Mayor Rawlings Calls for Crusade Against Domestic Violence. There's No Shame in That.

Categories: Schutze

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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is pushing a personal and public agenda against domestic violence, which used to be called wife-beating. Of course the TV news had to do a story about husband-beating to keep everything correct, and I'm against that, too, along with journalist-beating, French-people-beating and pan-flutist-beating.

But let's concentrate on men who beat up women, since that does seem to be the big one. Citing 13,000 domestic violence incidents in Dallas last year including 26 murders, double the previous annual total, Rawlings is calling for 10,000 men to join him at City Hall March 23 for a mass pledge never to commit violence against women.


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What good can something like that do? Couldn't we just take it as Rawlings trying to look like a good guy, maybe even exploiting the issue? Yeah. We could. But, not to draw a loony parallel or anything, we could also say Mother Theresa was just a narcissistic media-hound.

Forget Rawlings for the moment. What good does it do to make big public statements like this about persistent destructive behavior? And what about all the underlying causes?
Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place shelter and one of the city's most respected authorities on the issue, pointed to unemployment recently as a factor linked to domestic violence. So if we want to solve domestic violence, don't we need to solve unemployment first? It was clear from her other remarks and from her record over the years that Flink did not intend to say that.

No, Rawlings actually is going at the root cause, it seems to me, which has everything to do with a moral factor that may even be at the root of all law and civilization itself. I speak of that sometimes unfashionable but stubbornly central quality: shame.

What other moral quality are we actually born with? It doesn't have to be taught. I don't mean to be flip about it, but what other moral quality do we share with dogs and most other animals except cats? Why do we think the same people who never ever picked up after their dogs 10 years ago, including possibly certain senior journalists, now would rather forget their pants than forget plastic bags when walking their dogs?

Shame. Rawlings' declarations about men who beat up women amount to a public shaming, and nothing could offer more promise than that. This is not to say we don't need tougher laws, a remedy Flink and other activists call for. It's not to say we don't need to address unemployment and other instances of social shredding and bowling alone. A full-time job and a network of positive support would help anybody with anything.

But shame comes first. Shame may be the most powerful shaper of behavior we know. Somewhere along the line it fell out of favor. Shame seems to have been muddled in with the psychological notion of a guilt complex, which is something quite different, calling to mind the Woody Allen softball line ("When we played softball, I'd steal second base, feel guilty and go back").

The Psychology Today treatment focuses on what one writer calls "unnecessary shame." Obviously I'm not a shrink, and I don't see what they see every day, and maybe I should butt out of the unnecessary shame issue. I understand that unnecessary shame is a legitimate issue and source of enormous pain.

But when we talk about men who beat up women, we're not talking about unnecessary shame, are we? I think we're talking about necessary shame. Very necessary.

That's what I hear Rawlings telling men -- a lesson that all fathers should teach all sons, but they don't. A man who hits a woman is not a man. It doesn't matter why you're angry. In that moment, nothing else matters. The only thing that matters is that you cannot and must not and will not hit a woman. Don't start with a story about it. If you hit a woman, you hit bottom. You are lowest of the low. You should be deeply and profoundly ashamed of yourself.

Years ago working on true crime books I discovered a little secret about bad guys. Most of them belong to bad guy clubs. Somewhere in some dark corner of their daily haunts, there is a place they can go in order to receive much needed reinforcement for their bad-guy behavior -- a peer group of fellow bad guys.

Is it a bar? An informal gathering over coffee and doughnuts? Softball team? Country club? The penitentiary? It's somewhere. Bad guys are like good guys, who are like OK guys. We all need buddies, and usually we find them.

So you drop by your favorite hole-in-the-wall in the morning for a beer, talk about your hangover, how you screwed up last night, spent your check on whores and coke, came home and beat up the wife in front of the kids, left the house this morning with nothing on the shelves to eat. The guy next to you nods, laughs and lifts a toast. You're cool, man. Just like the rest of us.

