Former NFL player speaks out on sexual assault, domestic violence

By David VergunApril 18, 2017

NFL star speaks out against domestic violence
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Troy Vincent is remembered by National Football League fans as a great cornerback who played for the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins from 1992 to 2006.

But Vincent said he also wants to be remembered as someone who speaks out against domestic violence, the majority of which is directed against women. He took his message to the Pentagon, Thursday, during a speaking engagement hosted by the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention office.

Vincent recounted how, as a child, he witnessed the horrors of extreme domestic abuse by his mother's boyfriend, who regularly beat her. That abuse resulted in numerous hospital visits, he said, and one attack proved so violent that every bone in her face was fractured.

When he tried to enlist help from neighbors during the beatings, people were afraid to open their doors to him because they didn't want to get involved, he said.

Today, Vincent is executive vice president of NFL operations, a job that includes keeping tabs on player conduct off the field.

"Ray Rice changed [the] landscape about how we talk about violence against women," Vincent said.

Rice, a former NFL running back who played for the Baltimore Ravens, was indicted for aggravated assault against his fiancée in 2014.

Since that time, Vincent said, the NFL has strengthened its code of conduct and policies regarding personal conduct and has also mandated twice-a-year training in personal conduct and domestic violence awareness.

Additionally, the NFL has funded hotlines for victims and has directed each team to form crisis response teams to assist players, employees, spouses and significant others who may be dealing with an abusive relationship. The NFL has also teamed with No More and the Joyful Heart Foundation to increase awareness of sexual assault, and they've contributed to "Raliance" -- a partnership between the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and other organizations.

Besides speaking out against domestic and sexual violence in forums across the country and at congressional hearings, Vincent volunteers a lot of his time at shelters, and he encourages others to do the same. The vast majority of shelter staff and groups for domestic and sexual violence are run by women, he said, but men must play a role as well.

"Men need to stand up and be leaders or the problem is not going to change," he said.

During one of the NFL training classes on domestic violence, Vincent said, participants role-played a domestic violence scenario. The players were then asked what they would have done had they been a bystander. To a man, they said they wouldn't have gotten involved.

Vincent said the players were brought up that way, believing it's better not to get involved. But by not getting involved, he said, a bystander is personally culpable.

Effective bystander intervention means "you don't have to be a hero or get physical," he said. Reporting the incident to authorities is a simple but effective approach.

There are a lot of similarities between the Army and the NFL, he said. Both are male-dominated organizations. Leaders of both need to push the message out that there's no place in their organizations for sexual violence, he said, applauding efforts by SHARP to spread the word.

The NFL, he said, borrows from the peer-to-peer model developed by the Army Center of Excellence for the Professional Military Ethic at West Point, New York. The model involves one-on-one discussions and interactions between the football players.

Despite these peer-to-peer interactions, he said, a lot of players have been reluctant to open up and share their own personal stories about sexual and domestic violence. But that's slowly changing.

One example involves Pittsburg Steelers cornerback William Gay. Gay had been quiet on the topic of domestic violence for a long time, Vincent said. But Gay was found to be volunteering his time at shelters, not revealing to anyone there that he was a Steelers player.

Now, besides volunteering at shelters, Gay has opened up with the players about domestic violence against his mother that he witnessed as a child. According to Vincent, the boyfriend of Gay's mom's shot her in the back eight times, killing her. Gay was just eight years old when he witnessed it. Those kinds of personal stories from players make a much bigger impact than slideshow presentations, Vincent said.

People are brought up not to talk about domestic violence, Vincent said. "But William Gay found his voice. I pray you will find your voice."


In his remarks, Vincent offered several statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Domestic Violence Hotline:

-- Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten.

-- One in three women will be abused during their lifetime.

-- The leading cause of injury to women is domestic violence, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

-- Some 10 million kids witness domestic violence every year.

-- Every day more than three women are murdered by their husband or boyfriend.

-- Men are twice as likely to abuse their wives if they witnessed domestic violence as a child.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)

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