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The Interplay Between Domestic Violence and Sports Organizations Continues to Spark Awareness and Generate Conversations

October 25, 2019

The conversation sparked by Sports Illustrated about the Houston Astros assistant general manager and women reporters demonstrates the continued need for our work to ensure safety and equity in all walks of life. We’ve come a long way since the 1977 World Series, when women sports reporters sued Major League Baseball for routine exclusion and being denied access for interviews.

“Women working in industries and on job sites designed by and for men, particularly in the world of sports, do so in the face of everything from overt harassment to exclusionary practices,” said Latifa Lyles, Vice President for External Relations at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and expert on women and work. “The backlash that can occur in these sometimes hostile strongholds is compounded when women use their hard-won positions as a voice for issues that impact women.”

We are grateful to the reporters and journalists who cover domestic violence and tell difficult stories with the nuance and empathy they deserve. Reporters who have been willing to ask tough questions and shed light on domestic violence have helped shift the narrative of shame and silence, often facing pressure and repercussions as a result. Reporting and storytelling in any form are some of the keys to societal change and more safe spaces for survivors to tell their stories.

“Too often, when women speak up about domestic violence, whether it’s their own experience or as a societal issue, denial and aggression are common reactions,” said Cindy Southworth, Executive Vice President and Interim CEO at NNEDV. “Survivors of domestic violence – and their advocates and allies – have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Ending domestic violence does not follow a straight line from raising awareness to reduced violence. In fact, increased awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, through increased media attention or new policies that support survivors, typically leads to a corresponding increase in reports of abuse. As survivors realize what has happened to them is a crime or that they can seek support and assistance, they are more likely to come forward. For example, media stories about domestic violence often lead to spikes in calls at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Increased awareness is the first step, and must be followed by a concerted effort to work with organizations, leaders, and community members to address the underlying cultural and systemic injustices that allow abuse to persist.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) policy addressing domestic violence is a leading example of what’s possible when an organization commits to holding itself accountable and demanding better for survivors. But it takes more than policies to achieve social and cultural change. NNEDV is hopeful that MLB’s partnership and leadership, along with more writers and public voices telling the stories, will move us closer to the change we want to see. NNEDV is proud to work alongside its many partners in our movement, including pioneering journalists who report on domestic violence and private sector leaders like MLB, toward equity and safety.