It's terribly important for somebody to tell those guys they are not cool. They suck. They are monsters. It helps for somebody to do it whose voice is loud enough to penetrate the walls of their hideaways.

Yes, of course, we also need to address all sorts of other factors and carry out lots of meaningful follow-up. But shame comes first. And who knows? Maybe a guy who develops a healthy shame over the way he treats the women in his life might even get it together to correct a lot of other bad behaviors, like going to the bar when his kids can't eat.

Rawlings is firing the cannon right where it needs to hit first. Give us some good honest shame. Then we can talk about the rest of it. Only then.


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58 comments
submarinequeen
submarinequeen

This is great. This is important. And one day the naysayers will benefit from it. This may be a step that stops your sister's kid from getting hit. Your granddaughter- maybe even your own daughter. Maybe keep your son out of jail. This starts with a march, but this is more than a movement. This is what needs to happen. I know I will just be target practice for the overly wry and sardonic posters I "occasionally" read in the below comment boxes- but I am just so damn glad something positive is finally being done in Dallas about domestic violence, I crap sunshine for you  today. :)

TexMarine
TexMarine

Exactly HOW and WHERE is he focusing this call? If there's not a parallel Spanish language campaign than this is even more bullshit. Lets just make assault a crime...oh wait.

Watch as Rawlings attempts to put a layer of grease on the preverbal "slippery slope". Watch the bouncing ball as "don't hit your wife" turns into "don't have firearms in your house in case you get angry" because if you listen to his speeches, it all eventually turns to gun violence. City Hall and the DPD know what zip codes experience more spousal abuse than others; lets ensure that the focus lies there, while the libs piss and moan about Highland Park, which is NOT Dallas and has every right to tell Rawlings to go fuck himself and handle his own cities problems and leave them out of it. This is nothing more than Rawlings attempting to look like he has a solution to a cultural problem, wasting our money and resources on empty campaigns and marches.  I plan on being a part of a 10,000 person march this month, on Lower Greenville (slainte!)

thevincibleironman
thevincibleironman

Duh, domestic violence is not a good thing. 

Wow. Fucking newsflash. 

Of course, it's easier to run a cheap campaign like this than it is to address the deeper problem. 

Uh. Brain hurt!

 What needs to happen is that we need to register people. Or monitor them constantly through social media, UAV surveillance, and smart phone tracking.  We need to get a psychological profile of everyone. We need people to know they are being watched so they won't do bad things. Everything should be transparent and monitored (except the stock market). 

bmarvel
bmarvel

By the way, this column should drive a stake through the heart of that hoary claim that Jim is some kid of liberal or progressive.

bmarvel
bmarvel

Jim,

Shame is a potent social control that has  -- sadly -- fallen into disuse. Unquestionably it has often been misdirected. The solution is not to abandon shame but to direct it appropriately.

Years ago Life magazine carried a photograph of a Japanese businessman, owner of a chemical company that had been dumping mercury into a bay where viilagers swam, bathed, washed their clothes, caught their fish. The result was an epidemic of horrific birth defects.

In addition to a hefty fine, the judge imposed a burden of shame on the company' owners and directors. The photo showed one of them on his knees, bowing deeply to one of the company's victims, begging her forgiveness. It was, I think, a moment of enlightenment-- in the fullest sense of that word -- to everyone.  

Treat domestic abusers? Fine. Counsel them? Good idea. But first of all shame them. Cast a shadow of shame over their actions, over their persons. Make it clear that real men, real human beings, do not abuse. That abuse is contemptible. That a social stigma attaches to the abuser. 


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

lisa.dawn, et. al.:

People are complex. The mind is deep. Science has made incredible advances in understanding the brain. But it's almost always a mistake for scientists to step out of the lab and make moral pronouncements, as much as it would be a mistake for them to suggest that all music be reduced to algorithms and rendered in chalk on blackboards instead of performed. It gets even stickier when we talk about psychology and psychiatry, because those folks do understand behavior on their own terms. They just don't get it on moral terms, and they can't allow themselves to believe that morality is prior to psychology,which it is in many important instances. In some ways people can become the kind of people they are because of the moral choices they make, rather than the other way around, making moral choices driven by bio-chemistry and genetics. That's why shame works. It operates at a level prior and deeper than psychology, a level the scientists can't measure. Put it another way: you can take a crazy-ass baseball-bat killer who's been in the joint most of his life, put him up against a little Church of Christ lady with a beat-up Bible under her arm,  and she can turn him around, maybe. 'splain that to me scientifically. And I'm not even religious.   

