This morning at the Dallas Museum of Art, Mayor Mike Rawlings, along with about 1,000 other men in suits sharing the stage, announced a new campaign dubbed "Men Against Abuse." The next stop on this tour of well-meaning gestures will be a celebrity-packed rally on March 23, which the mayor wants 10,000 Dallas men to attend.
Due to an "overwhelming response," Rawlings said, the rally has been moved from Klyde Warren Park, where it was originally scheduled, to City Hall Plaza. Its featured attendees will include Troy Aikman, Jason Witten, Roger Staubach, celebrity pastor T.D. Jakes, and State Representatives Eric Johnson and Rafael Anchia, among others.
Rawlings began today's press conference by highlighting the number of "violent incidents perpetrated by men against women who they say they love." That includes four domestic violence murders in 2013 alone in Dallas alone, he added, along with several others in surrounding cities.
"For years, domestic violence has been viewed as what -- a women's issue?" Rawlings asked, rhetorically. "Well, it ain't. It's a men's issue. Because men are the ones who are doing this. It's our problem."
This press conference follows several others, most recently one in January where Rawlings announced, among other things, that the Dallas Police Department will now prioritize domestic violence warrants. It was there that the mayor also first promised to begin "a domestic violence public awareness campaign."
"There are a lot of men in this city who don't meet my definition of what a man is," Rawlings said today. "They subscribe to an outdated, caveman-like attitude... To be blunt, there are too many cowards in this city." He added that it was time for men to "stop laughing at jokes we've all participated in," to stop "being friends with abusers," to stop playing golf with them and lastly, "to stop referring to t-shirts as wife-beaters."
In other words: it took a little while, but Dallas's leaders are here. Welcome to basic feminism, gentlemen, in which we hold perpetrators and enablers of abuse -- rather than its victims -- responsible for their actions.
So, now what? After the March 23 rally, what happens next?
That's still not quite clear. In response to several questions from reporters, Rawlings said the next event will be "a softball game this summer," which presumably will be used to raise money for anti-violence causes, or perhaps yet more awareness.
I asked if there were any plans to provide more city funding to local domestic violence shelters, or perhaps to organize some kind of anti-domestic violence education program in DISD schools (DISD trustee board president Lew Blackburn promised today that 1,000 students would attend the rally).
Rawlings, who perhaps did not entirely hear my question, replied that "mental illness and domestic violence are cousins," and that "the City Manager is exploring it." In response to yet another question from someone else about how the city would address violence going forward, he replied, "That's one of the things, we're going to put together a plan. We'll announce some of those things at the rally."
Along with Rawlings, Bishop Kevin Farrell spoke this morning; he heads the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. After him came current Dallas Cowboy Brandon Carr. Both of them called on men to help end violence against women, with Carr adding that he wants Dallas men to know "It's okay to be a gentleman, like back in the day."
"Open up doors, take your coat off if a woman is cold," Carr added, to applause. "Things like that."
Casey Cox also spoke briefly this morning. He's the brother of Karen Cox Smith, the woman who was shot to death in a UT Southwestern parking garage last month by her estranged husband. He said that his sister's death came after 18 years of abuse, and praised her as a "loving, caring, compassionate human being."
"Karen had the courage to finally say, 'Enough is enough,'" Cox said, choking up as he spoke. "And to change her life and her children's life for the better."
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Meanwhile, the city of Dallas and the police department still face a federal lawsuit in another domestic violence case, that of Deanna Cook. The lawsuit alleges that she died after 911 call-takers bungled her call, which she made gasping and pleading as her former husband, Delveccio Patrick, strangled her. Dallas police reportedly took over an hour to get to her home, with the lawsuit claiming that they stopped at 7-Eleven on the way. After a cursory look around, the police left; Cook's body was discovered by her family two days later.
What does true justice for women like Karen Cox and Deanna Cook look like? A rally? A softball game? Troy Aikman in front of a bank of T.V. cameras?
Those considerations, apparently, will come later.
"Once we have 10,000 men signed up, that gets us a long way towards changing things," Rawlings promised. "It's a tough struggle we have here."