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Kansas City Chiefs tragedy spotlights domestic violence, mental health

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The recent suicide of a Kansas City Chiefs football player has sent shockwaves through the National Football League and the country.

According to officials, Jovan Belcher, 25, allegedly killed his girlfriend on Saturday and then himself, leaving behind their 3-month-old daughter.

Much of the attention that the high-profile case has generated focuses on the athlete, not the woman, who is a victim, said Theresa Beachy, executive director of Peaceful Paths, a state certified domestic violence center based in Gainesville.

“The main thing is that she was the victim,” Beachy said. “Unfortunately, she had no choice in what happened to her. He was the one in control of the situation in terms of deciding to end her life, and ultimately, deciding to end his life as well.”

This situation also brings to light some of the issues that have been brought up within the NFL, as far as addressing mental health concerns and domestic violence.

“Power and control is the dynamic that domestic violence is built around. Male privilege is one of those aspects that it feeds on, so if you’re talking about someone who already has a great deal of power and control in their own lives because of their physical status because of their financial status and because of their celebrity status as a football player it gets harder and harder to deny them things.”

This case also comes at a time close to the holidays. Trends have shown that there is a greater amount of reported domestic violence cases during this time of the year. However, she says it’s not necessarily because there is more violence.

“I think that what we see is that domestic violence is probably reported more during certain times of the year because people don’t want to deal with this kind of situation for their kids during a holiday situation and we know that anything that exasperates stress or increases stress in a relationship can increase the violence in that relationship when it’s already present.”

Domestic violence cases occur all over the United States, but experts say that the numbers for Florida are among the highest. Beachy says although the number of cases in Florida appears inflated, it’s because the state is very good at reporting domestic violence.

“I know that here in the tri-county area that we serve, we have an excellent relationship with law enforcement, which leads to higher arrest rates. Our numbers may look inflated. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more violence going on here, but it does mean that we’re doing a better job of identifying it and dealing with it.”

Beachy said anyone who feels threatened or is concerned about their safety, should call the Peaceful Paths hotline at 352-377-8255 or local law enforcement.

About Emily Miller

Emily is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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