The CEO of Harbor House of Central Florida, a shelter for abused women, says the NFL has sent the wrong message for too long.
"The NFL allows you to beat two women before you lose your job," said Carol Wick. "We have tolerance for this. Twice you get to do before you lose your job and that's not OK."
Wick said the elevator surveillance video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-girlfriend has stirred a national conversation on domestic violence, but said the conversation should focus on the abuser, not the victim.
"I think it's what we expect. Here locally, we have 94 percent of people arrested for domestic violence never even have charges filed against them," said Wick. "Why are we not holding the very few men who commit these acts accountable?"
"We're seeing more teenaged girls become victims at the hands of their boyfriends. It's now 1 in 3. It used to be 1 in 4. This is not a problem that's going away, this is a problem that's getting worse," said Wick.
Wick said Harbor House is now partnering with several local high schools to teach children how to resist bullying and recognize abusive relationships. She said parents need to teach their children that violence is never, ever OK and to lead by example.
The warning signs of domestic violence include jealousy, possessiveness, and controlling behavior. Wick said the violence almost always escalates over time.
"Oftentimes they're willing to give their abuser a second chance, willing to try and forgive, and believe that person will change," said Wick. "Should they? I think that in most cases no. Because that decision may lead to their death, the death of their children."
Wick said the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she tries to leave her abuser.
Harbor House of Central Florida gives abused women a safe haven, helps support victims and create an action plan to safely leave and stay away from an abuser, and offers resources such as the R3 mobile app for Apple and Android devices. Harbor House calls the app "Project Courage – recognize, respond, and refer." It includes a screening tool to help victims recognize if their relationship is abusive.