Let’s Talk about the NFL just One More Time

Image taken from Chicago Tribune online. Click image for CT article.

Let’s Talk about the NFL just One More Time

An important national discussion about domestic violence and child abuse has been ongoing since accusations against NFL players Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice were first publicized a few weeks ago.  The national dialogue thus far seems productive; individuals and organizations alike are asking the NFL to hold its players accountable for their actions. This call to action suggests that as a culture, there is some meaningful work being done to ensure that violence against women and children is a thing of the past.  Public outrage over these players’ violent actions — and the NFL’s uncommitted response to them — has made conversations about ending domestic violence and child abuse more of a priority.  The recent news coverage of these cases has raised awareness about child abuse and domestic violence, but it has also triggered an entire movement that finds violence against women and children completely socially unacceptable.  If our heroes are condemned for committing violence against others, in theory it would mean that such violent behavior is unacceptable in society at large.

In our office, conversations surrounding the NFL and the Peterson and Rice cases have raised a few questions.  Why did it take the harm of Peterson’s son or Rice’s now-wife to draw national attention to the fact that violent and abusive behavior is, in fact, unacceptable?  How has there been such an apathy toward the violent behaviors of our cultural figures and role models?

We’ve also asked this:  if it takes such public evidence of the violence being inflicted on women and children to begin a conversation about stopping it, what will it take for our country to have a national discussion in which homelessness and the effects of homelessness are deemed unacceptable?

The leap from talking about domestic violence and child abuse to a conversation about homelessness itself is not a far-reaching connection to make.  Victims of domestic violence make up 15% of the individuals who are homeless on any given night in our continuum alone.  Many of these individuals (usually women) are fleeing from abusive partners with their children. They have had to choose homelessness for themselves and their children in the face of a violent and abusive relationship.  The fact that homelessness could be an ultimatum for anyone trying to leave a domestic violence relationship should be unacceptable.

There are also 139 homeless families with dependent children on any given night in our continuum (Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties).  In homeless families, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH), about 83% of homeless children are exposed to at least one serious violent event by age 12.  And children experiencing homelessness have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.

We also know that people who experienced trauma, abuse, and homelessness as children are more vulnerable to homelessness as adults.  NCFH also reported that 63% of homeless mothers experienced severe physical assault by an intimate male partner, with 44% of homeless mothers reporting that they had lived outside their homes at some point during childhood.  For more statistics about family homelessness, take a look at this fact sheet from NCFH.

Violence is often part of the experience of homeless women and children.  The ongoing national conversation about child abuse and domestic violence is an important conversation to have, and it draws attention to the unacceptable pairing of violence and close relationships (of partners, of husband and wife, of child and parent).  But what is not being discussed on a national level is how the effects of this kind of violence often coincide with homelessness.  This is no coincidence; the link between violence and homelessness is strong.

One Roof’s mission is to equip and empower our community to prevent and end homelessness through advocacy, education, and coordination of services.  Educating our community about the inherent violence attached to homelessness and advocating for more conversations about homelessness is just part of how we see change happening — so that no one experiences homelessness.

When will it also become unacceptable that for many women fleeing domestic violence, youth fleeing abuse or neglect, or homeless families, homelessness is sometimes the safer or only option?  When will homelessness as a condition for someone to live in become unacceptable?

Member agencies serving women and children:
First Light
Salvation Army

Member agencies serving women fleeing domestic violence:
SafeHouse of Shelby County
YWCA of Central Alabama

Member agencies serving homeless youth:
Family Connection/Project Hope
Youth Towers

Member agencies serving homeless families & families in crisis:
Family Guidance Center
YWCA Interfaith


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