PHOENIX, AZ–J.J. Putz walked into the Seattle Mariners spring training facility with a teammate just like he did every other early morning. Screams for help from a woman in the parking lot drew their attention. They ran to find a man beating a woman inside of a truck in front of the complex.
Putz pulled the man–the woman’s husband–out of the truck, pinning him to the ground while calling police. As much as it shook him to see it take place, the arrogance of the offender really struck a nerve.
“Just to see the arrogance in this guy for him to think what he did wasn’t a very big deal just didn’t sit well with me,” Putz said.
That happened before Putz met Mark Teahen and his wife, Lauren, while playing for the Chicago White Sox. Putz saw domestic violence first hand. The Teahen’s lived it, specifically Lauren.
At 8-years-old, Lauren witnessed her stepfather physically abuse her mom, Shelley. Lauren tried calling the police while her stepfather tried pulling her away from the phone. Her mom was able to use a table decoration to break his nose. Police arrived and Shelley and Lauren got out, but it was never the same for Shelley, as is often the case for victims.
Domestic violence is an epidemic in the United States that sees just 34 percent of victims receive medical care, an epidemic where a woman is abused every nine seconds. An epidemic that Mark and Lauren Teahen are doing their best to end.
This is their fifth year, and tonight they’ll eclipse the $1 million mark in money raised in an effort to not only cure domestic violence, but prevent it as well.
Yes, there is a cure. Yes, there is a prevention. No, they’re not alone.
The number of participants in DODV continues to grow, with this year being no different. Joining the Teahen’s at either the gala or Thursday’s golf outing are names like Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Paul Konerko, Brandon McCarthy, and Ken Rosenthal, among almost 50 others. Putz and his wife Kelsey are co-chairing the event.
Mark and Lauren found Chrysalis in 2010 when Lauren was looking for a place to donate right before the holidays. After Googling ‘domestic violence shelters’ and reaching out, Chrysalis was the only one to respond. Shortly after Lauren started volunteering, Mark and Lauren saw how much potential there was to do even more.
They came up with the whole concept of DODV. The first event took place in their backyard, Putz says. But Lauren lost her mom suddenly after the first event. Her mom was ashamed and didn’t want to share her story. She felt responsible for what happened. Lauren didn’t want to talk much about it and shame her mom, but the Teahen’s felt compelled to do more after Shelley passed away.
Just four or five months into the relationship, Mark could see the impact domestic violence had on Lauren and her family.
“I grew up in a bubble,” Mark said. “A lot of people like to assume everything is okay next door. It’s easy to assume friends, neighbors, co-workers, no one is dealing with that and it’s just something that happens on the news. Unfortunately, the mass majority of people have a story of some sort.
“(Shelley) never had Chrysalis. She spent her life internalizing and blaming herself. It happens a lot, and it’s completely untrue. In trying to figure everything out, they put blame on themselves. Caring about Lauren and her mom, it became immediately important to me. ”
The same can be said for Putz, who joined Mark and Lauren in the effort shortly after meeting them in Chicago with the White Sox. Between their story and his own experience, Putz has become determined to create awareness for domestic violence.
“It’s nauseating,” he said of domestic violence. “Everybody has problems. There’s always arguments, always problems, but I wish there was an explanation as to why some people turn to the violence.”
That’s just one of the gray areas of a topic that has so little black and white. What causes domestic violence? Why is it so prevalent in our society? Why has it taken so long for the national conversation to begin? There are so many questions on the topic and many don’t have simple answers. That’s what makes it so hard to understand.
Chrysalis is trying to answer those questions and provide help for those who need it. They have programs that try to meet the needs of anyone impacted by violence. It’s not just the victim. It’s children, it’s the offender, it’s family members. And there are a lot of layers to it.
“Take your healthiest relationship and it’s still complicated,” Chrysalis communications coordinator Lorie Simms said. “It’s a lot of work. Add all of the unhealthy factors and it’s even more complicated.”
It doesn’t happen all at once, either. As Simms explains, when you meet someone you aren’t handed a piece of paper with everything you need to know about a person. The abuse–especially the psychological side–takes place over time. There are little put-downs here and there, physical threats without action. By the time they add up to the moment where physical abuse happens, many victims feel it’s too late to get out.
It’s hope and fear that keeps victims from getting out.
They hope their significant other means it when he or she says it won’t happen again. Simms refers to it as the honeymoon, when abusers really do feel bad for what they’ve done and the victim really wants to believe them. They hope it was just one time, that it won’t happen again. They hope they can pretend like it never happened.
But then it happens again. Mark said it’s not until about the 8th episode before a victim leaves, on average.
It’s the fear of what happens if they leave. Will they be able to survive on their own? Where will they go? Will they be found? What happens if they get found?
Maybe their partner has full control of the financials, leaving the victim with no way to feed his or herself. Maybe the abuser has brainwashed the victim, explaining that no one will believe them. Perhaps the abuser explains that if the victim calls the police, the abuser will lose his or her job, the family will be separated and nothing will get better. It’s not as easy as “just leave”.
“When someone leaves an abusive situation, it’s not under ideal circumstances,” Simms explained. “Their lives are completely turned upside down. They have to go off the grid. When someone leaves an abusive relationship there’s a 75 percent increase of death or serious injury. It’s the most dangerous time.”
Chrysalis offers three confidential locations. They have emergency shelter and transitional housing. Emergency shelter will hold victims for up to four months. Transitional housing is available for up to two years.
There, Chrysalis helps victims start over. Whether it’s finding a place to live or a new job, or to provide counseling, victims can get the fresh start that they’re so afraid of. They come in at a level where their self-esteem is at rock bottom. All of a sudden, four months isn’t a long time to get back on their feet.
