Domestic Violence and Super Bowl Sunday: The Beneficial Myth
How often have you heard that more domestic violence incidents happen on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year? Guess what: It’s not true. Women are not at greater risk of abuse when the Big Game is on, or, as the myth suggests, anytime their partner’s team loses.
Take the Ball and Run With It
Sometimes falsehoods are founded on good intentions. This myth began in January 1993 at a consortium of activists for women’s issues. Prominent figures in the movement cited and corroborated erroneous or even non-existent studies and statistics lending credibility to the claim that football season, and particularly the Super Bowl, caused a spike of violence against women by as much as 40 percent over average.
News media, including the New York Times, took the bait and further promoted the false information, to the point at which NBC ran a public service announcement before the Super Bowl reminding men that domestic violence is a criminal act.
While the origins of the myth point out how easily facts are scrambled in media and public opinion, in this case, the results brought a lot of awareness about a difficult topic—one which advocates had struggled for years to bring to national attention.
If Not Super Bowl Sunday…Then When?
Snopes.com researchers, who called the Super Bowl Sunday myth a “noble lie”, cite studies that show a rise in domestic violence during major holiday breaks. “A 2006 study published in the Handbook of Sports and Media that examined over 1.3 million domestic violence police reports from every day of the year…found only a very small rise in domestic violence dispatches on (or just after) Super Bowl Sunday but nearly a quintupling of domestic violence police dispatch reports around major holidays such as Christmas.”
Another study, published in 2007, corroborates this pattern but bases its information on data collected on women who use these occasions to flee abusive environments, presumably because their children are out of school. Since women who are actively trying to leave abusive partners are at a significantly higher risk of death or injury, and women often report staying in the relationship to protect their children, school breaks may encourage abused women to safely leave with their children with minimal disruption to their lives.
Domestic Abuse Facts
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey’s 2010-2012 State Report, headed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other national and international organizations present the following information and statistics:
- Another term for domestic abuse used within the scientific community is “intimate partner violence” (IPV)
- In the CDC survey of 48 states, an average of 35.7% of U.S. women experienced sexual violence or physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. (A United Nations report finds that this percentage holds true for women worldwide.)
- Of U.S. women reporting IPV within the CDC survey, 35.2% reported injuries related to the abuse.
- Nationally, 11% of men surveyed have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in his lifetime
- The American Psychology Association reports that, on average, three or more women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands each day.
- The Center for American Progress reports that “More than half of all women killed by intimate partners between 2001 to 2012 were killed with guns.
How to Help Yourself or an Acquaintance Get to Safety
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are organizations trained and equipped to help victims, their children and even their pets safely leave their abusers and pursue legal protections. These groups are aware that domestic violence occurs in all races, economic classes and in every community.
Victims of domestic abuse don’t always fit the submissive, uneducated stereotype. Your neighbor, sister, co-worker or even the CEO of your company might have her own story to share, but worldwide, less than 40 percent of the women who experienced domestic violence reached out for help.
As awareness of domestic violence increases, even thanks to the Super Bowl myth, the tide is turning for the better. For a comprehensive list of resources and hotlines, visit https://ncadv.org/resources. You and the women—and abused men—in your lives deserve it.