It was 7:30 am when Mayor Mike Rawlings called Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place. It was the day after the high-profile murder of Karen Cox Smith at UT Southwestern, and Rawlings was deeply troubled by the facts of the case. Especially that Smith’s husband, her accused killer, had a warrant issued for his arrest three weeks earlier but had not been arrested.
“He was very sincere, very distraught,” Flink says. “He just wanted to know, ‘What should we do?’ Because he felt he had to do something.”
Which led to yesterday’s press conference, in which the mayor promised support to help police combat domestic violence and chastised men to stop friends and family members from committing partner abuse.
Rawlings challenged men to be man enough to do something to stop friends or family members whom we suspect are committing such crimes.
JFloyd gets it exactly right in her column this morning in which she admits wondering about Rawlings’ sincerity before the news conference began. She notes that she was initially cynical about his message (basically, men need to do more to stop friends and family from committing spousal abuse) and the details of his plan to combat this (100 more officers serving domestic violence warrants, plus a commission to determine how to change the culture of silence surrounding spousal abuse).
I was too. It struck me beforehand as an empty gesture. But after watching Rawlings’ emotional pleas to Dallas men, and after talking to Flink, whose nonprofit for 35 years has helped the victims of family abuse, I’m convinced the mayor’s efforts are not only heartfelt but also worthwhile.
If Police Chief David Brown says 100 more officers targeting domestic violence cases will help, I believe him. His oversight of the city as crime has continued to fall means he’s earned enough respect and trust to give him these resources.
The emotional part of Rawlings’ speech came when he addressed men directly. He said it was “our fault” that spousal abuse is a continued blight on our city. And he challenged men to be man enough to do something to stop friends or family members whom we suspect are committing such crimes.
Flink says she spent time over the weekend working with Rawlings’ speechwriter as needed, but that the more they dove into it, the more Rawlings took control of the speech and made it his own. He specifically wanted to scold men to do more in seeking out clues that could shed light on domestic problems before they escalate, as so many do.
“He really thinks men can help do something about this, and I agree,” Flink says. “Only men can stop other men. The Family Place was started by women, and we help many people in need. But men must stand up to those they think might be hurting women. We see it all the time. They think it’s not their place. But it is their place.”
Changing attitudes won’t be easy. For one, the scope of the problem is hard to define. Spend any time searching for updated statistics on domestic violence, and you’ll see there aren’t many, and there are none that suggest authoritative certainty. (Are there 600,000 or 6 million victims a year?) But most studies suggest that three out of four people will know someone affected by such violence, and therefore it seems worth trying to reach them.
Another problem is in changing cultures. Most of those studies will show a link between class and spousal abuse — the poorer you are, often the less educated you are, and the less educated cling to the feelings of power and control such actions provide.
But that also means that some in higher economic brackets may wrongly feel as though they don't need to be drafted in this war. As Steve Eagar, Channel 4 news anchor, put it in an oddly defensive Facebook post:
I just don't think 'friends and buddies' know. Not something you share with your golfing buddy. The idea of the news conference was right, the accusatory nature of it seemed weird. I want to see the stats.
Really? Because the only stat I need to see is from Flink’s editorial, in which she said they turned away more than 700 women in 2011 at The Family Place because their beds were full.
Of course, Eagar’s post generated more than 30 comments, including from women who’d been abused and whose friends and family knew but did nothing. Because it’s more prevalent than you think, which was the mayor’s point, which is why his sincerity and openness about this issue should be taken seriously. Especially by those of us who were callous enough to doubt him in the first place.
Oh, for the love of Pete.
Oprah tells @cbsthismorning that she will air full 2 1/2 hours of Lance interview over 2 nights. No edits.— Mosheh Oinounou (@Mosheh) January 15, 2013
Great column. And yes. The answer is yes.