Who needs statistics when we’ve got reality.

While many of my friends spent our junior year abroad in exotic places like Florence, Tanzania, Nepal, Paris and Argentina, I opted for the wilds of St. Louis, MO.

My main gig was volunteering at a domestic violence agency where I researched and wrote the organization’s history, taught dating violence prevention in local schools and worked on the 24-hour crisis hotline. And in order to do this terrifying and terribly important hotline work, I went through an intense and long training program.

  • I learned why women stay in abusive relationships when it seems so obvious to the rest of us that they should leave.
  • I learned that violence is a vicious cycle.
  • And, I learned a number of statistics.

Most of theses numbers have stuck in my brain like gnarly, nasty pieces of chewed gum stuck under the lunch table – ugly to look at, hard to touch, easy to pretend they aren’t there. One of the stats goes like this: The day with the highest rate of domestic violence in the U.S. is Super Bowl Sunday.

Colts vs. Saints

Two days ago, as I sat at my computer working and occasionally watching the Facebook and Twitter streams of Super Bowl brouhaha pass me by, I found it hard to ignore this stuck-in-my-head statistic. I felt rising panic at what was likely going on as the Colts looked good…and then really bad, as the alcohol was consumed, as the chips ran out, as the bets were lost.

So, I put up a tweet and a FB status update telling people about the stat and offering up the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

What happened next utterly, totally and completely floored me.

Some women, women, came after me. They said the stat was bogus. One said, and I quote: “That is an unfounded myth propogated by the media and womens activist groups. Set the record straight.” (spelling/grammar errors are listed verbatim)

Can you imagine? Women-centric activist groups having the nerve to tell the world that on a day when alcohol, tension and the chance for losing large sums of money are high, there is a greater incidence of domestic violence? The horror. Don’t get me started on the idea that these groups have been lumped in with ‘the media’.

I’ve since learned there are many sides to the validity of the actual stat.

This comment also included the following quote, “On January 31, 1993, when Ken Ringle of The Washington Post questioned the information mentioned in the press release, other news media quickly retracted their articles covering the domestic violence story. The damage was done. The myth continues and Super Bowl Sunday is still sometimes referred to as Bloody Sunday, Abuse Bowl, a Day of Dread, and the Most Dangerous Day in America.”

The damage was done. Yes. Citizens of this country were once again made to look at the fact that women and children are beaten in their own homes every single day by the people who are supposed to love and cherish them. And how dare we disrupt Super Bowl Sunday with this blasphemy! Oh holy, holy day!

My question is, who cares about the validity of this stat? IS THIS WHAT WE SHOULD BE WASTING OUR BREATH ARGUING ABOUT? Domestic Violence is true, real, happening  – right now. And what made these women flare up against me and my status update about this? It confounds me!!! For heaven’s sake, use your breath to help someone, not squabble over what Snopes says!

And how can we believe that information from Ken Ringle up above. Hello? How many lies are we fed every day by industries with ulterior motives!?! I mean, do you really think Cheerios will save you from getting heart disease? PLEASE!!! The fight against the Super Bowl stat is based in the fact that it is a huge day for advertisers and TV: ‘Don’t fuck it up for us with your downer information, thank you’ is, I believe, their message.

My mom

My mother, bless her, has spent roughly 20 years of her life tirelessly working to bring awareness to and raise money for the ugly reality of domestic violence – and she isn’t done yet. Having retired from her role as Development Director, she’s now taking the training again so that she’s up to date and ready to again volunteer on the crisis hotline at Safe Connections in St. Louis.

In her training session this past Saturday (the day before the Big Game), someone (coincidentally) asked about the Super Bowl statistic. And the Director of the hotline said there’s a lot of discrepancy about the statistic. But that the organization personally tracks all of their calls, and every year, every year calls and DV reports spike on Super Bowl Sunday and the entire week that follows.

Statistic are hard to get. Especially when they surround an issue that people keep quiet, viciously undercover – so they don’t get arrested (the abuser) or so that they don’t get killed by their abuser (the abusee). Another stat: the chance an abused woman will be killed by her abuser if she tries to leave the situation increases roughly 75%.

What we do know is that an agency in downtown St. Louis, Missouri (middle America, right in the heartland) has their own stats. And they aren’t good.

