling or alcohol problem (sometimes referred to as an “addiction”) in Camden, Trenton, or anywhere else in the Garden State? Call or text 800-GAMBLER today for help finding gamblers anonymous meetings near AC or in their city — support, treatment, and hope are just a phone call away.

 

 

  1. https://roadside.org/sites/default/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet%28National%29.pdf
  2. https://jech.bmj.com/content/58/7/536#ref-6

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