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Shame never works on Mary Suhm or the City Council members who continually abuse the good citizens of Dallas.

Again I say, you can't shame the shameless.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Smack your wife in public and see what happens.

lisa.dawn
lisa.dawn

There is no complexity, no gray area concerning physical violence. Violence was or was not executed by the party. Mental health professionals have worsened the problem by creating the gray area, which cannot exist in such a scenario. Mental health professionals often do not strive for justice or truth--they have an agenda to create a "complex" case which will be lucrative for all court professionals involved. Often what transpires from the "complex" scenario is behind the scenes deals through ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION, which more often is secretive and involves only one of both parties in which truth and justice is not served

pixiev
pixiev

The argument you make is an established theoretical argument (social exchange), which states that we can reduce the occurrence of a behavior (in this case, violence) by making the social costs of the action (in this case, shame) higher.  The empirical support for this theory as applied to domestic violence is mixed at best, essentially showing that embarrassing/shaming social costs (such as arrest and prosecution) are only effective with perpetrators who have much to lose (i.e. those with jobs and peers and social standing in the community). For lower-resourced batterers (i.e. those who are socially isolated and have low socioeconomic status), raising social "costs" has no effect at best, and sometimes increases violent behavior.  Another prominent causal theory about violence (see James Gilligan, for example) asserts that self-shame is actually the root cause of most severe violence and therefore not effective as a model of intervention to decrease it.  

There are many many other causal theories of violence out there; my point is that any assertions about pat solutions (like this) are situated within particular theoretical orientations and are likely not sufficient for a phenomenon as complex as violence.  


if6were9
if6were9

I'd just like to add that what is really needed is better access to mental health professionals, and lessening the stigma behind this domestic abuse for both parties. Shaming is a regressive reactionary tactic  and it feels like it would work, but like i've stated elsewhere on this blog of Schutzes.....this is a much deeper psychological problem for the two parties(victim and victimizer) than shaming could ever hope to fix. I know, Mr.Schutze says that it's a start, but a start isn't always the best start. A wiser choice would once again be better education/awareness/assessment that one will receive from a mental health professional, and not from the public square. :)

bealotcoolerifyoudid
bealotcoolerifyoudid

Just as importantly though we must support the victims of domestic violence and hopefully remove some of the shame and stigma that their oppresor is trying to inflict

schermbeck
schermbeck

Maybe. But to effectively shame, one has to possess the moral high ground. According to your own chronicles, there seems to be a very high tolerance for shameful behavior at City Hall these days.

bmarvel
bmarvel

"Somewhere in some dark corner of their daily haunts, there is a place they can go in order to receive much needed reinforcement for their bad-guy behavior -- a peer group of fellow bad guys."

Yeah. Hate to say it Jim, but one of those dark corners is often blog comments. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel 

What?

Now liberals can't advocate for publicly calling out domestic abusers? Conservatives somehow have a lock on moral values like not intimidating or beating the shit out of their spouse / partner?

Daniel
Daniel

@bmarvel I'm pretty sure wife beating is already universally abhorred, at least in the U.S. What's more, begging for forgiveness on bended knee is to wife beating what hiding bottles around the house is to alcoholism: Part of the textbook pathology.  

bmarvel
bmarvel

@JimSX The psychopathological model of evil does not work, because it reduces the person who chooses to beat his wife, for example, to some kind of malfunctioning machine that needs only to be fixed. It robs him of autonomy and dignity, those very qualities the loss of which the fixers claim cause the pathology to begin with. (see "Clockwork Orange.")

