Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots have joined forces with Attorney General Maura Healey to support domestic and sexual violence prevention and advocacy in Massachusetts. On Tuesday, they announced a new multi-faceted initiative that will focus on education and training, especially among teens.
The Patriots have given $1.5 million to the cause, with $500,000 designated for a program called Game Change: The Patriots Anti-Violence Partnership. An additional $150,000 for the program comes from the Attorney General's office. The money will be used to provide students, faculty and coaches from 90 public high schools across the state with training from the nationally recognized Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program, which was founded at Northeastern University in 1993.
While the initiative formally came together in recent weeks, Mr. Kraft explained that the issue of domestic violence was brought to the forefront last year, through the events involving former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice.
"It was a horrific incident and an incredibly negative story for the entire NFL," he stated at a press conference on Tuesday. "But as a result of that high profile participant, the crime brought international attention to the topic of domestic violence. That level of attention, discussion, disgust and outrage has been long overdue.
"I must admit, like many in America, I've learned a lot about domestic violence over the past year," he continued. "The statistics are staggering. If you think about all the women in our lives – mothers, grandmothers, wives, aunts, sisters, daughters, girlfriends – it doesn't seem possible that on average one in three women has faced some type of abuse in a relationship. The more you learn about domestic violence in our country, the more you want to do something to try to help."
In order to make change off the field, Mr. Kraft and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation turned to one of the team's guiding principles on the football field: teamwork.
"You can accomplish so much more when you work together as a team, especially when that team is led by a great quarterback and head coach," he explained. "Luckily, I'm joining a team effort … that has tremendous leadership provided by the likes of our quarterback, Maura Healey… and we have a great head coach in Jane Doe Inc. [the state's coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence]."
Other key partners are MVP and Mary Dunne and Malcolm Astley, parents of Lauren Dunne Astley, who at age 18 was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
Both Mary and Malcolm stressed the importance of shedding light on the issue of domestic violence through programs like Game Change.
"At least 43 more girls and women have lost their lives in Massachusetts at the hands of their partners, males by far, since Lauren's death," Malcolm stated. "The murders will continue to take place in all geographic locations, among all ethnic groups, among all sexual orientations, and among all socio-economic levels, unless we act, as we starting to do today."
Tuesday's announcement marks the start of a program that aims to have a lasting effect on the community. In addition to Game Change, the funds provided by the Patriots Charitable Foundation will allow 30 schools across the state to receive more in-depth training in partnership with local domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy groups. The money will also be used to establish a new Institute for Safety and Justice with Jane Doe Inc., and will provide five gifts of $100,000 to grassroots organizations.
As the Attorney General stated, by coming together and creating a multi-faceted project, those involved are making a strong statement about domestic violence.
She emphasized, "What you see today is teamwork. What you see today is partnership. What you see today is a collective commitment to say, 'No More.' No more violence, no more abuse. In Massachusetts, we're changing the game. That's the goal."
High schools interested in being part of Game Change: The Patriots Anti-Violence Partnership should visit www.mass.gov/ago/gamechange.