Katie Hood, CEO of the One Love Foundation, calls domestic violence an “epidemic that not enough people are paying attention to.” There is early evidence, too, that suggests the issue has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For several organizations that assist survivors of domestic violence, Major League Baseball’s support could not have come at a better time.
MLB and the MLB Players Association recently launched the Healthy Relationships Community Grants initiative to “address positive relationship health, with self and others.” The initiative focuses on supporting and strengthening programs that build on and improve relationship and interpersonal skills.
Through the program, MLB and MLBPA agreed to jointly award $3 million in funding to high-impact organizations in 2020 and '21.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), one of the grantees, has been a partner with MLB since 2014, advising on internal domestic violence policies before the Healthy Relationships Community Grants initiative took hold.
NNEDV focuses on “creating an environment in which domestic violence no longer exists” and keeping those issues on the national governmental agenda. They provide many services to survivors, including transitional housing programs, financial training and legal assistance.
"It has been inspiring to see the amazing work all of our outside partners in this space do to strengthen communities," said Melanie LeGrande, MLB vice president of social responsibility. "We could not be more impressed with the high-quality programs of groups like One Love Foundation and the NNEDV, and the tireless work they do on a daily basis to save lives.
“We will continue to invest in these and other efforts, including providing internal education and support to our staff and players, to reduce instances of domestic violence and intimate partner violence, and promote positive relationship health."
The recent MLB-MLBPA Healthy Relationships grant is funding legal services for NNEDV’s Women’s Law email hotline, which provides legal information for survivors and their families who may not be able to afford it or be in a safe position to find it on their own.
“The fact that we could get this grant is incredibly helpful for many survivors,” president and CEO Deborah Vagins said. “Contact with Women’s Law is the first time they’re getting a warm, thoughtful and legally based response about urgent problems related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The community grant has provided another lifeline for survivors.”
Hood’s One Love Foundation and the YWCA of San Diego County also received grants that have allowed them to expand education and funding to support programs that prevent domestic violence and support survivors.
The One Love Foundation, which was started by the family of Yeardley Love, who was lost to domestic violence, seeks to empower young people to learn and understand the signs of an unhealthy relationship and find the help they need if necessary.
“The support of Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association means an incredible amount for a number of different reasons,” Hood said. “I think that helping us bring this education to youth is critically important, not even just from a funding perspective. It’s also a lifting up of our profile and letting people know that this resource exists.”
According to Hood and One Love’s research, girls and women ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience an abusive situation than any other demographic.
That’s what makes early education on the issues so important, starting with the 10 signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships -- one of the foundations the organization teaches.
“I love that [MLB is] working with this program, both in providing those critical services to people that need them now as well as investing in prevention,” Hood said. “At the end of the day, we need a massive education campaign so that those numbers are lower in the future. MLB and MLBPA have been amazing in that.”
The YWCA of San Diego County received the Healthy Relationships grant specifically for its Becky’s House domestic violence program. Becky’s House includes both long- and short-term housing for men, women and children needing protection from their abusers.
The YWCA also provides legal and counseling services for those in the recovery process.
“We can’t do this alone,” said Heather Finlay, YWCA of San Diego County’s CEO. “We have to have the community support and the support of others to ensure that we have the funding and capacity to be able to provide these programs that are so crucial and important.
“It is with gratitude to Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association for being this voice and giving us this support to be able to support individuals and help them get out of these very dangerous situations.”
All three organizations have had to adapt during the pandemic, and contributions have made the adjustments that much easier.
The One Love Foundation has moved all its education materials online and made them more accessible in a virtual environment since many teenagers and young adults continue to work and school from home.
Both the YWCA in San Diego and NNEDV have focused even more on providing services to survivors and providing safe and healthy shelter for those that need it.
“I think it’s very progressive, and I’m certainly glad to see Baseball taking an interest in survivors of domestic violence and really looking at the importance of healthy relationships and strengthening our communities,” Finlay said. “This is a community issue, and it needs all of us really working and supporting and helping survivors.”