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Opinion | Rachael Ostovich sharing spotlight with Greg Hardy is unthinkable

News of ex-NFL player Greg Hardy being placed on the same card as Rachael Ostovich, a domestic violence survivor, has many people up in arms over the UFC's decision.

In December, news broke that a fight between Greg Hardy and Allen Crowder was being finalized for the first UFC on ESPN+ card in Brooklyn, New York on January 19.

Immediately, the MMA community erupted with backlash against the placement of the match.

On that very same card, we will also be getting a contest between flyweight prospects Rachael Ostovich and Paige VanZant. The fight was briefly called off with Ostovich being hospitalized due to injuries sustained after allegedly being attacked by her husband and fellow MMA fighter, Arnold Berdon. After seeking a second opinion for her injuries, Ostovich was medically cleared and the fight was put back on the ESPN+ card.

Since being attacked, Ostovich has been using her platform to actively speak out against domestic violence.

Placing Hardy on the same card as Ostovich for his UFC debut has brought a great deal of discussion among the combat sports community about fighters with a history of domestic violence, and their place in the sport. The UFC’s decision to sign Hardy was controversial enough, but to put him on the same card as a survivor of domestic abuse speaks volumes to how tone-deaf they are on the subject. 

A large portion of Greg Hardy’s sympathizers and supporters have made countless arguments about his right to a “second chance”.

At the UFC 225 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White defended Hardy, stating “If you talk to anybody he trains with, male or female, they say that he’s a very good guy. He’s very humble. Everybody deserves a second chance”.

It seems as though many of the individuals who make the “second chance” argument don’t seem to know what it means for a perpetrator of domestic abuse to actually go through the process of formal rehabilitation successfully.

For those who don’t know me personally, I have a background in Social Work, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Health, International Community Development, and Autism & Behavioural Science. 

In my field, not only am I obligated to support individuals who are survivors of domestic violence, but I am also obligated to work with and support offenders if they decide to rehabilitate. I have had the opportunity to work with both communities. It is not an easy task to take on, but it is expected.

For the attackers, formal rehabilitation typically includes taking ownership of their actions, showing and expressing remorse, and seeking and participating in long-term interventions. This includes but is not limited to, cognitive-behavioural therapy, individual counselling, group-counselling sessions, and extensive anger management programs. These interventions, in unison, are essential to reducing recidivism in domestic violence offenders. Successful rehabilitation of offenders comes from a collective of these long-term treatment methods.

To make one thing clear, as this is somehow a big debate, Hardy was found guilty and convicted of assault and communicating threats. He appealed and eventually settled with his ex-girlfriend out of court. Following this, the NFL launched an internal investigation, conducted by Lisa Friel, which uncovered evidence to conclude that Hardy did violate the personal conduct policy by perpetuating “significant acts of violence”, resulting in his suspension. 

When Hardy eventually became a free agent in the NFL, he had difficulty securing work. His manager had sent out information to teams regarding his participation in diagnostic screening and therapy that Hardy was participating in.

Some of the methods that he had participated in were 24 counselling sessions and group therapy. Despite investigation findings, and participating in these interventions, Hardy still maintains his innocence and has claimed multiple times that he had never assaulted his ex-girlfriend.

With that information being taken into consideration, I don’t believe Greg Hardy has made a genuine effort to engage in any long-term formal rehabilitation. Anything he has done has clearly had no impact on his ability to accept responsibility for his past actions, which is an integral part of rehabilitation. There is no indication that he still participates in any counselling. I would assume if that was the case, Dana White would have been quick to mention it by now in defence of Hardy. 

In an interview with TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, Hardy was specifically asked: “Are you apologetic for your past and the things that have happened in the past now that you’re moving forward with this career? Do you feel like looking back on that you are sorry and remorseful for what did happen in the past?”

This is what he had to say…

His answer here shows a complete disregard for how his actions have impacted anyone but himself and his career. While some survivors of domestic abuse need extensive counselling and treatment to be able to function normally in intimate relationships in the future. Some individuals never get past their PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and live out a large portion of their lives haunted by the actions of their assailants.

Something people don’t understand or consider is that abusers have privileges in the aftermath of traumatic events that their victims don’t. This is exactly why long-term rehabilitation is essential for them because some individuals can’t fully understand the extent of their actions or take ownership of what they’ve done.

On one side of the conversation, some fans vehemently believe what fighters do in their personal lives should not impact their ability to fight. Others believe that fighters with a history of domestic violence shouldn’t be allowed to fight. Then there are a few fans who want to see him fight just so that they can see him take a beating.

I take the position that fighters with a history of domestic abuse should not be allowed to represent the sport, especially above many more deserving fighters, if they are not undergoing formal rehabilitation. I also don’t take pleasure in seeing them lose fights, because at the end of the day they are still given a worldwide platform to exploit and make a profit off of. They still have young and impressionable fans idolizing them. They still send the message that their actions are without consequence. 

It’s also fairly common to see fans asking for Hardy to be matched up against Derrick Lewis since Lewis has been outspoken about giving abusers a taste of their own medicine. The way I see it, you’re just rewarding his misconduct with a big fight. I don’t see the long-term benefit in that. What I do see a benefit in, is removing perpetrators of domestic abuse from the sport. 

We have a number of fighters who act as great ambassadors of the sport that don’t have a toxic history of abuse, yet for some reason, organizations and fans find it difficult to let the controversial fighters go.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Phone: 1-800-799-7233

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