Moreover, in deciding what behavior is psychopathic ad requires treatment, one is inevitably drawn into the question of good and evil. That is, moraiity  (Is it evil to beat your wife? Why? Psychiatry and psychology cannot give you an answer.) 

This does not mean abandoning medical treatment of abusers. But it does mean that medical treatment must serve other ends. 

pixiev
pixiev

@JimSX This is an empirical question of effectiveness: Does shaming work as a method for reducing violent behavior?  

Shaming likely works for some offenders - there is some empirical support for this (e.g., batterers with high social status for whom public shame is socially costly, as mentioned previously).  It does not appear to work for others, for example, sociopaths, offenders with severe personality disorders, or batterers whose violent behavior is triggered by feelings of shame. 

I'm merely saying that if we are going to prescribe shame as a "treatment" for reducing violence, we have to consider the evidence we have about whether (and for whom) that treatment works. Now, if you are just making a values-based argument that batterers should be shamed on principle irrespective of whether it changes their behavior, that's totally fine, but a different argument than saying shame "works" to prevent or treat violence. 

if6were9
if6were9

@JimSX The baseball bat killer may have a soft spot for church ladies, maybe they remind him/her of their grandmother who their psychological issues don't stem from? It's kinda like how there are serial killers who have wives and don't kill them, but go out and kill other women that remind them of their mothers. We have to start taking a more scientific approach, and yes, psychology/psychiatry is a science. If it's a pathological issue that stems from their brain.....it isn't gonna matter how much shaming they receive in public. I mean, look at the death penalty; shit, if there was ever a device that would deter a person from killing, it would seem/appear to be that, but nope, it don't. 

Daniel
Daniel

@TheCredibleHulk Is a conviction for domestic violence not already a mark of shame? Am I missing something?


if6were9
if6were9

@lisa.dawn There was a time when holes were drilled into the skulls of people who were experiencing mental issues, which during those ancient days, the establishment believed to be due to demons. Well, we now, thankfully know that that isn't the case. There are things like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and the likes which were hidden deep within one's psyche, that the later medical establishment found to be the more likely scenario.....other than the demonic theory. And the mental health professions job isn't to strive for justice nor truth; but to enable the person(patient) to be able to see pass the cloudy mirror which is presently before them.  :)

CraigT42
CraigT42

@if6were9

Now that is a bunch of feel good crap. Sorry but if you are beating a woman you do not need therapy and for someone to listen to how daddy never loved you. You need to either be put down like the bad seed you are or locked up where you can't hurt anyone else. A man who hits a woman isn't a man and doesn't deserve to be treated like one.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@schermbeck 

Good point. Now that you mention it, we can probably expect Mary Suhm to come out in favor of temperance, chastity and good dental hygiene soon.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bmarvel 

Commenting here is like violent videogames: how do you want it, pretend or real?

observist
observist

@bmarvel I think there's enough balance here that any validation is accompanied by an equivalent dose of shame.  Can't say the same for www.shedeservedit.com, etc.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@TheCredibleHulk This tedious lumping of actions and beliefs into the largely imaginary categories of "liberal" and "conservative" is the mark of shallow thought. Those commenters here who have been accusing Jim of being a "liberal," or even a "libtard" don't have any idea of what they are talking about. Jim's views, like those of most of us, defy easy classification; some might be (incorrectly) be considered "liberal" and others (just as incorrectly) be deemed "conservative."

It's only when we can move beyond such slippery categories that we can begin to think, and speak to each other, clearly.


bmarvel
bmarvel

@Daniel What if that begging were done in pubic, Daniel, with all one's buddies, neighbors and family looking on? 

I have no doubt that alcohol plays A major role in domestic abuse. I note that when one begins attending AA, one of the first things, one stands up in front of the crowd and owns up to one's drinking, faces the whole gamut of sorrow and evil that that drinking has caused. AA doesn't call this shaming, for reason of its own. But that's precisely what it is. Together with the social control exerted by fellow AA members, it works very well.

