The NFL has started a long-term partnership with two national domestic violence and sexual assault resource centers, according to a memo sent to league teams and staff on Friday.
The memo, sent by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, outlines a plan to support both the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. In addition, Goodell said that NFL staff will soon be required to participate in programming to educate them about domestic violence:
Starting within the next 30 days, all league and team personnel … will participate in education sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault. These initial sessions will begin to provide the men and women of the NFL with information and tools to understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault.
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The changes are in response to the controversy over recently fired Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s assault on his then fiancée, and the league’s initial neglect in handling the situation with the severity it deserved.
Goodell said that, according to the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, calls to the hotline increased by 84 percent immediately following the leak of a video depicting Rice attacking his fiancée.
Katie Ray-Jones, the hotline CEO, told the Huffington Post that following the public outcry over the Rice video, women who had never before identified their relationships as abusive started calling in asking for help. “We had an outpouring of women saying, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t realize this happened to other people.’ They thought they were living a life that was very unique to them.”
Ray-Jones also said that because of a lack of resources and staffing, the hotline was unable to answer many of the calls that came in. Annually, the hotline doesn’t answer over 77,000 calls because of a lack of resources.
The memo sent today says the new partnerships will help address this problem:
The NFL and The Hotline have initiated an immediate process to make services available by adding expert advocates, training and other resources to respond to the increased volume of calls. The Hotline will add 25 full-time advocates over the next few weeks that will result in an additional 750 calls a day being answered.
The NFL’s support also will enable Loveisrespect to service 24-hour-a-day text chats with young adults affected by dating abuse. Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, is a resource to engage, educate and empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships.
Goodell ends the memo by promising to continue the NFL’s new emphasis on domestic violence. “These are by no means final steps,” he writes.