Unintended consequences

Here is a true story. A young man is trained to hit people as hard as possible and to react immediately to any provocation with unhindered aggression. He signs a 5 year contract for 35 million dollars to do this 16 times a year or more if he and his colleagues are very successful at doing it. One day he gets upset with his fiancée and strikes her in the head so hard that she is knocked unconscious in a public place. This creates a minor stir so the employer mandates that he must apologize and is prohibited from smashing into people for 2 of the 16 times he is scheduled to do so. The fiancée-now-spouse also refuses to press charges because she doesn’t want to jeopardize the 27 million over the next 3 years owed to the man. However, a video showing the incident is made public creating a huge uproar so the employer abruptly fires the man and condemns him since he now is no longer financially useful to the employer. The public now feels vindicated that such a despicable man is no longer employed and that domestic violence now is given the attention it deserves. However, the spouse is very unhappy because her comfortable lifestyle has just been pulled from right under her. Now, other spouses who live with violent but rich men will be even more silent about abuse because they fear losing their livelihoods too. If we really cared about victims of domestic violence, we would force the employer to set up a fund to ensure that spouses that come forward are compensated financially. We would also force them to support institutions that help the many more victims of domestic abuse who are not married to rich and famous people. This young man is probably an upstanding citizen most of the time. Now he is unemployed and potentially even angrier. He should not be thrown out onto the street but given a chance to redeem himself. The employers and the system who trained and groomed these young men need to look at themselves.

7 thoughts on “Unintended consequences

  1. I agree about the employer’s hypocritical negligence, but I feel the punishment is actually too lenient considering the severity of the action. As a sidebar, can you comment on a statistical method?

    College campuses, like mine at Case Western Reserve University, have thankfully been working to disseminate info about sexual assault. There is a statistic floating around that states “20%-25% of women in college reported having experienced an attempted or completed rape while in college”. This is based on the study “Fisher BS, Cullen FT, Turner, MG. 2000. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of Justice, Publication No. NCJ182369”. In the study, the actual incident rate was 2.8%. However survey respondents were asked to only report incidents for the past 7 months in order to “limit potential response bias due to recall or memory decay.”

    The researchers projected that “if the 2.8 percent victimization figure is calculated for a 1-year period, the data suggest that nearly 5 percent (4.9 percent) of college women are victimized in any given calendar year. Over the course of a college career—which now lasts an average of 5 years—the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter.”

    What do you think of this projection?


  2. @Chris Their numbers are reasonable but the reasoning may be suspect. They are basically assuming that you can simply add proportions, which is not correct. Using their data, on a campus of say 1000 women there were 28 assaults in a seven month period, which using their logic implies 48 assaults in a year, or 4.8%. The 4.9% figure must come from the fact that they rounded down the 2.8% figure. Now, first of all, most students do not spend 12 months on campus each year but rather 8 or 9. If the number is 9 then this comes out to 36 assaults in a school year. The second problem is that directly adding proportions assumes that a given woman is only assaulted once. It could be that some women are assaulted more than once and if you assume a Poisson process this will certainly be tragically true. So to correct for the double counting, let’s assume that a woman is not assaulted more than once per month. In this case the data suggests that there are 4 assaults per month or a probability of 0.004 per month. This implies that there is a 0.996 probability of not being assaulted per month. If a woman takes 5 years to finish her degree then that could amount to spending between 40 to 60 months on campus, which gives a probability of not being assaulted of 0.85 to 0.79. Hence, assuming that assaults are uncorrelated and random, one would expect that between 15% and 21% of college women are assaulted, which is slightly less than their numbers but still far too large.


  3. If you take a look closely at the Ray Rice video, his response to his hit is equally disturbing. Very few people have mentioned this. After he hits his fiancee, he is not shocked or alarmed that she is out cold. He calmly carries her out like a sack of potatoes and drops her on the floor. He even pushes her with his foot. There’s no comforting, no concern. I’ve seen people treat their pets better.

    If this were really the first time he hit a woman and he did not mean for this to happen, he would and should be much more apologetic than his body motions show. Most likely it is NOT his first time.

    Believe me — it is probably rampant the amount of domestic abuse that occurs in all major sports. There’s simply too much money to be made to prevent these athletes from being on the field — no matter what.

    Check these out:


  4. @JTK The lackadaisical response did get attention in some pieces I have read. I think the NFL has a responsibility to ensure that Rice doesn’t continue to beat his wife or anyone else.


  5. I agree with you that more institutions should have the social and moral responsibility to encourage as well as enforce civilized behaviour. Unfortunately, this century and last have been taken over by the “Corporation” whereby their responsibility is to the shareholder. And that means $$. Nothing else. Officers can be legally removed if their actions (however noble) have been shown to be detrimental to the finances of a company.

    You won’t see the NFL or any other major corporation take a stand on this issue unless it affects their bottom line. Only a drop in fan attendance, interest, and ultimately revenue will make a difference in NFL’s behaviour. Again — it is the almighty $$ that speaks loudest.


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