Domestic violence is an issue that tugs on Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen's emotions.
He said he remembers seeing his mother's swollen eyes, hearing the screams and cries of his brother and sisters as the beatings continued inside his home and the helpless feeling that age 4, 5 and 6 or even 11 and 12, he couldn't do anything to prevent it. Eventually, Allen recalls, his mother escaped the physical abuse and protected her seven children by calling the police.
Now Allen is eager to join the fight given what he said he witnessed as a child, first with his stepfather and later with his mother's boyfriend.
On Thursday, after reaching out to a local survivors' shelter, Allen helped announce that the Colts would raise money and collect cellphones to help domestic violence victims in Indiana.
"It's important that we all get together and we end this silent, terrible epidemic," Allen said, stopping briefly to grab toward his heart and choked back tears. "I'm not here to condone or condemn what's been going on around the league, but it's our responsibility to demonstrate what it means to be a father, in some cases a big brother, a positive light in the community. Whether we like being in the limelight or not, it doesn't matter. We know it comes with our profession and it's our responsibility to step up and be role models for those people, including a lot of children."
The Colts and Verizon have pledged more than $20,000 in grants to help finance programs.
And with team vice chairwoman Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Coburn Place Safe Haven executive director Julia Kathary and Allen all in attendance, the Colts said they also would collect cellphones and other electronic devices for HopeLine, which provides used devices to survivors, and take cash donations at the Oct. 19 game against Cincinnati.
The goal is to collect 1,013 phones, equal to the same number of children Indianapolis-based Coburn Place Safe Haven has helped since opening in 1996
It's the second straight year the Colts have participated in the program, but this year's plan received much more publicity because of the backlash the NFL has faced since the release of a video showing former Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiance and current wife in the face.
"I was disappointed because a colleague of mine was going through something and, obviously, he didn't handle it the right way," Allen said when asked about his reaction to the video. "I think we, as professional athletes, should be held to a higher standard and whenever we act less than what we should, it's disappointing."
Several other allegations of domestic and child abuse since then have prompted league officials to impose stronger punishments, and some teams have taken players alleged of wrongdoing off the field. Kathary said domestic violence hotlines around Indiana saw the number of calls spike in the aftermath of the Rice video and some locations saw the number of calls increase by as much as 77 percent.
Allen understands why there was a sudden surge -- many of those who are abused don't know where to turn for help.
"I would go straight to my room and the door was shut," said Allen, who fulfilled another pledge to his family earlier this year by earning a diploma from Clemson. "I have a brother who is four years older than me and we were able to get together and he said everything would be OK and then (after it was over) I would talk with my mom and cry with my mom."
The message from Allen's mother, Olivia Davis, to her children was simple and succinct.
"She always taught me to respect women, to have the utmost respect for women and don't ever put your hand on a women," Allen said. "I take that very seriously."
Now he wants to use his own platform to make sure others follow his mother's advice.
"Whenever you're fortunate enough to overcome something, I think you owe it to others to help them," Allen said. "And now that I have the strength to protect my families and other families, I want to help."