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Sunday, April 11, 2021

SafeHaven: Strong message to men



2018 Legacy of Women Honorees

Traci Bernard, Texas Health Southlake

Rose Bradshaw, North Texas Community Foundation

Katie Carlson, Frost

Yolanda Carroll, BNSF Railway

Karen Deakin, Civic Leader

Shannon Greene, Tandy Leather

Janet Hahn, Decker Jones

Harriet Harral, The Harral Group

Melinda Johnson, Merrill Lynch

Victoria Wise, Tanglewood Moms

If Troy Vincent’s keynote address to the Legacy of Women luncheon Oct. 18 at the Fort Worth Convention Center was meant to make men uncomfortable, the former NFL star succeeded.

Vincent is executive vice president for football operations for the NFL. But he wasn’t in Fort Worth to talk football.

The Legacy of Women awards are a major fundraiser for SafeHaven, Tarrant County’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to end domestic violence in the community. SafeHaven operates a 24/7/365 hotline, two emergency shelters, two resource centers, a transitional living complex and multiple programs including case management, counseling, on-site school, day care, transitional living and permanent supportive housing programs, legal representation, and violence prevention programs for schools and the community.

Vincent does a lot of traveling to speak to audiences like the one in Fort Worth, visiting women’s shelters, speaking to men’s groups and challenging others to lend their platforms to fight injustice.

He is the only player to have received the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award, NFL Players Association Byron Whizzer White Award, Sporting News #1 Good Guy, and NFL Athletes in Action Bart Starr Award. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1992 and played in the NFL for 15 seasons.

He has very public in taking up the cause of reducing violence against women.

“That is my non-negotiable,” Vincent said. “This talk is a fight on behalf of women and children. It doesn’t matter where I’m at, who I’m with.”

He’s been delivering his message for almost 25 years.

“The rooms are always full of women. They’re on the front end of fighting for their own safety, their own lives. They’re leading the organizations. This is around the country. When does this end?” he said.

There is a siege and a war on women that has been going on for decades.

“Men, we’ve got to stand up. We got to come together, and we got to fight,” he said.

He knows that personally.

For him, it started in an apartment complex called Valley Homes in Trenton, New Jersey, when he was 7 or 8, holding his 4-year-younger brother while they listened to the sounds of their mother being beaten in the next room.

“You’re really hearing the sound, and it feels like it’s an eternity,” he said. “Then deciding to come out to help is when everything goes silent. You hear the door close and then hear silence.

“How are we going to find momma now? Is she going to be on the floor? Did he put the pillow over her head? Did he hit her with the shoe again? Did he beat her with a baseball bat again? What did he do today?” Vincent said.

“Imagine visiting your mother at a hospital and you can’t recognize who she is anymore” because she was in a facial cast, he said.

“You go into a room and there’s a cast. You don’t even recognize that woman. You’re there with your grandpa like, ‘Where’s mom?’ and someone says, ‘Mrs. Vincent is in a room down in intensive care down that hallway, and it looks like she’s been in a car wreck.’ ”

He asked the crowd whether anyone in the room had fed his or her mother through a straw because of a facial cast.

“They would cast the face, cut the eyes out, cut the hole so that they could breathe, and cut a hole around the mouth because every bone in the jaw had been broken. You feed your mother through a straw. What 10- or 11-year-old should have to do that?”

Things happened time and again, he said.

“As a young teenager, most teenagers go to school and then immediately after school they start to get ready for football. When I went to school, I needed to get home because I got to find out if my mother’s still alive.”

By age 15 and in high school, “I finally felt physical enough where I was at a place where I could say, ‘Stop,’ and, ‘Mom, we got to go,’ ” Vincent said.

He said that at age 16 he fell in love with Jesus Christ.

“So many people would ask me how did you get through that? It was the love and the grace of Jesus Christ,” Vincent said.

Vincent spoke about first responders in cases of domestic violence and abuse.

“Guess who’s a first responder? You. It’s not the 9-1-1 call,” he said.

When your sister, your daughter, your son, your niece, your granddaughter, calls for help, the response needs to be immediate and it cannot be “Why were you there? What were you wearing?” he said.

“Due process isn’t my job,” Vincent said. “As of today, this moment, I believe them. I get it. I understand. So many women have dealt with this their entire life – we’re talking years and decades and decades of this abuse.

“We’ve got to do things differently. We got to see things differently. Give her a chance. When you get that call … how we respond to that is so critical. Don’t give the victim shame. Don’t make your child, your granddaughter, your niece feel like there was something that she wore that gave this monster, this perpetrator, the right to violate her,” Vincent said.

Football is a data-driven sport, he says, and data are important to him.

And data do not lie.

“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. More than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Ten million children will witness some form of domestic violence every year. I was one of those. Nearly one in every five teenage girls has a boyfriend who has threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup,” Vincent said.

He asked the men in the audience to standHe urged them to think of violence against women as a men’s issue and to create environments at work and at home that respect women.

Be an ally to women, he said, not just those attending the SafeHaven awards lunch but to all “women who are working to end all forms of violence against women and girls.”

“I would ask you that, as men. If you can just look down to your side, your left and right, the women in this room need you. They’re fighting, they’re screaming, they need you. They can’t do it alone,” Vincent said.

“Have the courage to look inward and ask questions about your attitudes that support violence against women. Don’t laugh at jokes that support violence against women and girls. Ask yourself how you could actually help and support organizations like SafeHaven,” he said.

There are no excuses.

“When you get back in your car, when you’re home tonight after the shower, ask yourself in the mirror, what does your silence imply. That’s a personal question: Men, what does your silence imply? Most of the time, when I don’t say nothing, that means I agree with what’s going on,” Vincent said.

He thanked the men standing and offered a challenge.

“If I’m invited back next year, I would hope to see the room is three-quarters full of men. Men, we can make the difference. Please, ask yourself tonight, in your own time, what does my silence actually imply?”

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Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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