Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton calls on leaders to take stand against domestic violence (Tennessean)

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Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton calls on leaders to take stand against domestic violence (Tennessean)

Categories: News

Calling for an end to domestic violence, Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton stood before a group of more than 500 Middle Tennessee community leaders among others in Nashville Thursday and asked them to take a stand.

“We have to talk about something that we don’t want to talk about,” Hamilton, who lives outside Nashville, told the group during the 3rd annual AMEND Experience, a gathering of people committed to ending violence against women and girls. “We need to make a difference.”

AMEND Together, formerly known as MEND, is a program from YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee which hosted a breakfast at the Omni to explain the AMEND Experience, featuring Hamilton as keynote speaker. AMEND Together kicked off in 2014 and has worked with Metro Nashville Public Schools to mentor athletic coaches, young men and boys through relationships with other men.

Thursday’s breakfast focused on ways to “Challenge the Culture” that supports violence and featured Hamilton as keynote speaker.

Attendees, including the public and representatives from the Metro police and the Davidson County District Attorney’s office, were provided with practical tips on ways common language and interactions can be changed to help establish gender equity and respect for women.

According to statistics, one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime while one in five women will be raped.

The Volunteer State ranks fourth in the rate of women being killed by men in the United States. Nearly 78,000 reports of domestic violence were made statewide in 2017. About a third of the calls happen in Nashville.

“Before we look at the solution, we have to address the problem,” said Rita Mitchell,  a YWCA USA Board of Directors member and the YWCA Nashville and Middle Tennessee Board of Directors chair-elect, who welcomed the group.

As of Thursday, Nashville currently housed 60 victims of domestic violence in undisclosed shelters across the city: 31 children, 27 men and two men. Mitchell said 14 additional beds are planned which will accommodate 100 extra families each year.

Also in attendance: YWCA board member and Nashville Predators President and CEO Sean Henry.

The Predators have been a key partner and champion for the YWCA in the AMEND effort.

However, Predators player Austin Watson, one of three Predators players who participated in an anti-domestic violence video for the YWCA, pleaded no contest in July to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge.

The NFL took a stand on the matter Wednesday when it suspended Watson for 27 games in connection with the crime.

“We’re going to step forward. We’re not hiding from it but we are facing it.”  Henry told the group just one day after the punishment was handed down. “We’re not focusing on the suspension but on him (Watson) and his family (as well as) the organization continuing its efforts on ending domestic violence.

Henry, who told the crowd the YWCA has been supportive since Watson’s arrest, said he’s been asked by others “How do you stand for this when you have someone in your organization whose been charged… suspended?”

He responded Thursday, “I stepped back and then realized, ‘How can we not be involved? It’s a problem in our community that needs addressed.'”

Reach Natalie Neysa Alund at nalund@tennessean.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article appeared in the Tennessean on Sept. 13, 2018