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Ray Rice video helps raise awareness of domestic violence

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In the days after the release of video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee, now his wife, in a New Jersey casino elevator, the hotline at Northwest Hospital's domestic violence program began ringing.

Only a few callers have mentioned the video, but they were victims who might have never called if they hadn't witnessed the incident on the news, said Audrey Bergin, manager of the program, called DOVE.


She can't remember another story of domestic violence inspiring victims to call the center, which annually handles about 850 new cases referred from the hospital emergency room and other departments as well as from a statewide police program.

"I'm not sure we've ever seen an actual assault on the news before," said Bergin. "Maybe this was more dramatic and shook people up more?"


Encouraging victims to seek assistance and raising awareness about services available — and even some money for the cause — are positive outcomes to a negative story, she and other advocates said.

Bergin said studies have shown that only a small percentage of victims who are killed by their abusers ever sought help through traditional programs.

Other advocates said that seeing the rich and famous linked to domestic violence breaks stereotypes and may help some people realize they were also victims or feel less stigmatized.

The video also highlights violence in the sports world.

Federal statistics show three in 10 American women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by a partner. The National Football League doesn't keep domestic violence statistics, but various news outlets have reported a dozen to two dozen cases of domestic violence arrests among NFL players in the past two years.

The Ravens have responded to the video by cutting Rice, and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely. He and his wife, Janay Rice, are in counseling.

The Ravens also have said they will donate $600,000 over three years to House of Ruth Maryland, a local domestic violence shelter and advocacy group, and support an awareness campaign called Man Up!

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"We are thrilled to partner with the Baltimore Ravens on such an important initiative," said Sandi Timmins, the group's executive director, in a statement. "The reaction in our society has always been 'Why doesn't she just leave?' The Baltimore Ravens have pledged to assist us in shifting the paradigm to change that question to: 'Why does HE think it is OK to abuse her?' "


Other domestic-violence advocates say the high profile of the news story may send more women for help down the road.

Anne Arundel Medical Center's domestic violence program hasn't gotten calls from women referencing the video. The program took on more than 400 new cases last year and nearly 300 through September of this year, many that were identified by trained medical staff in the hospital.

"This is a great time to get the conversation started," said Amy Bosworth, a domestic violence specialist at the hospital. "We can use this as a bridge for people to start talking about ways to help victims and raise awareness of resources out there."

Bosworth noted that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which will further help publicize programs available to victims. "It's important to let folks know there is free and confidential help out there," she said.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which directs victims to help in their area, is 800-799-7233.