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Group urges Bengals to speak out against domestic violence

CINCINNATI (AP) — An advocacy group is urging the Cincinnati Bengals to speak out against domestic violence after the team drafted a player who punched a woman in the face. Women Helping Women called on the team to take a public stand against domestic violence and sexual assault. The Bengals chose Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday even though he was suspended for one year in college for punching a woman.

Women Helping Women is a regional agency that serves approximately 7,000 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault each year. Representatives of the group and the Bengals met on Monday. "We expect businesses in our great city, and this includes sports teams, to place a high value on speaking out against both domestic violence and sexual assault," said Kristin Smith-Shrimplin, president and CEO of Women Helping Women.

The agency issued a statement saying the Bengals should send a message to its fans. "Violence holds no honor and should hold no position on a team," the statement said. "Violence is already too rampant, where one in three women experiences physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Our community deserves better."

The Bengals praised the group's work in a statement on Tuesday and said they're "look forward to continuing our conversation as we look for ways to work together. We recognize the Bengals hold a special place in the community and we are committed to being good corporate citizens."

The club has faced a backlash since drafting Mixon, who was suspended for his freshman season at Oklahoma because he punched Amelia Molitor in July 2014, breaking bones in her face. A local television station posted an editorial on Saturday saying it was "disgraceful" for the team to draft Mixon. WCPO-TV urged fans to stop buying Bengals tickets and instead donate money to organizations that work to prevent violence against women.

Bengals owner Mike Brown has a history of signing players with off-field problems and giving them extra chances. Cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones was arrested in the offseason over an altercation at a downtown hotel. After video of his profane comments to police officers was made public, the team apologized for Jones' actions but chose to keep him.

Jones faces misdemeanor charges, including assault, for the altercation. He could be suspended again by the NFL for misconduct.

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