Last week, Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly reported on something incredible happening in Dallas – an innovative and holistic campaign to address (and end) domestic violence in the city. Coming from the perspective that domestic violence is a men's issue, Mayor Mike Rawlings is using everything at his disposal, from the Dallas Cowboys to the police department, to create real social change. If the statistics coming out of Dallas this year are any proof, Rawlings' plan seems to be working.
More on the strategies and outcome of Dallas' fight against domestic violence below the jump.Rawlings' initiative focuses attention on traditionally masculine spaces in order to address the root causes of domestic violence in men of all ages. For Rawlings, framing domestic violence as a “men's issue” is key to solving the problem. As he said in a statement for Ring the Bell, a campaign to end domestic violence:
Make no mistake: men's violence against women is a men's issue- It's our problem. And I'm here to say we've had enough of women being disrespected, and we won't tolerate it any longer. It's not only about not being violent; it's about changing a culture that says 'violence is okay.' I promise to stop laughing at jokes we've all participated in. I promise to speak out against domestic violence. And I'm asking men in Dallas – and everywhere – to do the same. Let's make our homes, and our cities, safe for all.
At a rally last March, Rawlings took a space strongly associated with masculinity (AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play)and brought football players and community leaders together to drive home the message: being a strong man does not have to include – and should not involve – violence against women.
The utilization of the culture around football is one of the most impressive (and effective) parts of his campaign to address our social acceptance of domestic violence. As a part of a pledge drive in November, the high school with the most signatures won the opportunity to play a football game at AT&T Stadium. Rawlings is using halftime at local high school football games to ask all men present to take a pledge that they will never hit a woman.
Rawlings' approach is not only about social awareness, though this part of his campaign is certainly having a positive impact on the prevalence of domestic violence in the city. Working with the Dallas Police Department, Rawlings hopes to implement ongoing home visits to reduce the chance of continued violence. As Solomon points out, initiatives like this one will require investment, and finding more money in the budget to fully fund this important program will not be easy.
The statistics coming out of Dallas are encouraging. According to Solomon, “victims are taking their abusers to court fourteen percent more frequently than they did a year ago, while aggravated assault charges in such cases are down by six percent.” Calls to domestic violence hotlines are up over 20%, which the executive director of a Dallas domestic violence shelter sees as directly connected to increased awareness about services and support for victims of domestic violence.
According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 114 women were killed as a direct result of intimate partner violence in 2012 in Texas alone. In the same year, there were 188,992 incidents of family violence in our state. Domestic violence is a problem we must address, and Rawlings' use of Texas traditions, like high school football games, are a wonderful step in the right direction for our future.