In domestic violence issues, the man is usually the problem – the instigator, the perpetrator, the abuser.
But groups such as the Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force and Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center contend there is still a role for the gentlemen.
Piggybacking on the efforts of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who earlier this year spoke out and launched an anti-domestic violence campaign, a rally is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Wise County Courthouse, to reach out to those men.
“My Baptist background prompts me to share the facts about the shelter – how many victims were served, what the budget is, the kinds of things we do, how we are funded, the needs we are meeting, how we do what we do,” said Gerre Joiner, vice president of the Wise County Domestic Violence Task Force Board of Directors. “Then we’ll issue a challenge – what men can do to end it or to help make it better – and then say a prayer and we’ll leave after that. It won’t be a long meeting, but it will be an important one.”
The local event will coincide with the original, anchor event in Dallas.
“That’s really what precipitated all of this, the Dallas mayor saying, ‘This is not acceptable,” said Pat Slayton, executive director of Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center. “It has gotten so much publicity, especially in the television media, and we thought it would be a good time to make the push we’ve been wanting to make – to have men hold other men accountable for their actions as the beginning of what I think is a movement that’s going to be a change in the way we address domestic violence.”
In his initial call for action, Rawlings identified three areas that must be corrected in order to see that change – the immediate response when a victim calls; harsher laws and a zero-tolerance approach; and changing the culture of turning a blind eye and apathy.
But it is essential, Slayton believes, that the latter be accomplished before success is seen in the other two.
“The social mores have to change, it has to become socially unacceptable before it has a chance of ending,” she said. “Until that happens, you can’t legislate, you can’t put people in jail.”
Saturday’s rally has several purposes, including suggesting specific changes that could lead to the needed societal shifts.
First and foremost, however, officials and volunteers hope to bring an awareness of the problem to everyone, especially men.
“By and large, men think it’s an issue that doesn’t pertain to them. But it really does because it’s their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, their next-door neighbors,” Slayton said. “Sometimes they know, and they just keep their mouths shut because of the good ol’ boy networks or they think ‘It’s not any of my business, what happens behind closed doors is not my business.’ But it is.”
Organizers hope an understanding that it is their business will prompt the rally’s second goal – encouraging men to become involved as a “perceptive volunteer,” Joiner said.
“You don’t have to have an organization to be empathetic and to see if there’s something you can say or do to make it better for that child or woman or home situation,” he continued. “Be a perceptive observer. Invite the afflicted into your home or out for a Coke, as opposed to doing nothing.”
Slayton added: “It is crucial that men stand up and speak up if they know that their golfing buddy has had an altercation with his wife – to say, ‘You know, that’s not OK. We’re not going to hang out anymore if this stuff keeps going,’ – just like they would do if the person were doing drugs. Would they still associate with them?”
But Joiner certainly doesn’t discourage involvement in an organization. In fact, it’s needed at Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center.
“One of my primary responsibilities in our organization is to go pick up donations for the thrift shop – The Hope Chest in Bridgeport – and the hardworking ladies there sort through it. We sell it, and the proceeds fund the work of our organization,” Joiner explained. “But donations come in the form of furniture, clothes, yard equipment – all manner of stuff. I’m starting to squeal. I need someone to help me, someone more mobile to help me with some pick-ups.
“There are so many ways you can get involved – some of them very practical roles like just going and getting stuff. Right now, there’s no obvious person I can call on to help.”
As a third goal, the rally is intended as an outreach not just to the “good men,” but also to the ones in the abuser role.
“We hope this will create an awareness in the mind of a man who could be giving a bad model for his family, that there may be a resource for him,” Joiner said. “He might be helped if he were to know that it doesn’t have to happen, it musn’t happen; if he were to have someone with whom he could talk, someone to say, ‘I know what happened to you when you were a boy; I know the model you saw. Here’s what you can do to make it better for your life.’
“I think that’s what our organization is,” he continued. “And hopefully that rally helps us spread that word.”
Lastly, organizers hope the rally informs victims of their resources which include a 24-hour hotline (940-626-4855), a shelter, legal advocacy, peer counseling/support groups, emergency transportation and assistance in obtaining medical care.
“There is a number they can call, there is a place of safety for them away from domestic violence, literally a place to break the chain,” Joiner said.
The number of resources are just one testament to the strides made internally. The makeup of the board is another – one or two men seven years ago to four now.
“We have made great strides,” Slayton said. “We really have made a very conscious decision to get men more involved at the board level so we can get men more involved at the community level.”
The first push for that will come with Saturday’s rally.
“They’re shooting for 10,000 in Dallas; I’d be happy if we have 10 to 50 (men) here in Wise County standing up and saying, ‘This isn’t OK’,” Slayton said. “Showing up on Saturday morning would be saying that without saying a word … We would like for this to be the beginning of men being more involved in domestic violence and sexual assault issues in Wise County, ultimately to end them.”
Information provided by Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center
- In 2010, 113 women were killed in Texas by their intimate partners.
- One in four women will be physically abused by a partner in her lifetime.
- More than one in three Americans have witnessed an incident of domestic violence.
- Nearly half (48 percent) of all incidents of domestic violence against women discovered in the National Crime Survey were not reported to the police.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of serious injury to American women, more common than muggings and car crashes combined.
- A woman is more likely to be seriously injured or killed after she leaves the relationship.
- A woman is battered every 15 seconds in the United States.
- 42 percent of murdered women are killed by their intimate male partners.
- 90 to 95 percent of victims of domestic violence are women.
MEN AGAINST ABUSE RALLY
10 a.m. Saturday, March 23 at the Wise County Courthouse.
For more information, call Gerre Joiner at 940-393-8863 or Wise Hope at 940-626-4855.