The Associated Press has named the NFL's domestic violence issues as its top sports story of 2014. One local advocate for the victims of domestic violence believes the publicity is helping to place the spotlight on a troubling, often-hidden reality.
"Domestic violence, domestic abuse, whatever you want to call it, one person controlling another person's life, is something that needs the spotlight to be directly placed upon and this is doing it," said Mary Travers Murphy, executive director of the Family Justice Center.
"I think what is significant is it's giving us the chance to help people understand what this abuse and this power and control is all about."
The NFL found itself dealing with a number of highly-publicized domestic violence incidents involving its players. Among those incidents was the release of a video showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee' unconscious in a hotel elevator. Travers Murphy says the troubling evidence sparked dialogue about domestic violence.
"The question we were getting was, 'Why did she go back?' And I think number one, we need to rephrase the question, 'Why does he abuse?' Number two, it's important for people to understand that on average it takes seven to eight attempts to permanently leave an abusive relationship. It's fear."
The Family Justice Center provides free services for domestic violence victims and their children. One service helps victims gain orders of protection against their abusers through a video-conferencing system. It allows the victim to remain safely in the center during what is often an emotionally-volatile process.
"Problem is, these relationships start out very romantic. Obviously, they don't start abusive," Travers Murphy said.
"Victims fall in love with a charming angel. They're swept off their feet. And I think one of the big red flags, and we like to teach kids this at a young age, is these relationships go from zero-to-1,000 in a snap of a finger."
According to Travers Murphy, abusers will often use dialogue that may sound all-too-familiar.
"'I love you more than life itself; you are my soulmate; the thought of you being with anybody else makes me want to kill myself.'"
The Family Justice Center can be reached at 716-558-SAFE (7233).