Domestic violence expert explains why she resigned from NFL players commission

PHOTO: Ravens running back Ray Rice and his wife Janay made statements to the news media May 5, 2014, at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md, regarding his assault charge for knocking her unconscious in a New Jersey casino.PlayKenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images
WATCH Woman who quit NFL domestic violence group over 'inaction' speaks out

One of the founding experts from pro-football's commission of experts dealing with domestic violence is speaking out about her decision to leave and the frustration with inaction.

Interested in NFL?

Add NFL as an interest to stay up to date on the latest NFL news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
NFL
Add Interest

Deborah Epstein was one of two domestic violence experts who announced earlier this week that she was resigning from the commission, which was set up in 2014 in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal.

She announced her departure from the National Football League’s Players Association-funded commission in a Washington Post op-ed Tuesday.

Epstein spoke to ABC News about her frustrations.

"I’m increasingly less hopeful, which is why I’ve stepped down," she said about the possibility to make the changes that could help reduce domestic violence in the league. "I think there are people of goodwill at the NFLPA, but, in fact, there wasn’t the will to do meaningful reform."

Epstein, the co-director of Georgetown University's Law Center Domestic Violence Clinic, resigned at the same time as Susan Else, the former president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

The NFLPA cannot set league-wide rules without going through the NFL at large, because of the organizational structure of the league and individually owned teams, Epstein acknowledged. She and the other members of the commission gave recommendations for actions that the players association would be able to do themselves instead.

"We wrote a study with concrete implementable recommendations and we gave it to the NFL two years ago," she told ABC News, declining to name them because of her confidentiality agreement. "The NFL has not implemented any of those suggestions. They're sitting gathering dust on a shelf somewhere."

The NFLPA told ABC News they have implemented a number of Epstein's recommendations -- including the hiring of a director of wellness who is a trained clinician, in depth crisis training for staff who work with players, greater emphasis on marriage counseling and enrichment events focused on couples.

But Epstein disagreed, saying what they put in place didn't fit the recommendations.

She said there is one wellness director for more than 1,500 players and that person doesn't have professional experience dealing with domestic violence scenarios. The crisis training, she added, is too general -- and what gave her "the most pause" was the suggestion of marriage counseling for couples dealing with domestic violence.

"If you talk to anyone in the anti-domestic violence field, they will tell you that for more than a quarter of a century we have uniformly recommended against marriage counseling as a form of dealing with marriages where violence is at issue," Epstein said.

Epstein hopes that the league and the players association will be able to make reforms because "they are in a position to make meaningful change happen."

"If we can start to hold football players -- who are the gladiators of American society, American heroes –- if we can start holding them accountable for the violence they perpetrate against women, we will really be affecting change that will trickle down and affect women all over this country," she said.

Comments