Home violence and the dark side of the World Cup
Sleepless nights, heartbreak and endless analysis and yelling at the screen have been an intimate part of many of our lives during the World Cup. With all the commentary, the goals, and the bad sporting puns ad nauseam there’s one thing that no one has really talked about during this world cup - violence against women.
It’s a horrible thought, that an event we love could have such a dark underside. Sadly it’s something we do need to talk about. During the 2006 Fifa World Cup the home office of the UK found a 30% jump in domestic violence incidents on nights that England were playing.
The interesting thing is it didn’t seem to matter if England won or lost as the 30% increase remained relatively steady during England’s win over Paraguay and its loss to Portugal.
It’s not just about the Fifa Football world cup. From football to Rugby the problem remains. In 2007 the New Zealand herald reported that there was an increase in incidents of domestic violence when the All Blacks lost the Rugby World Cup.
Studies have also shown that the rates of domestic violence increase during the Super Bowl in the United States. According to the Domestic Violence Clearing House Report on domestic violence and incidental peaks, women’s shelters in the States reported they had received more calls on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day.
So what about here in Australia?
In Australia the spike only occurs during the Melbourne Cup. The Domestic Violence Clearing House Report found a 58% increase in Domestic violence in NSW, 64% higher in the NT and 39% increase in South Australia. (http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/4299886)
However the report doesn’t find a domestic violence spike in any other of our major sporting events. It suggests that the reason we see a spike on Melbourne cup day as opposed to on a Rugby Final is because many of our sporting events don’t have the same national following the Melbourne Cup has.
So why are we seeing spikes of violence against women during major sporting events?
Let’s be honest, sporting heroes aren’t always the best role models when it comes to ending violence against women. You only have to list the scandals involving NRL players in recent years. Across sports both national and international scandals around sexual assault are sickeningly commonplace, and with them is a atmosphere that often reaffirms and normalises sexist behavior.
The important thing is to place the responsibility for where it belongs – solely with the perpetrator. According to Science Daily: “An expert at Royal Holloway, University of London is urging victims of domestic violence to have a plan in place should their partners turn violent during the (Fifa) World Cup”.
This sort of advice puts the burden of responsibility on domestic violence survivors to find ways of ‘dealing’ with violence, when fact violence isn’t something they should have to ‘plan’ around or ‘deal’ with.
This isn’t to say, of course, everyone involved in sport is necessarily sexist or harbors harmful views. Quite the opposite. Millions of Australians have been enjoying the World Cup without incident. I know that many athletes have also signed up to various programs to raise awareness about violence against women.
But tackling this starts with awareness.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing domestic violence call the domestic violence hotline on 1800 656 463.
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