Now, Daniel, put away that textbook. It doesn't have all the answers.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@Daniel Yes, you are. Conviction takes place in the courtroom, often with ony the judge, jury, defendant and his lawyer present. Maybe sometimes a few curious onlookers. 

We have conspired in our system to make the whole process as discreet as possible, to wrap it around with all sorts of legal protections. Newspapers cover only the most sensational cases. If the abuser is subject to any shaming, it is only a few murmured remarks by the judge, which are seldom recorded and ever remembered. 

This is what you're missing.

lisa.dawn
lisa.dawn

Yes, a good mental health professional is invaluable. But often their job involves merely helping the victim navigate through the court system into which they have been thrust. Often men are encouraged to behave badly. The bad men sometimes are recruited  by organizations such as Father's Rights and the AFCC. These organizations encourage and condone bad behavior by offering them protection through the illegitimate courts, with monetary incentives. More often than not,  the mental health professional contibutes to this chaotic mess. What could be a positive learning experience for both parties ends up  one partner being encouraged to commit violence for the gain of the illegitimate court/private business. Rules of law do not apply in this PRIVATE  behind closed doors "court" business. I am sure there have been many people who have benefited from a GOOD mental health professional, but usually at the mere mention of violence, the vultures appear and there often is no hope for a peaceful resolution and help for either party.

Hopefully Mayor Rawlings has sparked an interest in resolving this very destructive system.

if6were9
if6were9

@CraigT42 One man's crap is another man's empirically based sciences. Unless you just want to put down whole generations of families where these seeds are constantly being produced. Is that what you hope for? Because, if that is so, I hope you've come prepared with plenty of seed killing sprays, and just locking folks away does nothing either......as can be plainly seen by the historical record; it only helps to perpetuate the violence within the family core, in quite a few too many cases. :)

bmarvel
bmarvel

@JimSX @JimSX Or like turning over a virtual rock. We knew those things were slithering around under there. Are we better off for watching them?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel @TheCredibleHulk 

I can see your point about Shutze individually, but the fact remains that when you say that Jim's position "drives a stake through the heart of the claim that he is liberal or progressive." You are definitely putting people that identify as "liberal" or "progressive" into a specific category. You damn self identified liberals with faint praise for Jim. Nice trick.

Again, I reject the notion that somehow being for shaming abusers is not compatible with liberal values.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@TheCredibleHulk  

It's not how I define "liberalism." It's how most commenters here appear to define it, based on their comments. Those on this blog who style themselves "conservative" often attack those they perceive as liberal or Progressive, including Jim, as being soft on crime, bleeding-heart "libtards."

In fact, Jim is nothing of the sort. Many of his positions are not at all what some here would think of as Progressive. Which simply demonstrates the futility of trying to classify someone on the basis of his position on this or that issue as "liberal" or "conservative."

There are positions or opinions that have come to be identified as "liberal" or "conservative."  (I use the quotation marks because a "liberal" position is not necessarily the same as has historically been identified as Liberal.) Positions are easy to classify. People, who may hold all sorts of opinions, not so easy.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

mea culpa

 I did use the term conservative, just not directed specifically at Shutze.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel @TheCredibleHulk

OK. I can accept that as a fair response to my retort.

Since I've had a moment to consider it, though, I don't think I got what I am trying to say quite right. Let me try again.

Implicit in your first post is the idea that to shame domestic abusers is incongruous with liberal values. I disagree with that notion.

My opinion, stated here is that you can't shame the shameless. I think it is impossible to shame a sociopath, and every abuser I have ever had the displeasure to cross paths with struck me as just that sort of person - hard to shame. That doesn't mean that I don't think they deserve "to be shamed".

 Additionally, I think punitive shaming has become more a tool to assuage our collective feelings than to punish the abuser. Our laws don't have the teeth they need to really punish the abuser, and victims are notoriously hard to corral into pressing charges or testifying against their abusers. Again, I don't think that means we shouldn't try. 

In fact, it's really not about Shutze, at all. You're not defining Shutze so much as you are defining liberalism. So, how is that thinking outside of categories? Talk about your "tedious lumping".

