Dispelling a Myth: Domestic Violence & The Super Bowl

Esta Soler

The myth that violence against women increases on Super Bowl Sunday won't die. And opponents keep using it as a way to deflect attention from the fact that domestic, dating and sexual violence are serious problems every day, in every community. 

The hype is inescapable.  If you’re not watching the big game on Sunday, chances are you’ll be hearing it deconstructed afterward along with commentary on the half-time show and the commercials.

If you’re paying attention, you’re also hearing a steady stream of commentary designed to cast aspersions on those of us who are working to stop domestic violence and help victims.  It’s skillfully and cleverly constructed — and utterly without basis in fact.

Here’s the truth:  In 1993, the Super Bowl and domestic violence became linked when a small group of advocates erroneously claimed that Super Bowl Sunday was a “day of dread” for women when domestic violence skyrocketed.  There’s no reliable evidence to support that claim and most of us who work in the field say that – over and over again.  Instead, we make the point that domestic, dating and sexual violence are serious problems every day of the year. 

The movement has spent the past 18 years saying that these claims aren’t true, at every opportunity.  We urge reporters not to write that story, and the responsible ones don’t.

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But opponents won’t let it go.  They use it as a way to bash feminists, “bleeding heart liberals,” women, and what they call the “domestic violence industry” – a term that is truly laughable when you realize that they are talking about shelters that struggle to afford food and bedding for desperate women and children, and to keep their doors open in this recession.

A few years ago on Super Bowl weekend, George Will brought it up out of nowhere on ABC’s “This Week,” as an example of what he called feminist nonsense.  And last week, the Heritage Foundation scheduled a news conference with Christina Hoff Sommers and Phyllis Schlafly to deconstruct the “Super Bowl hoax” that the “domestic violence industry” perpetuates.  It was rescheduled due to the blizzard for later this month, but the announcement alone has generated another round of commentary belittling the scope of the problem of violence against women. 

So let me say this one more time, on behalf of the Family Violence Prevention Fund and our colleagues across this field:  There is NO conclusive, national research to validate claims that domestic violence escalates on Super Bowl Sunday.  But domestic, dating and sexual violence are serious problems every day, in every community. 

At a time when the Justice Department reports that four to five women are murdered by their partners every day –  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that domestic violence causes two million injuries a year – and hundreds of women and children are raped and sexually assaulted each day – let’s put this conversation to rest.

Helping survivors of violence, identifying and implementing effective prevention programs, and changing social norms is hugely challenging.  So instead of dredging up an incident from 1993 to discredit our work, how about helping find ways to stop the violence and keep the next generation safe?  Let’s use the Super Bowl as a chance to have conversations about how to do that.

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