There might be hope for Jose Reyes

On Oct 31st, 2015, Jose Reyes was charged for domestic abuse for choking his wife, and throwing her into a glass door. Reyes, who was playing for the Rockies at the time, was subsequently suspended without pay; he also effectively blacklisted himself with other athletes found guilty of domestic abuse.

Just like in the Ray Rice case, a major question became whether any MLB team would give Reyes a second chance at playing professional baseball. Unlike Rice’s situation, however, a team did just that — the Mets signed Reyes to a minor league deal. The more pressing question becomes: Will Reyes commit domestic violence again, or can he be rehabilitated? To get an idea, we dove into the scientific literature for some answers.

Violence Begets Violence?
At a broad level, the research indicates that violence tends to precede violence. As you might have guessed, this is the case with most domestic abusers: Previous violence is the best predictor for future violence. So, the likeliest scenarios are: 

1. Reyes has committed domestic abuse prior to the October 2015 incident.1


2. Reyes will commit domestic abuse in the future. Almost 50% of men who had been violent prior to their initial incident engaged in violence in the following year. 2

We don’t know whether Reyes committed domestic abuse prior to the 2015 incident, and there haven’t been any public reports of abuse since. But we do know that Reyes was publicly unhappy when he was traded to the last place Rockies late last July. As he told the Denver Post, “I don’t want to spend the rest of my career on a last place team.” For a player as lauded as Reyes, who has played on competitive teams through his career, the move was no-doubt a shot to his ego.

Though we can’t diagnose Reyes directly, the trade to the Rockies fits the bill for some of the key characteristics of domestic abusers: Unemployment and psychological distress (Riggs, Caulfield, & Street, 2000). Reyes wasn’t technically unemployed, but he certainly was feeling less than needed on competing teams. Maybe Reyes was underemployed — he went from the eventual division winner, to a team who would tie for the 4th worst record in baseball. And as a 32 year old in his 13th season in the majors, there could have been more than enough psychological distress about his career arching towards completion, We’ll see what happens here,” he said. But in the next couple years, I don’t want waste my time like that.”

There could be hope
In no way, shape, or form do we condone Reyes’ behavior; in fact, we don’t even think he should have been reinstated into MLB 3. But, with that said, research has shown that there is hope for his rehabilitation and eventual recovery. For one thing, as the Washington Post reported, Reyes has already been to counseling, and plans to continue even though his allotted sessions are over. More counseling is certainly not a guarantee that Reyes will continue to rehabilitate,4 it can be successful — most readily through committing to cognitive behavioral change and court-ordered therapy 5.

Perhaps more important to his recovery, to our knowledge, Reyes has not demonstrated several behaviors common among domestic abusers who are most likely to reoffend:

1. No history of violence. Only 10% of those who had not been violent previously are re-offenders.  2

2. No history with drug or alcohol abuse.6

3. People who are younger, unemployed, unmarried, earn lower incomes, and are more than first-time domestic violence offenders are more likely to not complete treatment, and thus are less likely to rehabilitate.7

A role model?
We hold athletes in the highest levels of esteem: Champions, super-human, role models, professionals, all-stars, and pinnacles of success. These perceptions probably make it all the more difficult to cope with the harsh reality that athletes are, in fact, human beings — as flawed and ugly as the rest of us. Jose Reyes is no exception. Though Reyes can never take back his actions, he has a chance to be a model for rehabilitation and reflection.

1 Feld, S.L., & Straus, M.A. (1989). Escalation and desistance of wife assault in marriage. Criminology, 27, 141–161.

2 Riggs, D.S., Caulfield, M.B., & Street, A.E. (2000). Risk for Domestic Violence: Factors Associated with Perpetration and Victimization. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56, 1289 – 1316.

3 We think there hasn’t been enough time for a full rehabilitation. The MLB policy is not necessarily concordant with research.

4 Maxwell, C.D., Davis, R.C., & Taylor, B.G. (2010). The impact of length of domestic violence treatment on the patterns of subsequent intimate partner violence. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 6, 475, 497.

5 Jewell, L.M. & Wormith, J.S. (2010). Variables associated with attrition fro domestic violence treatment programs targeting male batterers. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37, 1086-1113.

6 Bowen, E., & Gilchrist, E. (2006). Predicting dropout of court-mandated treatment in a British sample of domestic violence offenders. Psychology, Crime & Law, 12, 573-587

7 Babcock, J. C., & Steiner, R. (1999). The relationship between treatment, incarceration, and recidivism of battering: A program evaluation of Seattle’s Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 46-59


  1. You really had to write a paper — with seven sources, no less — to let us know that Jose Reyes may or may not be a one-time offender? BTW, with the vast majority of domestic violence going unreported, you have no idea whether he is a violent guy or an alcohol abuser. Or whether has any similarity to older married men in Seattle in the '90s, for that matter.

    The insinuation that his getting traded may have been a trigger for this incident is absurd and unnecessary speculation. I have no direct experience being abused or as an abuser, yet I found this post awkward at best.

  2. P.S. The reason Ray Rice was not hired is that he had very little left. If he was, say, Adrian Peterson, he would surely have been signed by someone. Source: Adrian Peterson picking up right where he left off after missing a year for child abuse.

  3. The purpose of the article, to me, doesn't seem to be a speculation of Reyes' past behaviors. The article clearly articulates that it can go either way (i.e., he may be a one-time offender, he may have a history of partner violence). I think the overall point is to bring awareness to DV by making it relevant to recent events and the sports world.

    The point about DV incidences going unreported is a fair point, however, it is likely past incidences would have come out in the investigation of this recent incident. But it's still a fair point that maybe they wouldn't and that the extent of our knowledge of all relevant facts is extremely limited.

    Bringing up Reyes' employment status…yeah, maybe it's a speculation but the fact that employment status is a stressor relevant to DV incidences is important. Employment stressors, no matter how impactful they might be are not an excuse for violence towards our partners and this is an important point the article brings up.

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