By the way, I never used the term conservative, you brought that date to the party, too..


bmarvel
bmarvel

@TheCredibleHulk Hulk,

I'm defending nobody's "post." I am simply pointing out that Jim's opinions make him difficult to define as "liberal"or "conservative."

Because he is not "liberal"or a "progressive" on any particular issue does not make him a "conservative." There are more -- infinitely more -- possibilities. Try thinking outside of categories for a change.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel @TheCredibleHulk

You advocate for moving beyond such labels, yet the very post you are defending strives to define Shutze. Or I should say, redefine.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@Daniel"...it seems domestic violence is already considered shameful by society."

It is frowned upon in "polite" society.  But as you know, Daniel, all society is not so polite. If you have never heard among men a sniggering reference to wife-beating or seen a man widely known as an abuser admitted to the company of other men, nothing said, then you've led a sheltered life.

Jim was writing about the wider stigma that society attaches to domestic abuse. This needs to be strengthened,of course. it can be a powerful corrective. But the wife-beater needs to feel the sting of personal shame, not in the pages of some newspaper and not through some legal mechanism, but on his street, among his neighbors, at his work, among his friends.


Daniel
Daniel

@bmarvel 

I don't necessarily disagree with you, Bill, it's just that it seems domestic violence is already considered shameful by society. What additional mechanisms of shame do you recommend? Perhaps a page in the paper with the mugshots of those arrested for domestic violence? Should we await a conviction before publishing said mugshots, or would a mere arrest be enough? If we do await conviction before publicly shaming them, would some form of deferred adjudication be treated as tantamount to a "guilty" disposition? Or as an exoneration?

The de facto choice would be between exempting first-time offenders who can afford good lawyers from The Shame or, conversely, tarring and feathering men who have been falsely accused (certainly false accusations happen).   

I just can't think of any way of shaming wifebeaters that would have a good outcome. "Exposing your behavior to yourself," as you frame it, is one of the functions of therapy -- of which AA (your example) is, to a large extent, a form. 

bmarvel
bmarvel

@Daniel You see, Daniel. the great social power of shame is not that it exposes your abusive behavior to the gaze of your neighbors and friends and strangers, though it does do that.  It's that real shaming exposes your behavior to yourself.  

bmarvel
bmarvel

@Daniel Here's a modest proposal: You can go on line and find the names of the sexual predators who live on your block, at your work. Why not an online site naming domestic abusers? Victims could post warnings to it. It poses some legal questions, But I think it could also be a blessing to your women wandering in to a relationship with a potential abuser.

garlandsucks
garlandsucks

@bmarvel @Daniel bullshit you can find any ones criminal record online in seconds.  Domestic violence carries harsher penalties then regular assault.  A domestic violence conviction will probably haunt someone forever.

TexMarine
TexMarine

@bmarvel @Daniel Don't convictions require a victim to actually press charges? There's a lot that has to happen prior to an indictment, and sadly even that cannot be counted on.

Daniel
Daniel

@bmarvel @Daniel Fair enough, but what are your prescriptions to remedy the "discretion" of the jurisprudence system?

lisa.dawn
lisa.dawn

I agree with Jim SX--Morality needs to be dealt with first, then with a good therapist the shades of gray can be explored. Human behavior is very fascinating and should be addressed. One of the very basic rules of society is addressed in kindergarten and first grade: KEEP HANDS, FEET, AND OBJECTS TO SELF.

if6were9
if6were9

@lisa.dawn These issues need to addressed, but mental health professionals aren't the judicial system, which seems to be more of where your problems stem from. There has to be oversight at all stages during the judicial process(trial/sentencing/rehabilitation/etc). This I agree on, but the issue you had where you stated this is a black/white issue and not a gray one......well, I respectfully disagree for when it comes to the human psyche, it is all different shades of gray. 

observist
observist

@bmarvel @JimSX Yes.  There's a chance that exposure to sunlight will disinfect, and it's also a good reminder to the uninfected that diseases are still potentially dangerous.

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