Over this past weekend, as millions of Americans gathered in their living rooms to watch the first round of games of this season's NFL playoffs, the organization No More continued to grab the national spotlight.
During the games, the organization ran another round of their ads featuring high profile celebrities and athletes, in this case former and current NFL players, saying "no more" to various excuses used to dismiss domestic violence and sexual assault cases. The stone-faced players asked for no more "She was asking for it," no more "What was she wearing?" and no more "Why didn't she tell anyone?" to name a few.
Over the past couple years No More has run similar ads, previously using television and movie celebrities reading many of the same lines. In fall of 2014, No More turned their attention to professional football players, first running the "Speechless" ads showing the players getting choked up, some teary eyed and unable to talk. According to No More's website, these were unscripted emotional moments of players actually working to gather themselves while filming the "No More" series.
These ads come in the wake of two high profile domestic violence incidents involving NFL players from last year: video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancé in an elevator, and news of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson beating his son with a tree branch.
At the very least, there is some good that has come out of these domestic violence incidents: they continue to draw attention to the issue. Late last month, the Associated Press selected domestic violence and the NFL collectively as the sports story of the year. The combination of the media attention these incidents have received and No More's ads is, as No More intends, opening the door for continued conversation on domestic violence.
The line I was most pleased to see included in the NFL ads was the plea for no more "Why doesn't she just leave?" I have been working for a long time to both answer this question and dispel incorrect answers to it. When I first wrote about the Rice incident back in September, I discussed how media coverage of domestic violence too often places an unfair burden on the woman for her involvement. I mentioned how too many people focused on the actions of Rice's now wife, Janay, arguing she held some of the blame for her situation by provoking Ray and also still marrying him after the incident.
"Why doesn't she just leave?" or "Why does she stay?" are questions indicative of an American public that does not understand all the variables included in an abusive household or relationship. In my book, Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom (Volcano Press), I explain the different ways an abuser will make their partner feel trapped, most notably through economic abuse:
Abusers frequently tell their victims that they are not employable, while at the same time creating financial dependency. Communicating fictitious worthlessness is done verbally ... and by physical beatings and threats. Financial dependence, combined with verbal and physical abuse when repeated over a course of years, takes away the victim's power to terminate the relationship. (113)
While the general public is still generally uneducated on the phenomenon of economic abuse and other elements that keep women in abusive relationships, it's promising to see a group like No More working to debunk the myth that women are willingly making choices to stay. Domestic violence is, at its core, a manipulation of power that can often makes the abused feel hopeless and unable to change their situation.
The next step is action. As groups like No More continue to break down the stigma of discussing domestic violence publicly, we need no make sure we move beyond that into empowering women so they are able to find other options.
That's why I founded Second Chance, a non-profit organization that offers guidance and resources to women trying to become financially independent and break the shackles of their abusive partners. We work to cater to all needs -- including resume writing, interview skills, and job placement -- to create a real choice for abused women to take control of their lives.