Travis Co. Sheriff kicks off 'Football is a contact sport, love shouldn't be' campaign

High school athletes and coaches from all over Central Texas piled into the Travis County Sheriff's Office Wednesday morning to announce the 7th annual "Football is a contact sport, love shouldn't be" campaign.

"On an average 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.  Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner," said Sherriff Sally Hernandez. 

As for dating violence specifically, according to statistics from LoveIsRespect.org, nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

1 in 10 high school students has been hit or slapped by a boyfriend of girlfriend.

"We see so many kids these days whose role models are professional athletes or musicians who may not always give the most positive message," said Detective Laura Mabry.

"The culture in football is 'on the field you need to be aggressive to play the game' but there's a difference in the way that you need to conduct yourself off the field compared to on it," said Hank Carter, head coach and Athletics Director for Lake Travis High School. 

Detective Mabry says sheriff's deputies are forming bonds with the athletes and giving them a few pointers.

"We're giving them the tools to recognize these signs of abuse early on.  Is somebody controlling you, are they always wanting to look at your phone?" Mabry said.

Carter says his team has been a part of the campaign for years.

"I think it's fantastic, it gives us a reminder to bring awareness to a very important topic, especially related to football lately.  There's too much domestic violence in our country and certainly too much of it associated with football players," Carter said. 

Matthew Baldwin is Carter's quarterback. "Putting yourself in that situation where you're mad or you're having hard times with the relationship it's better just to not be in it," he said.

Athletes are taking National Domestic Violence Awareness Month onto the field.  Football players like Cameron Wilkins from the Del Valle Cardinals are wearing purple ribbons on their helmets.

"I know a lot of people that have gone through dating violence and assaults and everything so being able for everybody to come around and do this means a lot to me," Wilkins said.

Volleyball players like Krishonna Jones from William B. Travis High School are sporting purple shoe laces.

"Violence is not okay, for men to hit women or women to hit men vice versa.  It just shows that people are starting to notice that it's not ok," Jones said.

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