Now that the World Series and subsequent celebration parade have ended and now that Domestic Violence Awareness Month has come to a close, it’s perhaps time for a little actual awareness building.

As a business decision by a professional entity of any kind, the response of the Houston Astros organization to the actions of an assistant general manager last month was deplorable.

As an actual opportunity to build awareness of the issue of domestic violence, the response was — and is — invaluable.

To review:

On July 30 of last year, the Houston Astros acquired star relief pitcher Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays for the low price of three minor leaguers because Osuna was charged with beating the mother of his 3-year-old son and was finishing up a 75-game league-imposed suspension.

The Blue Jays wouldn’t stand for keeping Osuna, despite his baseball talent and the domestic violence charges being dropped when the victim returned to Mexico and refused to press charges.

No such reservations for the Astros.

In announcing/justifying the trade, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow patted himself on the back for his investigation of Osuna’s remorse, and looked forward to having his bargain basement acquisition “get back to focusing on pitching.”

Apparently, Osuna did just that. His fastball returned and he led the American League with 38 saves this season.

All was apparently well until then-assistant general manager Brandon Taubman spotted three female reporters after the Astros’ pennant-clinching victory over the Yankees and — unprovoked — shouted “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f---ing glad we got Osuna!” directly at the three of them.

Stephanie Apstein, a female reporter from Sports Illustrated, wrote about the incident; one that she and the entire Astros’ organization knew had been witnessed by many others.

Here’s where the lesson begins.

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The Astros defended Taubman and doubled down on their assistant GM’s comments and their original decision to trade for Osuna. Perhaps hoping that the brotherhood would not corroborate a story written by a “mere female,” the Astros called Apstein’s story “misleading and completely irresponsible” and concluded their release with “(w)e are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated's attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist."

Denial and a claim that a female fabricated a story — so very much like domestic violence itself.

When a woman is emotionally, psychologically or physically abused, responses vary. Some try to convince themselves it was a one-time thing; others blame themselves while others attempt to “normalize” the situation by believing their abuser’s claim that they somehow deserved the abuse due to some real or imagined petty offense.

Many rotate through all of these coping mechanisms — some going so far as to deny that what they are experiencing is abuse at all — it’s simply “what is.”

Denial. Certainly, the Astros nailed that portion of the domestic violence cycle.

Their claim that a female fabricated a story is equally central to incidents of domestic violence. Despite decades of data that demonstrate incidents of physical domestic violence as among the most unreported crimes, there remains some level of belief in the male species that women fabricate — or at least embellish — reports of financial, sexual, emotional, psychological and physical abuse. Not so.

The reality is that virtually 100% of men accused of domestic violence deny that any such abuse occurred.

Despite #MeToo and “awareness” months ad infinitum, there remains little appetite to understand the cycle of intimate partner violence and the reasons why men perpetuate them and women endure them.

We’ve conveniently labeled sexual assault and domestic violence among “women’s issues” for decades. They are not. They are men’s issues because it is predominantly men who are the perpetrators. Men must share the responsibility in not only building awareness of domestic violence but also reducing the frequency of its occurrence.

Until then, we’re left with the two things the Houston Astros just demonstrated: denial and accusations of the fabricated story.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month may have ended Thursday, but thanks to a dedicated group of female reporters who refused to remain silent, an opportunity to build awareness was created, forcing the male-dominated executive team of the Astros to finally make the right decision long after the tide of public opinion forced them to do so.

Only when those male-dominated business executives begin to do so instinctively, will we have an idea that awareness is finally taking hold.

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John Pfeifer is development specialist for The Women’s Center in Southern Illinois.



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