Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Slap Heard 'Round the World
Every year, local non-profits go before various boards of selectmen to ask for funding. Every year the recommendations of the selectmen go on the ballots we are handed at town meeting. The voters make the ultimate decision as to whether that funding is given or denied. Since the selectmen are elected to represent the voters, their recommendations carry a lot of weight. Most of the time this is not a controversial process.
This year, however, the Conway selectmen opted for controversy, thanks to Crow Dickinson’s commentary on domestic violence. Starting Point, the local agency that shelters, counsels, and advocates on behalf of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault went before the board to ask for some funding, as they have done since their inception in 1981. This year, the board voted not to recommend funding Starting Point by a vote of 4-1. Not only did they vote against funding, but Crow Dickinson waxed on about how “a lot of women use domestic violence as a gimmick in divorce proceedings.” This astounding statement was captured in the AP story that went out around the world.
That’s the trouble with some of the dinosaurs currently holding public office. They don’t understand or even consider global communications. A stupid, insensitive comment that suggests women aren’t really beaten, they’re just gold-digging harpies can travel around the world in less than 24 hours. In less than a day, the Conway selectmen were being reviled around the world as being a bunch of morons.
I blogged about the commentary of Crow Dickinson and the other selectmen. As a result, if someone googled “Crow Dickinson,” my blog came up. There is a counter on the blog that provides information about visitors; including where they come from, and what they were searching for when they came to my blog. During the last week, people googling “Crow Dickinson,” “domestic violence gimmick”, or “Conway NH Selectmen” came to my blog from Maryland, 5 different places in NY, 3 places in Maine, 3 places in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, Oregon, Alabama, California, Montana, Washington DC, London, and Paris.
There is a Facebook page for those wishing to support Starting Point. People are joining up from around the country. As I write this, there are 461 members. Those are 461 folks who believe strongly that Starting Point provides valuable services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in our area.
At the Selectmen’s Meeting on Tuesday, about 50 people came to show support for Starting Point, and to attempt to educate the selectmen. At the beginning of the meeting, Crow Dickinson read a statement, informing us that his remarks about domestic abuse had been misinterpreted as being about Starting Point. He made no apology about his insensitive remarks, at least not in his statement. Conway Police Chief Ed Wagner spoke strongly on behalf of Starting Point and the services they provide. He pointed out that if Starting Point did not exist, the town and the police department would be providing those services, and at a much greater cost. Russ Seybold, a past member of the budget committee said he’d rather see a pothole go unfixed than see us not invest in this program. He pointed out that a program like Starting Point is even more important in times of economic stress.
Suzette Indelicato (Executive Director of Starting Point) told the selectmen that the message coming from them is the same message that abusers give their victims. “No one will believe you.” “You deserve what happens to you.” She told the board that it was their responsibility to counter that message by making a strong statement against domestic violence.
Dot Seybold asked the selectmen if any of them would change their votes now, if they could. Larry Martin voted to fund Starting Point – he did not want to change his vote. Mark Hounsell mistakenly voted against recommending funding, and he has said repeatedly that he would change his vote. Dave Weathers did a tap-dance around the question, and never did answer it. Crow Dickinson and Bob Drinkhall said they would not change their votes. Drinkhall did a lengthy song and dance routine about how he believes in fiscal responsibility because the country is going down the drain. He believes that Starting Point gets money on the federal and state level, plus a tax abatement, and frankly, they don’t serve enough of the population. He also said that constituents who called him were in agreement, including a lawyer who seems to agree about the gimmicky nature of domestic violence. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the selectmen that the calls they got from guys complaining about Starting Point were actually from perpetrators of domestic violence. Lawyers beat their wives, too.
The National Crime Victimization Survey issued a report in December 2008 showing a 42 percent increase in reporting of domestic abuse, and a 25 percent increase in reported crimes of rape or sexual assault. Both domestic violence and rape are under-reported crimes. Great strides have been made in recognizing that domestic abuse is a serious and widespread problem – but still, far too many hold the stereotypical view of “she was askin’ for it” or “domestic abuse is a gimmick used in divorce cases.”
The Conway Selectmen probably didn’t intend to tacitly condone wife beating, but they did. The selectmen probably didn’t intend to make the town the subject of mockery around the world – but they did. Thanks to the internet, people research the areas they are traveling to. They can, and do, take the politics of an area into consideration. The kind of gooberish, good ole boy, slap on the back, haw haw haw, gotta keep the little woman in line behavior of the past was retired in most places, a long time ago. One hopes the Conway Selectmen will join the rest of us who are living in the present.
"Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men." ~Joseph Conrad
printed as an editorial in the February 27, 2009 Conway Daily Sun
Posted by susanthe at 6:02 PM