DENVER (CBS4) – Groups working to prevent domestic violence welcomed the NFL’s actions against Ray Rice on Monday but said professional sports need to do more to halt violence against women.

“I like that they’re doing this, and I really hope this is what they will continue to do,” said Jeneen Klippel, the spokeswoman for Gateway Battered Women’s Services in Aurora. “(This punishment) needs to happen every time without fail. I think this sends a strong message to players, to other men in the country and to boys.”

Swiftly and severely, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Baltimore Ravens condemned Rice’s attack on his fiancé, Janay Palmer, after surveillance video showed the player strike her and knock her unconscious in a hotel elevator in February. TMZ aired the video.

“It’s just brutal,” said Victoria McVicker, the CEO at Safehouse Denver, an advocacy group for battered women.

Rice’s penalty — an indefinite suspension by the league and an immediate firing by the Ravens — was far more severe than his original two-game suspension. It’s also more stringent than the league’s subsequent promise of six-game suspensions for players and NFL employees guilty of first offenses, and lifetime bans for second offenses.

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That revamped policy arrived after critics said the two-game suspension, initially meted out this summer, was too meager for Rice’s actions.

“What a wimpy punishment that was for Ray Rice,” McVicker said.

The NFL’s actions on Monday were more appropriate, she said: “For the NFL to come out and suspend him for the brutality is huge because it goes beyond even what the commissioner’s original change in policy was with domestic violence.”

Monday’s move offered Goodell the chance to correct a situation he said he mishandled.

“I didn’t get it right,” he said in a letter to NFL owners last month. “Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

While she’s happy the league said it’s moving in that direction, Klippel said it’s unfortunate the nation needed to see Rice assaulting his fiancé, whom he has since married, to spotlight domestic violence.

Moreover, she said, it’s worse the NFL required more video evidence before realizing the severity of Rice’s crime.

“What’s troubling is that this happens every day to hundreds of thousands of women in our country, it’s just not as highlighted in the media. It’s very troubling that it takes this kind of an outcry,” she said. “It takes actually having the proof of it — even his admitting it isn’t even enough — it takes an outcry from the public. That’s really what it was. People started complaining and saying, ‘This is ridiculous. That’s barely a slap on the wrist.’ ”

According to the CDC and the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence impacts more than 12 million people each year in the United States. Approximately four in five victims are female.

Rice admitted this summer to attacking Palmer after portions of the video showed him dragging her unconscious body through the elevator’s doors. Monday’s more complete video shows Rice striking her.

Reaction from around the NFL was quick Monday.

Broncos defensive lineman Terrance Knighton tweeted, “This video makes me sick to my stomach.”

He earlier said on Twitter: “As players we must speak up. Stand up for what’s right. I don’t give a damn who u are or how much money you make. No place for this.”

Before the NFL announced its punishment, Knighton tweeted: “That man should be thrown out the the nfl and thrown into jail,” apparently in reference to Rice.

Broncos cornerback also commented on Twitter, saying, “The NFL should have zero tolerance for domestic violence. There is never a reason for any man to be violent towards any woman.”

The team’s head coach John Fox said Monday his players are aware of the severity of attacking women.

“My personal thing is there’s no place for it in our league or really in our society. We addressed it with our team. The league has obviously pushed out information in that area to the players as far as the penalties and repercussions of any charge in that area. It’s something I think our guys understand. I’m not worried. They’ve done a good job to date and will hopefully do a good job moving forward.”

He said this isn’t the first time the team has focused on stopping domestic violence.

“We’ve talked about it before,” he said. “There’s a whole list of do’s and don’ts in our league so that’s always been one. But it’s kind of been highlighted here of late and the penalty has stiffened.”

Ray Rice and Janay Palmer address the media in May. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Ray Rice and Janay Palmer address the media in May. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

McVicker said she hopes other professional sports leagues will follow the NFL’s example.

“That’s why this is so huge to have this on a national stage,” she said. “What we’ve been asking for for so long is for the NFL, and the NBA, NHL, and MLB to follow suit in taking this very seriously because it sends a message to youth of both genders and to fans.”

If it means the NFL needs to spread that message, that’s fine by Klippel.

“It’s time we stand together,” she said. “And if it takes pro sports to do it, then we’re OK with that. Let’s get this message out there: Everyone deserves to be safe in their home, period.”

– Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com

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