Study finds link between domestic violence and some sporting events
Published Thursday, June 8, 2017 1:10PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, June 8, 2017 6:22PM EDT
CALGARY -- A study suggests domestic violence calls in Calgary spike around the end of the Calgary Stampede and some high-stakes football games.
Researchers with the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy delved into almost 70,000 domestic violence reports to the police and the Connect abuse help line between 2011 and 2014.
"We're interested in this because, if we become better informed, we can then design primary prevention strategies to mitigate or prevent the violence from happening in the first place," said Lana Wells, one of the authors of the paper published Thursday.
Co-author Elena Esina said previous research around the world has also found external factors play a role in domestic violence, but no two cities are alike.
"We know that holidays, summer months, certain cultural events do have significant impact on the rates of domestic violence, but they are different for specific local contexts," she said.
The researchers found domestic violence calls were up 15 per cent on some days in the latter half of the 10-day Stampede compared with an average day.
For Canadian Football League games, the study found domestic violence calls were 15 per cent higher when the Calgary Stampeders faced off against the rival Edmonton Eskimos and increased to 40 per cent when the Stampeders were in the Grey Cup final.
No similar connection was found when it came to National Hockey League games -- even when the Calgary Flames played the Edmonton Oilers -- or with Ultimate Fighting Championship events. That suggested the level of contact and aggression in a sport isn't much of a factor.
Increased alcohol consumption contributes, but is not the sole cause, Wells said. Families are also in close quarters and emotions run high during high-stakes games or games in which there is an intense rivalry between teams.
The Stampede features rodeo events, concerts, rides and games on the fairgrounds, but many workplaces and bars hold western-themed bashes across the city.
Wells recommends the Stampede and its partners focus more on affordable family-friendly activities, promote gender equity and healthy relationships, and provide extra protection at certain times.
"We also think the inclusion of an alcohol prevention policy that focuses on reducing the accessibility and availability is critical," she said.
"This isn't about throwing the Calgary Stampede under the bus. This is about a cultural event that's very important in our community and how can we make it safer for everybody."
The Stampede has employee policies that take these issues into account and works with community organizations such as the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, said spokesman Larry Lalonde.
Staffers at licensed facilities at Stampede Park are trained about responsible drinking, he added.
The study's authors also recommend local sports associations develop domestic violence prevention strategies that include training for coaches and athletes, zero tolerance for their own members and public awareness campaigns when events are happening.
Wells praised the Stampeders' partnership with the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters.
Stampeders president and general manager John Hufnagel said some of the study's findings were disconcerting, such as a spike in domestic violence calls around holidays like Valentine's Day, Canada Day, Halloween and New Year's Day.
"It does give the opportunity to emphasize how committed the Calgary Stampeders and the Canadian Football League are toward helping stop domestic violence," Hufnagel said.
League players and staff take part in domestic violence seminars and the team has public service announcements during games, he added.
But Hufnagel said he's open to hearing how the researchers feel the organization can do more.
"We take it very seriously and if they have any ideas, they can call me."
The paper also said reports of domestic violence in Calgary were 14 per cent higher than average during the 2013 flood and that there appeared to be a correlation with falling oil prices.
The researchers recommend increasing government funding for child care, more public education, bolstered training for parents and families and further research on the role of alcohol in domestic violence.