Experts will tell you there is an element of mystery to domestic violence cases. One of those experts is Ruth Glenn, the executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). A domestic violence victim turned advocate, Glenn knows from personal experience what it’s like to be abused, harassed, stalked, and in her harrowing story, kidnapped, shot and left for dead.
She has turned her story into her life’s work. Prior to assuming the position at NCADV, Glenn spent 20+ years as the state director of domestic violence programs for Colorado listening to hundreds of victims share their personal stories. Despite her experience, evidence and all the research, Glenn said there is no conclusive evidence to explain why an abuser turns violent.
No two stories are the same, but they all eventually come back to the same pattern:
Fear and violence.
Power and control.
She knows “the pattern” all too well.
“I will use the example of the unnamed player from the NFL that we saw in the elevator,” she said. “We all saw that. It was right in our face. We had a society that was following the case and was really divided. I challenge us to think, what led up to that? Domestic violence is a pattern. They have closed a lot of information on that case and became very, very quiet, but I’d be willing to bet, there was a pattern of that behavior before we saw that.”
More than two years have passed since the incident but, still, Glenn can’t utter the man’s name. He, is, Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back who charged with third-degree aggravated assault for beating his girlfriend. The criminal charges were later dropped.
“I’m sorry, I just can’t say his name,” she confessed.
Although she refuses to acknowledge Rice by name, Glenn believes the incident is so powerful that in the days and months following the release of the video, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence experienced a spike in calls and emails from victims of domestic violence.
Glenn believes high-profile cases such as the one’s against Rice, should serve as “a catalyst” for discussing domestic violence, but added, “My disappointment in us as a culture and a society is that the conversation eventually dies down.”
The “pattern” of domestic violence that Glenn describes does not necessarily include physical abuse, but is often rooted in psychological control over a person and a relationship. “I talked to an NFL wife a couple years ago, who said she was an arm piece. He never physically hit her, but it was abusive. If you are a victim of domestic violence there are many, many factors that result in victims not coming forward. I think what frustrates me is the lack of understanding of why victims do that.”
If every case is unique and domestic violence is a pattern, then is it possible to see the warning signs? What is the root of domestic violence behavior? Where does it start? Is it learned behavior? Are domestic violence perpetrators responding to something they’ve seen their parent do? Do socioeconomic factors play a role?
“That is the mystery of those that abuse their partner, or spouse, or family member, is that no one has come to any concrete conclusion,” said Glenn. “It circles around a need for control, but when we talk about it we’re not sure how they develop that need to control or power — and why it’s centered on your partner. That’s the mystery of our work. We’re just not sure.”
Since August 2015, when Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association reached agreement on a joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy, three players — Jose Reyes, Hector Olivera and Aroldis Chapman — have been suspended for violating the rules.
Reyes was arrested on domestic assault charges after he allegedly hit his wife during a domestic dispute while the couple was in Maui on vacation. The charges against Reyes were dropped when his wife refused to cooperate with prosecutors. MLB did find Reyes guilty and suspended him for 50 games without pay (an estimated $7 million). In addition, he agreed to give $100,000 to a domestic-violence prevention charity.
Olivera was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and was ordered to serve 10 days in jail. He was originally sentenced to 90 days in jail, but the judge suspended 80 days of the sentence. Olivera has since appealed the conviction on September 20, 2016 and is currently awaiting a jury trial, set for January 23, 2017.
Chapman’s case was dismissed citing “insufficient evidence.” Again, the alleged victim refused to cooperate with law enforcement.
New York Mets pitcher Jeurys Familia was arrested on October 31 after New Jersey police responded to a 9-1-1 call from Familia’s wife. According to the police report, the officer said there was “probable cause to believe that domestic violence had occurred.”
Since the incident, Familia pleaded not guilty and his wife told a judge that she will not assist law-enforcement officials.
The judge dropped the charges against Familia, but it is still likely he will be suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s policy which states: The Commissioner’s Office will investigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving members of the baseball community. The Commissioner will decide on appropriate discipline, with no minimum or maximum penalty under the policy.
Bryan Seeley and a team of investigators for MLB have begun gathering evidence in the Familia case. In recent cases, the league has been criticized by the media for taking too long in announcing a decision on domestic violence cases once the legal proceedings is over. A source at MLB said the goal of each investigation is to ensure accuracy, while being respectful to all the parties involved.
“I have come to learn from watching professional sports organizations that these players are employees,” said Glenn. “The organization (MLB, NFL, NBA) have to do their due diligence in regards to the investigation, and sometimes that means that they have to wait until the criminal case is complete because they don’t have enough information. So, I’ve learned to look at it from the perspective of employee’s rights, an HR function.”
In the meantime, the Mets have cleared Familia to pitch for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League.