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US Football to Alter Personal Conduct Policy to Help Curb Abuse of Women

  • Zlatica Hoke

The U.S. National Football League says it plans to improve its personal conduct policies following the release of a video showing one of its biggest stars beating his then-girlfriend unconscious.

The league's commissioner vowed to respond better to domestic violence in the future. He spoke as the Obama administration took steps to change the culture of violence against women by encouraging victims to speak up and witnesses, especially men, to intervene.

Last week, video footage showing football player Ray Rice beating his fiance Janay Palmer in an elevator caused public outcry and swift condemnation by the White House. Anger was directed at football officials for not punishing Rice enough when a video clip first emerged in February showing Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. The Baltimore Ravens player was initially suspended for two games and forced to undertake counseling.

“I made the biggest mistake in my life. She can do no wrong. She’s an angel,” he said.

But after seeing the new violent footage, the team cancelled his $35 million contract and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him indefinitely.

On Friday, Goodell publicly acknowledged he had mishandled the situation.

"I'm not satisfied with what I did. I let everybody else down and for that I'm sorry as I mentioned earlier: that's what we're going to correct and that's what we're going to fix,'' he said.

In some initial steps, the league announced an upcoming partnership with a domestic violence hotline and a sexual violence resource center. Goodell also instructed all NFL and team personnel to attend educational sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault.

"Domestic violence including child abuse, sexual assault, irresponsible ownership or handling of firearms, the illegal use of alcohol or drugs, these activities must be condemned and stopped,'' he said.

Goodell spoke just hours after President Barack Obama launched a campaign to encourage young men to intervene when they witness a situation that could lead to a sexual assault.

"It's the responsibility of the soccer coach and the captain of the basketball team and the football players, and it's on fraternities and sororities and the editor of the school paper and the drum major and the band, and it's on the English department and the Engineering department, and it's on the high schools and the elementary schools, and it's on teachers and counselors and mentors, and it's on ministers," he said.

"It's on celebrities and sports leagues and the media to set a better example. It's on parents and grandparents and older brothers and sisters to sit down young people to talk about this issue. And it's not just on the parents of young women to caution them. It's on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women.''

Obama said one in five women are sexually assaulted while in university. But school officials are often reluctant to seriously pursue reports of abuse. Students at New York's Columbia University demonstrated last week demanding reforms to improve the school's response to sexual assault.

Last year, the U.S. Defense Department announced measures to curb sexual abuse in the military.

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