If you or someone you know is being hurt, please reach out. Everyone deserves to be safe.

1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Image credit: sinosplice

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Joker_SATX says:

    I purposely stayed away from my computer on Superbowl Sunday. Maybe a post or two on Facebook but that was it. I stare at twitter all day long, every other day. The last thing I wanted was to miss the interaction with my family.

    I find you statistic very interesting. I am also wondering out of all the women that came in to land bash you…how many of them are victims of domestic violence. I am willing to bet that being a victim and being in denial go hand in hand.

    This was just a thought that came to me as I was reading your post.

  • I wonder that too – why would they waste the time to question the stat? That wasn’t the point.

    I think it’s important to raise awareness (as you have done) about this terrible problem, regardless of which day it happens. Period.

    The fact that so many women (and children) are literally trapped in their own homes by the ones they love brings me to tears as I type this.

    Thank you Julie, for taking the time to raise awareness and try to help. Thanks also for the work you and your mother have done to help these women and children. Cheers to you both.
    .-= Shawna Cevraini´s last blog ..My Teacher =-.

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    Wow–I didn’t realize that Super Bowl Sunday was as sacred as a religious holiday. Of course, I wouldn’t know that, though. To this day, I still don’t know who won. But seriously. Are people running out of things to get miffed about? Arguing about whether or not the Super Bowl leads to more domestic violence is like arguing about whether or not people in this country are as worse off as people in Haiti. It doesn’t matter. Battered women need help. You posting the hotline number–on Super Bowl Sunday or any other day — was a good thing.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Life is a Struggle, a Wonderful Struggle =-.

  • whollyjeanne says:

    thank you for putting this most important statistic out there. thank you for writing about this. thank you for spending your junior year in st. louis. and thank your mother for me, too. i have been down both sides of that road.
    .-= whollyjeanne´s last blog ..knots =-.

  • Andi says:

    I cannot believe that in this day and age that this happened! If the ladies would stop focusing on the names of computer products and put their energy into helping women in need out, the world would be a much better place.
    .-= Andi´s last blog ..I am a Nicaraguan warrior =-.

  • Jill Fisher says:

    Julie………..You are soo right on with this blog. Thank you for putting this information out there. I think that Joker SATX has a really valid point…………..denial is a huge barrior to women getting help to end the violence in their lives. And yet, it’s soo important to talk about domestic violence and sexual assault. It wasn’t very long ago that people whispered the words “breast cancer”. It was when people began saying it out loud that progress toward new treatments and cures began to happen. We have to talk out loud about violence against women if this plague is ever to end.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thanks, MOM!!! For all that you do and for being brave enough to leave a comment!!!

  • mark says:

    There are plenty of reasons for women to be angry about the way such sensational stats are promoted by the DV industry. For example, they may have been deprived of good fathers or boyfriends through divorce, by the sexist stereotyping such propaganda engenders.

    You probably sparked the anger by touching a sore spot: the statistics around domestic violence are shamelessly biased and misleading. Well-meaning and well-financed groups like Jane Doe fund studies which are designed to come up with shocking numbers, which are then used to justify sexist legislation like the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act).

    Don’t mistake me – there are many batterers out there, who should be punished as harshly as possible.

    However, they are a minority – not 50% of husbands, as Jane Doe or NOW would like everyone to think.

    Think for a moment about the other side of this coin.
    Females are responsible for a significant share of domestic violence too, and more of that against children, and with much higher lethality. If you omit the subjective “I felt threatened” category of psych abuse, the numbers are much closer to even by gender.

    Now consider this: what if there were an act like VAWA, but instead of calling it “Violence (by men) Against Women”, it was “Violence (by blacks) Against Whites”?
    Why not, give the statistics on crime?

    I hope you see my point. People of all colors would be rightly outraged. And that’s why people of both genders ought to be outraged by how these DV zealots are destroying the prospects of good men to be good dads.

    For more details and plenty of examples of the anti-male propaganda machine at work, check out
    http://www.fathersandfamilies.org/

    thanks.
    .-= mark´s last blog ..NOW Plays ‘Violence Against Women’ Card Against Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow =-.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Jeanne – wow – thank you for speaking up. Sending love…

  • Julie Roads says:

    Are you JOKING? Mark – the Nazi’s were in the minority too – doesn’t make one piece of what they did okay. This argument is absurd. I don’t care if it’s only ONE person on this planet being abused. It still isn’t okay and it still needs to be stopped.

