The ongoing interest for -- and coverage of -- the National Football League’s handling of domestic violence shows everything that’s wrong with popular culture.
Discussions about domestic violence really didn’t come to the fore until it ruined the sanctity of a sport, never mind the sanctity of our communities. Even then, we really aren’t having discussions about domestic violence. Instead, the masses are talking about what Roger Goodell and the owners did or didn’t know or do. No one is really talking about the greater issue, the real problem of violence that occurs outside of the NFL.
Beyond the love affair with sports, it may be because your average person thinks that domestic violence (in either the verbal or physical form) won’t happen in their neighborhood or homes. They’re only kidding themselves because chances are it has happened or will happen in one or both of those environments. Domestic violence is more common than most people think. It’s not being only committed by millionaire football players -- it’s also being committed by the Average Joe.
Listen to a police scanner on any given evening or weekend. It seems that the calls for domestic situations are endless. Our officers have to be peacekeepers in homes as much as on the streets. They are called to calm altercations playing themselves out before young children, they have to keep women from verbally abusing their men, and they have to prevent husbands from following through on threats to their wives.
According to data provided by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, all police departments within Niagara County reported 1,673 arrests for domestic violence in 2013. Among them were 1,428 cases of simple assault and 45 sexual offenses against a family member, 33 of which were not the intimate partner.
What makes these numbers even more disturbing is the fact that the total number of arrests represents a 12.5% increase over that from just 4 years ago. We have a declining population, but acts of violence against those who are allegedly loved by the perpetrators is on the rise.
Now mind you, those are just the cases recorded as actual arrests. There were thousands of 911 calls and tips for domestic arguments and other forms of verbal abuse (victims will tell you it is just as painful as hitting). The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office alone responds to 4,000 such calls every year. There were thousands more covered by the city police in Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Lockport. And, remember, most victims and witnesses remain silent; there are tens of thousands of situations that go unreported.
In a bit of morbid irony, the honeymoon capital of the world -- the City of Niagara Falls – far and away leads the all of the county in domestic violence arrests. In the latest copy of the Criminal Justice Services green book, it was reported that through July of this year there were 240 aggravated assaults and 897 simple assaults in the domestic violence category for the Cataract City.
It’s sad. If you’re human, you can’t help but feel for those affected by such monstrosities, especially the kids raised in such unloving homes. The vitality and morality of a society can be measured by the strength of the family unit and how it treats its children. Everything begins and ends with family.
One cannot help but wonder where we as a people are going if we allow such abuses to widely occur or broken homes to fester, because, more often than not, a child raised in such misery repeats the same later in his or her adult life. It’s a never-ending cycle of hate in environments that should create and inspire love and respect.
So, the next time you find yourself blasting the NFL, stop and think about the more important bigger picture. Think about what’s happening in your own community. Count yourself lucky that it’s not a reflection of your life or that of people close to you. Hopefully it’s not; but if it is, ponder – and act upon -- what you, your family and friends can do to change tomorrow and bring violence to an end.
From the 29 September 2014 Greater Niagara Newspapers