Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy returned to the field Sunday for the first time after his suspension for assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend. Especially after the notorious Ray Rice footage last year, we’ve come to view domestic violence as a troubling shadow side to pro football.

Seven players have been arrested for domestic violence incidents since Rice’s scandal a year ago, despite the league’s efforts to improve policies. There are enough cases of domestic violence, assault, drunk driving, drug possession, and more that it was remarkable for recent news to proclaim September the first calendar month in six years without an NFL player arrest. (Then, they discovered a rookie player got caught speeding on the last day of the month.)

Most official cases of domestic abuse involving famous athletes make the news and get posted in public databases for all to see. But that’s far from the norm in this country. The vast majority of abuse incidents remain behind closed doors, secrets that victims are afraid to confess, discuss, or bring to authorities. Those who suffer at the hands of their partners have stories just as harrowing, but even their close friends might not know it.

One woman shrank away as she told me how her seminary-attending husband badgered, harmed, and threatened her. “He would never hurt the kids,” she said. But one night, she feared for them and herself, and she escaped.

Another spoke of the time her husband yanked the phone from the wall and chased her with a loaded gun. She fled, but didn’t know where to run. She found shelter in a nearby field, eventually securing rescue through a coworker.

Domestic abuse occurs when a person tries ...

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