Several years ago I wrote a blog post Behind Closed Doors positing that the reason domestic violence endures is that it happens out of our view. This post was written after a tragic death as the community was shocked that a relationship could be so dangerous and yet no one knew.
As I read a Washington Post article about the wives of NFL players, I rethought my words. In my original blog post I explained that the desire to keep the abuse private was an individual decision... made by the victim of the abuse. I rethought my assertion that the decision is entirely individual... each individual's decision is very influenced by our society's values and pressures. The Post article clearly illustrates that wives of NFL players are coached to keep abuse quiet to protect the player's reputation, the brand and our collective adoration of the heroes of the gridiron. The article describes the pressure to silently endure contending that the recent press has even made the NFL less safe for wives. The comment from the wife of a former player, You'll hear of a wife murdered before you'll hear another one come forward", echoes like a haunting prophesy.
While it's really important to teach every man, woman and child that it's not OK to abuse others, that's strategy alone won't end abuse. There will always be people who choose to abuse or people who fail to judge their own actions. Our response has to be more broad, a societal shift in tolerance. We won't end abuse until we refuse to look away, excuse, or stay silent. Just choosing not to abuse isn't enough, we have to choose to end abuse...every time we see or suspect it. Abuse does hide behind closed doors... sometimes those doors are the ones we shut so that we don't see it.