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
© sbruce

5 comments:

John Snyder said...

Susan,

Thanks for your OpEd in today's Conway Sun.
I never ceases to amaze and anger me that the old guard in towns like Conway and Fryeburg are allowed to remain in their positions given their hubris.
Pigs like Crow (does he have a real name?) should be held accountable for their comments and removed from public office. This is not about free speech, it is about ignorance and arrogance.
How soon the voters forget the hand gun episode. What will it take to turn this around? I'm not very hopeful.
Thanks for your good work.

John Snyder
Fryeburg, ME a.k.a. Hastingsville

Tim Robinson said...

Susan,

Why can't Crow say what he feels? Why should should public money go towards ignorant people who decide to stay in an abusive home? Why can't people take responsibility for themselves?

Tim Robinson

DissedBelief said...

Another great piece Susan! And someone please fill me in. But how is that after 9/11 Crow Dickinson walked into an airport with a firearm in his suitcase and he's not in that prison in Cuba?? So why are we surprised at his Neanderthal, uneducated, ignorant and very red neck remarks? The funniest thing to me being female and when growing up and married, a thoroughly abused one, is that males have such an overpowering sense of entitlement. Entitled to rule the world and all its living creatures. Destruction of our world and all its living creatures. In this same edition of the Sun, a letter written by one Robert Gardner (no surprise, from Texas) asks what kind of services are available for abused males? How about the toilet bowl once called Earth thanks to your control issues. Front page article features a Dale Nevers of Hinsdale Illinois, who alledges his wife sent him to the ER 4 times with 2nd deg. burns, broken nose, torn kneecap and a concussion. Well gosh hon, but if the situation were reversed and those injuries were mine, the response from males would probably have been "what did she do to deserve it"? Or better still. Why didn't you just move out and file for custody? Isn't it that simple? That's the message I've heard from the male population since I was born. Dr. Phil had a show this week which featured men complaining about how the justice system favors women and children and how they cannot leave their jobs for fear of going to jail for sliding on child support. Amazing. My answer to you all is this. You've had it your way for 2,000 years. Now suck it up.

susanb said...

Tim,

Crow certainly can say what he feels. Like all grown-ups, he can live with the consequences, too.

bmmg39 said...

Pointing out that several women (and men) concoct false accusations of abuse, in order to use them as pawns in divorce and/or child-custody battles, in no way denies that thousands of women (and men) suffer legitimately. Furthermore, those who fabricate charges of abuse do so on the backs of legitimate victims -- just like phony "victims" claiming to be Hurricane Katrina victims attempt to gain from people who've truly suffered from the storm -- and therefore should be receiving much scorn from anti-domestic violence organizations, of which I belong to two.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone -- big or small, male or female, straight or gay -- and should stop being used as a political football by those who would vilify all men and boys.

Stop Abuse for EVERYONE: www.safe4all.org
The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women: www.dahmw.org