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6 Powerful Women Speak Out About Domestic Violence

Women in Sports Speak Out

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With that disturbing video of Baltimore Raven's running back Ray Rice knocking his wife out cold and dragging her out of the elevator still circulating on the web (someone please take it down) and the NFL sorting out their policy how to handle players like him, it was crucial that domestic violence be a major theme covered at the fifth annual espnW Women + Sports Summit held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach outside of LA last week. We sat in on the intimate conversation with some of the country's most successful and influential women, including former WNBA star Ruthie Bolton, who shared publicly for the first time her story of surviving domestic abuse from her first husband whom she divorced in 2002 after 11 years of marriage. Here, their powerful words.

Maria Shriver

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“Sport has such potential to impact the conversation—what we talk to our boys and girls about regarding gender roles. Because sport is events based, it brings men and women together to hear the same message. More than ever before, it has the chance to do what the news did 30 years ago, educate, create conversations, and make an impact. For all the incredible work that has been done for the domestic violence arena for years and years and years, the debate over the Ray Rice video with the NFL has brought that issue to a whole new level. Unfortunately, it had to happen that way, but I think that's the power of sports.”-Maria Shriver, award-winning journalist, six-time New York Times best-selling author, former First Lady of California

Photo: Getty Images

Hilary Knight

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“When people are investing millions of dollars into someone, they tend to let things slide, making this person receiving the big paycheck a little invincible. But that's not OK. Whether it's a man hitting a woman or a woman hitting a man, it's not acceptable. People need to be held accountable for their actions. But at the same time, you need to guide them and give them the nurturing and mental capacity to understand why it's not okay. This is especially true for athletes in a high-aggression sport. There needs to be a better way to successfully release that temper—and not on your spouse.”
Ice hockey forward Hilary Knight, two-time Olympic silver medalist

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Ruthie Bolton

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“I didn't know if it was victory leaving or staying. When you're in it, it's hard to see it. We women have to stick together and help each other. If you see red flags, say something. It doesn't help to keep your mouth shut. I never said anything to anyone. My family might have seen or heard things, but we didn't talk about it until after the 1996 Olympics. A lot people are so surprised by this because I don't fit the profile of a woman who is domestically abused.”–Former WNBA player “Mighty Ruthie” Bolton, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and one of only four players to be named to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2011

Gloria Allred

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“I'm going to take my usual stance: Marriage can be dangerous to your health. If they don't treat you as an equal partner, if they treat you as someone who needs to be controlled, who needs to be undermined, who needs to be hurt, who needs to be told what to do, that's going to be a dangerous relationship. And it was for many people. It was dangerous for Nicole Brown Simpson. And it may still be dangerous for Janay Rice and many more. Marriage can be toxic.”–Gloria Allred, a high-powered women's rights attorney who recently wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell advising him that she represents a young woman who filed a police report Sept. 20 alleging that an NFL player raped her

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Rebecca Rusch

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“If you tell your story, if you say something, there's another person you can help. That's the reason why I wrote this book. I didn't feel the need to tell my story, but I think it's important to say certain things out loud. I was not abused, but I did have an eating disorder and body image issues. We have to say these things aloud to the people who look up to us, otherwise, we're doing them, and ourselves, a disservice. We never know where the lessons come from. Just because I haven't heard about domestic violence in cycling or endurance sports doesn't mean it's not there. We're all part of the same world. We're not segregated by the sports that we do. I'm glad that the conversation is open. The first step is admitting it, then you can work on a solution.”–Pro mountain biker Rebecca Rusch, three-time 24-hour mountain bike champion and author of the new book Rusch to Glory

Gretchen Bleiler

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“We need more balance in the world—more balance of the feminine and the masculine. So may of us don't even know what that means, but we need to start asking this question. What is that balance? I see a lot of us doing, but we need to combine that with being. When you start to find balance, then you start to ask more important questions, like 'Who am I really?' That's when you start seeing that every single person around you is a human being just doing the best that they can. Domestic violence is a bigger problem. It's a behavior that has gotten out of control and that is the symptom.” –Retired snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, four-time X Games Aspen gold medalist and Olympic silver medalist


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