    And – when I posted that I did not say anything about men being the abusers.

    And – the agency where my mom and I both worked engaged frequently and standardly with men’s advocacy groups as well as GLBT groups. No one has said anywhere that this has anything to do with race, class or gender – it supersedes them all.

    YET, statistically – it is men doing the beating.

    Your suggestion that by talking about domestic violence the GOOD men are being hurt is INSANE. The good men can only be ‘gooder’ by speaking out against the abuse.

  • mark says:

    I’m not joking. I agree that DV is a horrible problem and that it needs to be attacked aggressively, and talked about responsibly by both genders.

    However, as Mark Twain said – “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”.

    The fact that we’re reporting statistics on a horrible problem does not justify unquestioned promotion of sensational, obviously flawed statistics. I’ve alluded to several specific examples,just tip-of-iceberg.
    Sensational false stats lead to stereotyping of innocents, in this case a big way – and those deeply involved in this cause may not think about unintended consequences.

    For example, the statistic that more men commit DV against women does *not* infer that the majority of men are violent brutes. However, on a daily basis the majority (gentle men) are indeed impacted by the stereotyping of a minority.

    Consider a similar situation – profiling Muslims as terrorists. There are many ‘patriots’ out there willing to judge someone by their turban.

    The question raised, if I understood was – “why worry about correctness of statistics, when there’s an urgent cause at stake?” I’m trying to offer an answer.
    .-= mark´s last blog ..NOW Plays ‘Violence Against Women’ Card Against Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow =-.

  • Aila says:

    My question is, who cares about the validity of this stat? IS THIS WHAT WE SHOULD BE WASTING OUR BREATH ARGUING ABOUT?

    Yes. Using questionable statistics throws doubt on every other statistic you cite. Good data is available and the reality of abuse is heinous; don’t damage your cause by being less than diligent about the facts. It only makes them easier to dismiss.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Aila – of course that is true. The issue here is really that the questioning wasn’t really just of the stat, but more of the whole movement. And that the stat, as it turns out is at once: impossible to qualify because of the silence DV demands and clearly valid as the DV agency that I know can prove.

  • Amanda says:

    DV is really serious and I had no idea that this was more common on Superbowl Sunday. I’ve never partaken in the Superbowl festivities. I’m more of a Stanley Cup kinda girl. Call me a stereotypical Canadian but that’s how I roll.

    At any rate, thanks for sharing this, Julie. I will take these words to heart and pass them along.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Monkey Bars =-.

  • Joanne Sardini says:

    Julie – Thank you again for putting this important issue front and center and thank you for not being scared to ruffle a few feathers in the process. I feel that again some people miss the point that this is a bona fide fact. OK, the originally and widely quoted stat can be argued, just like any statistic it can be manipulated, but any way it is sliced, even a 1% increase in violence against ANY vulnerable person regardless of the demographic they represent is just plain wrong.

  • Laura says:

    Having worked in the field of sexual violence for a number of years I have frequently encountered similar experiences to Julie’s and responses similar to Mark’s. Mark does make a good point that not all men are perpetrators, of course that was only inferred, not something Julie stated, and not normally stated in the statistics. Though assumed. Women are abusers as well and same sex violence happens in both sexes as well.

    The stats are important for their shock value, for giving people a rough estimate of the problem. They are never accurate because so many people are unwilling to acknowledge their victimization.
    What I believe we need now is greater collaboration with men to fight violence against women.. there are many good, well meaning men who want to work against these crimes as well. The ‘movement” needs their voices.
    It is such a complicated issue and brings so many voices, often critical and unhelpful. It saddens me to see that interpersonal violence continues at the rate it does, and seems in some ways to be tacitly condoned.
    Thanks for daring to talk about it!!

  • I’m behind on my blog reading, and I’m glad I didn’t skip this one. It’s so important.

    Have you seen Eve Ensler’s TED talk in November re Embracing Your Inner Girl, and how the crushing of the girl inside all of us–including men–leads to violence against women? It’s worth the 20 minutes of your life.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/eve_ensler_embrace_your_inner_girl.html
    .-= lynn @ human, being´s last blog ..Days of Grace: 303/365 =-.

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