Domestic violence has been at the forefront of the sports world over the past few weeks, and the topic was front and center Thursday at the annual
During a panel on domestic violence in sports and sexual assault on college campuses, retired WNBA player Ruthie Bolton shared her own experience with domestic abuse with attendees at the conference in Dana Point, Calif.
“Living in an abusive marriage, I felt like everything he was telling me, ‘I was no good’ was true. I wanted to get a grasp on what I was doing wrong,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said.
“He drank a lot and had about 15 guns,” said an emotional Bolton, who played for the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs from 1997-2004. She also said her ex-husband warned her that if she ever talked back to him, he would kill her. A week later, Bolton left. “Abuse doesn’t have a color, an age or a status. I lived through it.”
Bolton, 47, was joined on the panel by attorney Gloria Allred, ESPN anchor/host Sarah Spain and espnW editor-in-chief Alison Overholt. Allred criticized the NFL for its handling of recent domestic violence cases involving pro football players.
“I am a big believer in consequences for batterers. Roger Goodell knows that I am not going away because we want justice for victims. Women do matter,” Allred said.
She also detailed her letter to the NFL commissioner regarding Dallas Cowboys player C.J. Spillman, who has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman Allred represents in Texas.
Despite her client informing the police of the alleged incident, Allred said she wasn’t happy that Spillman was allowed to play the next day. According to Allred, the NFL responded that “the only information they had [about the matter] was in my letter.”
“A second sexual assault was filed in a different jurisdiction by another woman against the same player,” Allred continued. A massage therapist in Santa Clara, Calif., reportedly told police in December that Spillman, who was on the San Francisco 49ers last season, attempted to rape her. Prosecutors did not file charges in that case.
Allred, who describes herself as an advocate for justice and equality, also told attendees that she met with NFL reps this week to discuss domestic violence in the league.
“I had many questions about the NFL’s personal conduct policy, and the enforcement of it when allegations of sexual violence are made against women,” Allred said. The controversial attorney insisted that far too many athletes have victimized women, and used their celebrity status to escape consequences.
Referring directly to the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal that sparked the latest crisis, Allred asked, “Does it (the NFL) need a video or evidence of serious sexual assault or rape to take it seriously?”
Rice, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy and the Arizona Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer all have been embroiled in domestic violence scandals recently.
The theme of the fifth annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit is “Making an Impact.”