Domestic Violence: America's Hidden Epidemic

ABC News' Pierre Thomas, USA Today's Christine Brennan, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., discuss the implications of the Ray Rice scandal on the NFL and across the nation.
6:54 | 09/14/14

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Transcript for Domestic Violence: America's Hidden Epidemic
That is former NFL star ray rice in his first public appearance since the release of that graphic video of him punching his then fiancee. That video shining a new light on the hidden crisis of domestic violence. Here's Pierre Thomas. He came behind me and hit me upside my head. I fell out, blood was coming out of my head profusely. I had a black eye, which if you look closely, I still have that ring up around my eye. I had my head bust open. I had 15 stitches in my head. That's what donna's husband did to her. She keeps this photo as a reminder of what she endured. The abuse never stopped. If it wasn't physical, it was verbal. If it wasn't verbal, it was emotional. It was horrific. Reporter: Domestic abuse, it's America's dark secret usually happening behind closed doors hidden. But this week, the country saw what domestic violence looks like up close and personal with that shocking video of NFL player ray rice knocking out his then fiancee. Domestic violence put simply is a chronic national epidemic. Peg hacskaylo runs a shelter for battered women in our nation's capital. We get a whole range of injuries from the survivors that Harkin are coming in. If they're coming to us from the hospital, they may have open wounds, they may have broken limbs. Reporter: According to the justice department in 2012 nearly 665,000 women were victims of domestic violence. That's 75 women every hour. For this problem, ground zero is every town. Every city. In the D.C. Area -- The local domestic violence shelters here served over 30,000 domestic violence survivors last year. 30,000? 30,000. Reporter: But despite the stunning level of violence, 70% of domestic violence cases don't end in prosecutions as victims choose not to press charges and stay in violent relationships. When the police came, I still protected him. And that was because you loved him. I did love him very much. In your heart you do believe that the person that is supposed to love and protect me would not hurt me in this way. Donna's abuse ended only after prosecutors moved on without her cooperation, and her husband was convicted. Another domestic abuse victim, tiffany, said fear, layers of pain and self-doubt must be overcome. You have to want out and you have to love yourself more, more than loving your abuser. I'm getting so much better now because I've realized that it doesn't have anything to do with me. Reporter: In a shift, some cities prosecutors and police are aggressively pursuing cases even when the victims don't cooperate. High point, North Carolina, is one of them. If the victim is continuing to be psychologically abused, if not physically abused, then that person just cannot be responsible for the prosecution, it has to be the state. Reporter: The FBI is encouraging police to do the basics like take photographs of victim injuries, find more witnesses. Those tactics apparently do work. In the five years before we began this, we had 17 domestic-related homicides. In the five years since, we've only had one. Reporter: A glimmer of hope amidst the tragic of domestic violence which claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 women in 2012. Were you willing to stay with him at that point? I probably would have stayed. Being honest, yeah. And you might be dead. Yeah. Reporter: For "This week," Pierre Thomas, ABC news, Washington. Our thanks to Pierre. Joining us now, Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal, who has worked on issues of domestic violence as the attorney general in Connecticut and in the senate and "Usa today's" Christine Brennan is an ABC news contributor. She interviewed roger Goodell this week, but, senator, I want to start with you. That was such a moving piece. You heard those astonishing figures. How do you change the attitudes about this? How do you get more cases prosecuted? As a former prosecutor, Martha, I know how difficult these cases are, and this ray rice incident could really be a turning point because this exception where we have a video, mostly this crime, it is a crime occurs behind closed doors surrounded by stigma, shame, secrecy could be a real opportunity that we need to seize from congress and from the NFL to do more. Christine, I assume you agree with that. Oh, I do. I think this is a watershed moment. It could be, Martha, especially if the NFL move as head on this and as we know, sports takes us to these national conversations, something horrible, so terrible as this could end up having a very good result. You talked to commissioner Goodell as we said. He told you in no uncertain terms they didn't have the second video until last Sunday. Do you believe him and should he resign? I have to believe him right now as a journalist. That's what he told me. I think if it comes out he did not, that roger Goodell did know and did see it before then, that would mean he lied and then he would have to resign. Otherwise, I do think he'll survive. And we've got Adrian Peterson this week, the Adrian Peterson case where he was arrested for using a switch on his 4-year-old child. Another story, I mean, this is the NFL's worst nightmare. I think this is the biggest scandal we have ever seen in U.S. Sports. And do you believe Goodell should resign? Should they just clean the slate? If roger Goodell lied as a lot of people believe he did because the security apparatus of the NFL is so competent and well experienced, that for them to not have known about this tape seems incredible. He should go. He should go if he lied. But here's the more important point, Martha, regardless who runs the NFL, it ought to be making a serious commitment, stronger penalties, a six-game suspension is way too lenient and equally important, resources, funding for domestic survivor groups. Violence ought to be met with better services, and the congress has an obligation there too to do better and do more. And, Christine, very quickly, women, 45% of the fans now are women. Big money source, will women forgive? You know, they really shouldn't. This is a time for the NFL to have to say it's sorry, but it will be interesting to see the reaction over the next few weeks as these stories continue to grow, whether women fans who, as you said, spend a lot of money on the league, if they start to show with their pocketbook how angry they are.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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