Well, we already have our first test of the new NFL policy on domestic violence. Just read that one of the SF 49ers was arrested last night for domestic violence. Now we are going to see where the rubber meets the road. We are about to see how the NFL applies their new rules, in reality.
After the uproar over the very light response to domestic violence in the past, The NFL announced a new policy: first offense, suspended without pay for 6 weeks; second offense banned for life. But, there was also included in their statement that they would let law enforcement and the courts take action. That leaves room for great ambiguity since we know that most arrests do not result in a legal finding. Cases are dismissed for a variety of reasons: the victim no longer cooperates with prosecuting the case (in up to 75% of cases), or the prosecution decides not to go forward.
Victims become uncooperative with the prosecution of cases for myriad reasons: she loves him and doesn’t want him to get in trouble; he may have threatened her of worse consequences if she proceeds; she may fear loss of income; she may fear loss of her children in family court; as time has passed since the arrest, she may have minimized or be in denial about the seriousness of the abuse.
I am pleased to see the NFL taking domestic violence seriously. And, I have concerns about what standard they will use to determine if a player should experience the consequences. If they only use the standard of whether a case is prosecuted, they will miss the boat. Certainly, there has to be some standard so a player is not falsely accused. But, contrary to popular opinion, only about 2% of domestic violence claims are determined to be false reports, the same percentage as any other type of crime. Making false claims is just not prevalent. Yet, I expect to see that issue being asserted as the seriousness of the consequences becomes a reality. We will likely very quickly see victim recantation of claims as cases come through the system. You can expect to read that a victim of domestic violence has come forward and said she exaggerated the claim or made it up. This is a very common response of victims. It does NOT mean it didn’t happen. In CA, a case can be prosecuted even if the victim recanted. They can use police reports, witness statements, pictures of injuries, or 911 calls as evidence against the abuser.
Domestic violence cases are most always complicated. But, the application of common sense goes a long way. The video of the player dragging his girlfriend (now wife) out of the elevator speaks for itself. The fact that in spite of that incident, she married him, also speaks to the complications of domestic violence cases.
So, hooray for the NFL stepping up about domestic violence. And I hope their implementation of the consequences uses some reality-based guidelines so that the consequences will actually be imposed.