It may not be what you think.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called for 10,000 men to rally with him at City Hall on March 23 to pledge to stop the abuse of women. Although most domestic violence events are spearheaded by women's organizations, this rally is believed to be the first spearheaded by a local male official to call men to action.
"I tell you it's a serious issue. I didn't realize how serious it was," Rawlings told the crowd. "There are some major things happening behind closed doors that we don't know about...We say it's not happening in our house, but it's happening next door. One out of two women in this nation will be hit by a man sometime. One out of two. One out of four women will actually have an abusive relationship sometime in their lifetime."
"You can call a guy who hits a woman a lot of things, but you can't call him a man" said Rawlings. "Men do not hit women. Men do not laugh at jokes about hitting women. Men don't dance to songs about hitting women."
Rainy cold weather had an impact on the turn-out, but still about 5,000 people came to the event, waving towels that advertised an anti-violence training camp and sporting purple ribbons and Dallas Men Against Abuse t-shirts. The crowd included several African American fraternities, Latino organizations, church groups, a motorcycle club, Muslim groups, lesbians and bisexual women, school groups, and boy scouts.
Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant, behind him seated is Brandon Carr. Photo By Starita Smith.
Dallas has seen an increase in the number of homicides in the last year. Homicides of women by their domestic partners were a key contributor to the high number of deaths. Last year, 26 women were killed by their partners. In one of the most talked about cases, a woman who had tried to get a restraining order against her husband was shot to death by him in the parking garage at U.T. Southwestern Medical Center, one of the largest medical facilities in the area, where she worked.
"Each year we have over 13,000 domestic abuse cases," said Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who pointed out that domestic violence is pushing up the Dallas homicide rate. "Domestic violence is our highest priority."
Among the private organizations supporting the rally were T.D. Jakes Ministries, the Dallas Cowboys, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Verizon, the Dr. Phil Show, and the local women's shelters and several local churches. Several speakers said that the rally was only a starting point. There will be new training and counseling programs to combat abuse as well as help for shelters and other resources supported by local and state governments.
Dale Hansen, a longtime TV sportscaster, fired up the crowd when he told a personal story.
"I was seven years old when my mom grabbed me in the middle of the night and dragged me out of the house with her face bleeding because my dad hit her and broke her nose. My dad was the biggest man I've ever known...My old man was biggest, strongest man I have ever known, and he hit my mom. Never had such a big man looked so small in the eyes of a little boy. That's what a man does when he hits a woman. He diminishes the woman, but he diminishes himself even more."
NFL Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Emmitt Smith as well as current Dallas Cowboys players Brandon Carr and Dez Bryant spoke to the crowd. Bryant, who allegedly had hit his mother (no charges were filed) , acknowledged that he had "made a mistake" while Smith said he was at the rally because he is a father of five.
Rawlings, Emmitt Smith, Texas state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, Roger Staubach. Photo By Starita Smith.
"I have three daughters, and I also have two sons. When you hear the staggering stats that one out of three women will be abused, that means that one of my daughters will be abused at some point in time by somebody. And my sons need to also understand that a man truly is a man when he is able to show discipline and restraint and be able to walk away."
At the end of the rally, the men repeated a five-part pledge against violence. Those points were:
A man never hits a woman.
A man speaks out against domestic abuse. If a man sees something, he says something.
A man holds other guys accountable.
A man teaches his daughters how men should treat them. He teaches his daughters not to be abused.
A man teaches his sons to respect women.
A group from Concord Christian Church. Photo By Starita Smith.
Starita Smith, Ph.D., has been an award-winning journalist at the Gary Post-Tribune, the Columbus Dispatch and the Austin American-Statesman. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.