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Dallas, TX--Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland called the Dallas Area Rapid Transit ads "shocking and biased,' and said they "used the kids as prop' and "made me cringe' in a recent column. He questioned whether he wanted his "own young child to absorb such an alarming message,' and said the ads have a "scary and false implication.' I spoke with Ragland for his column and he quoted me accurately, but I was a little surprised by his column's conclusion. The column is Family Place's Dallas bus ads shock, but so does domestic violence (Dallas Morning News, 11/1/08). To comment on the story, click here. One flaw in The Family Place's argument is the crime statistics fallacy. One of the main justifications that Family Place Executive Director Paige Flink uses for the ads is that most domestic violence calls to police and to shelters come from women, not men. Dr. Donald Dutton, author of Rethinking Domestic Violence, explains that this is because men underreport DV far more than women. Men don"t call 911 because they fear they will be arrested instead--with good reason. Many men feel ashamed. Many others have children and don"t want to do anything to provoke a divorce, because they know they"ll probably lose their kids. Many men know that if they report their wives' abuse, the wife will claim that the husband is abusive, and it is the wife, not the husband, who authorities will side with. Dutton says "When larger surveys with representative samples are examined, perpetration of domestic violence perpetration is slightly more common for females..." Another flaw is this--Ragland writes:
For $25,000, The Family Place couldn't have gotten more bang – or a bigger headache – for its buck. "The calls [for help and support] are coming more than we can handle," Paige Flink, executive director of the nonprofit, told me Friday. "That's what we intended to happen."
Well, sure--you can always get a good response by being shocking and rude, and particularly so if you add bigoted in there, too. The question is, are the ads appropriate and acceptable to the community? The answer is clearly not. Were the genders reversed, you wouldn't be able to do that because it would be "offensive." Because fathers are the target, that's not such a  problem. I am sorry, though, if, as Ragland states, we've given Paige Flink a headache...

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