Ray Rice will be remembered in history, even if it’s not in the book that he thought it’d be when he was winning the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
By now, Rice’s incident in a casino elevator is permanently etched in the minds of those who came across the gruesome video. Rice and his then-fiancee Janay Palmer stumbled into an elevator in the early morning. The two were visibly arguing. Palmer brushed Rice away with her forearm in the elevator before approaching him again. She was met by a left hook that laid her out-cold on the elevator floor. The video ends with Rice dragging her out of the elevator.
It’ll be a watershed moment in terms of domestic violence as a pivotal look at what domestic violence looks like.
“Everyone was like ‘yeah, this is terrible’,” Mark said. “Well, what did you think domestic abuse looked like? So often it happens behind closed doors, it takes a video or pictures to be revealed. I think the biggest thing that it has done is started the conversation and allowed people to speak out. Victims internalize it and feel like they’re the only one going through it, but people are starting to understand it’s an epidemic.”
Since then, Rice has appeared to make the necessary steps in rehabilitation. Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy has not.
Thus starts the conversation about how to deal with the offenders.
“The thing that just makes me crazy mad is when you see the arrogance of these people,” Putz said. “(Offenders) say they’re sorry and it’s just a one-time thing. That’s not usually the case. I just wish there was a way to figure out what goes through their head that makes it okay to put your hands on a woman, or vice versa.”
Chrysalis is one of the few organizations working with offenders to find out just that.
“Abuse is a learned behavior,” Simms said. “You’re not born with it. We’re constantly educating people. There’s a wounded person inside an abuser. Nobody sets out to be an abuser.”
Offenders at Chrysalis enter a program that can last 52 weeks. Sometimes it’s as simple as teaching offenders how to have a healthy relationship.
“Parents don’t teach relationships, they model them,” Simms said. “They don’t always tell you about being respectful with a partner and respecting boundaries and being supportive. Sometimes it’s just simple respect that should be taught in elementary school.”
But that brings up second chances. Should Ray Rice or Greg Hardy be playing in the NFL? Does Jose Reyes deserve another chance in baseball? Does Average Joe deserve a second chance?
“Not everyone who’s been an advocate agrees,” Simms said. “If this person goes to jail, they just sit there and nothing’s going to change. If kids are involved, they have to somehow move forward as a good parent, but they won’t have the skills to do that. Now another person loses because the kid doesn’t have a parent.”
It’s a different view point for an athlete. Guys like Putz and Teahen both played with players they believed were abusers, but they weren’t as educated back then as they are now. How would they handle a teammate such as Reyes?
Teahen said he would prefer not to play with an abuser, just like he wouldn’t want to play with any criminal. Putz has a unique perspective as a former teammate of Reyes.
“I’m honestly shocked because he seems like one of those fun lovable kind of guys,” he said. “People need to realize there’s not a stereotype or certain type of person who does it. You just never know. He’d have a lot of questions he’d have to answer for me. He’d have to do a ton to earn my respect back for sure.
“It’s easy for me to say this now because I’m not playing anymore, but MLB has a plan and an educational program. They’re trying to get ahead of this thing before it gets bad. I think they’re moving in the right direction, I wish other sports would move in that direction.”
Nationally, it’s already bad. The statistics are bad–there are far more cases than just Rice, Hardy and Reyes. The perception is bad–it takes videos and pictures to get a discussion going. “It’s still shocking to me that the fallout (of the Hardy situation) is that they needed to see pictures,” Simms said. “We just went through this last year with video. It’s sad when a victim says this happened to me, but people still feel like they need to see pictures and need the ultimate proof.”
Of course the ultimate proof is needed in the court of law, but not to know what actually happened. Hardy can say innocent until proven guilty, but court is the only place that doesn’t know what happened (the charge was expunged after he settled with his victim). Sports are a platform and the awareness that comes from that platform is important, but it’s not all that can be done.
Just like cancer and other fundraisers, the money raised at DODV is going towards saving lives. It’s going to help build shelters, which there aren’t enough of anywhere for the victims that need help. It’s going to help restore victims’ lives to a healthy place. It’ll help stop the cycle so the victims, children and abusers don’t have it happen again.
There isn’t just one step to getting to the next level. It’s educating law enforcement, medical professionals, teachers, clergy and other groups that have contact with potential victims who can identify red flags.
It’s finding people like Lauren Teahen.
“She’s become almost an unofficial spokesperson,” Simms said. “People are always approaching her asking how they can get people help. She’s a great symbol of how this is how your life can turn out, you can survive, you can go on.”
Domestic violence awareness has certainly come a long way, even since DODV began five years ago. But it’s still not as mainstream as other charities and fundraisers.
“Domestic abuse is a different situation because a lot of people that are in a relationship where abuse is going on, they don’t want to speak about it,” Mark said. “They’ve become accustomed to not sharing it with anyone. It’s a more touchy subject. At the end of the day, the idea of abusing or hurting loved ones, everyone thinks it’s terrible.”
And they’re starting to see how terrible it really is.
“It’s not being swept under the rug anymore,” Putz said. “When something happens, it’s out there. It’s right there for everybody to know. In the past, it was kind of shrugged off as a personal issue. Knowing there are organizations like Chrysalis for women and men, they know there’s a place for them to turn and feel safe.
“I’m just amazed at the strength of some of these victims. I have to believe that some of these abusers do have remorse and need rehabilitation places to go and educate themselves on why what they did is wrong. I feel very good about the direction that all of this is heading. You want to get it to zero. Any step in that direction is the right one.”
For more information on domestic violence, Chrysalis and how to donate check out noabuse.org.