Patriots owner Robert Kraft: Anti-violence training takes aim at 'endemic' problem
September 15, 2015
State House News by Katie Lannan
Massachusetts high school students, teachers and coaches will be educated on preventing relationship violence through a new partnership, Attorney General Maura Healey and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced Tuesday.
Dubbed "Game Change: The Patriots Anti-Violence Partnership," the program aims to stop domestic violence and sexual assault by reaching out to young people and helping the adults in their lives spot warning signs of unhealthy relationships.
Funded by a $500,000 gift from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and $150,000 from Healey's office, the program will select 90 schools to participate in training programs this winter with the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program, part of Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.
"The earlier we can educate young people about healthy relationships, the earlier we can build a sense of dignity and respect in how we treat one another," Healey said. "And I know that this will all go a long way to increasing the chance that we have of making a difference and reducing violence."
Schools will be selected beginning this fall. Healey said a key to the program will be involving students of different backgrounds from rural, suburban and urban communities.
The Game Change partnership is a piece of a $1.5 million domestic violence and sexual assault prevention initiative from the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, Kraft and Healey said.
The initiative also includes making five "catalyst gifts" of $100,000 to grassroots anti-domestic violence groups and working with Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against domestic and sexual violence, to launch an institute that would train the directors of local organizations, foundation president Josh Kraft said.
Robert Kraft said he'd begun to learn more about the prevalence of domestic violence last year, after a video surfaced showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in the face inside an elevator. While not referring to Rice by name, Kraft called it a "horrific incident" and an "incredibly negative story for the entire NFL."
"But as a result of that high-profile participant, the crime brought international attention to the topic of domestic violence," he said. "That level of attention, discussion, disgust and outrage has been long overdue."
Healey praised Kraft and the Patriots as an organization that knows how to achieve results, and Kraft referred to the attorney general as the "quarterback" who would provide "tremendous leadership" for the partnership.
Continuing the football metaphor, Kraft said Jane Doe Inc. would serve as the partnership's "head coach."
Jane Doe Inc. will work with Healey's office and the Patriots Foundation to select local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organizations which will partner with 30 schools for additional training.
The training from local groups will focus on equipping students to teach their younger peers about healthy relationships and bystander intervention, as well as on establishing school policies and services for students and families dealing with violence at home, Healey said.
"We live in an era where finally these issues are being discussed," Jane Doe Inc. Executive Director Debra Robbin said. "It is only when we end the silence and name the problem that we can begin to promote solutions,that we can begin to meaningfully address sexual and domestic violence."
The partnership announcement was praised by the parents of Lauren Dunne Astley, a Wayland teenager beaten and killed by her ex-boyfriend in July 2011.
"At least 43 more girls and women in Massachusetts have lost their lives at the hands of their partners, males by far, since Lauren's death," Malcolm Astley said during a news conference in Healey's office. "The murders will continue to take place in all geographic locations, among all ethnic groups, among all sexual orientations and among all socioeconomic levels unless we act, which we are starting to do today."