BUFFALO, N.Y. – The NFL’s new “test
case” for pro football players accused of domestic violence
could lead to increased scrutiny and more education about the issue
outside of professional sports, according to the director of the
Domestic Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic at the University
at Buffalo’s Law School.
But whether national attention of a high-profile case such as
the domestic violence charges brought against San Francisco
49ers’ Ray McDonald has a broader impact in the general
population remains to be seen, says Christopher Moellering, a
Clinical Teaching Fellow who leads the UB domestic violence
“Generally, domestic violence, at its root, is about power
and control,” says Moellering. “Abusers use physical
force, as well as threats, sexual violence, intimidation,
humiliation, isolation and economic coercion to reinforce their
control over their victims. Much of the abuse is less visible
than bruises or scars.”
McDonald is the 49ers’ defensive lineman arrested Sunday
on felony domestic violence charges, less than three days after NFL
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced tougher penalties for players
accused of domestic violence. Moellering says he would hope the
national attention on McDonald’s arrest and the NFL’s
response would lead to greater awareness, education and increased
willingness for victims to come forward. But that is far from
a foregone conclusion, according to Moellering.
Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith’s controversial
comments following Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice’s
suspension “seem to indicate the insensitivity,
misinformation and misunderstanding of these issues that exist
among the general population,” Moellering says.
“Perhaps the NFL’s new policy will inspire other
sports leagues, and professional organizations more generally, to
take a tougher line on domestic violence by hitting abusers where
it hurts, in their wallets,” Moellering says.
What seems more certain than the fallout – positive or
negative – of McDonald’s arrest is the likelihood the
NFL will hand down its suspension soon, rather than wait until the
case goes to court, according to Moellering.
“Given how much flak NFL Commissioner Goodell and the NFL
took after suspending Ray Rice only two games, and in light of how
recently the league released its new policy – minimum
suspension of six games, plus enhancements for incidents involving
pregnant women – I would expect a suspension of at least
eight games,” Moellering says.
“Given the pending start to the NFL regular season this
week, I think the league will act sooner rather than wait for the
court case to reach disposition.”
The Domestic Violence and Women’s Rights Clinic at
UB’s Law School provides law students the opportunity to
learn about and advocate on behalf of abused and trafficked women
in Western New York. The clinic takes on clients from the
criminal and family court systems, giving “student
attorneys” the chance to represent these women in court,
under Moellering’s supervision.
Moellering became a clinical teaching fellow at the UB Law
School faculty after five years as a criminal defense attorney,
both in the public and private sector. He has represented
hundreds of defendants in New York’s Domestic Violence
Courts, as well as dozens of victims of sex trafficking in the
recently created Human Trafficking Intervention Court parts.
His bio is available here.
Moellering is available for interview requests through his
email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by
contacting Charles Anzalone in UB’s Office of University
Communications at email@example.com or