My business partner and I were sitting outside at a restaurant the other day, chatting about work. A crowd was gathering around the TV at the bar because it was in the final minutes of the U.S vs. Belgium game. The place next door had a large crowd gathered around their bar as well, and the people were spilling onto the sidewalk. As a huge cheer went up from all around us, we commented on how fun it was to be part of that energy.
What we didn't think about at the time was that it’s not all fun and games for everyone, especially women who are with abusive partners. It turns out the World Cup encourages a lot of things — love of country, team spirit, rooting for the underdog, and unfortunately, domestic violence too. Lancaster University conducted a study during the last three World Cups and found that domestic violence rates shot up a disturbing 38% in some areas of the UK when they lost, and when they won, it still rose 26%. When I came across that news report the other day, I was saddened, but not surprised.
Reading that led me to find a haunting public service announcement by Tender, in which a woman desperately roots for a team to win. When they don't, you can just see the terror in her face. It gave me chills. Not only because it is powerful to watch, but because I remember that feeling. Once upon a time I was married to someone who took it out on me when his team lost. Didn't matter which sport either. This is not unique to the World Cup.
After I divorced, the first time I watched a Giants game with my new boyfriend I was worried. As they lost in overtime, I held my breath, just waiting for it. He ranted at the TV and old feelings came flooding back. I held my breath. He turned to me and said, "Oh well," and that was it. I let out my breath and thought to myself, “Oh! This is what it is supposed to be like!” I married that man. I can now enjoy sports again without having to worry if the outcome is going to ruin his mood or trigger an argument.
Please take a moment to watch the video and if you are so inclined, share it on your social media. There will be women who are holding their breath this weekend during the World Cup and they should know that they aren't alone — and that it's not okay for someone to take out their frustration on them.
In our work with women at SAS for Women, we help woman recognize the signs of subtle abuse. SAS is a private comprehensive education and support resource for women navigating relationship and divorce issues. If you would like more information about SAS, please visit our home page and sign up for our free, weekly newsletter. Learn tips, strategies and steps to educate you on your options as you learn to survive and thrive again.