First it was the politicians making sure they got their share of media attention by issuing Katrina-related statements, now corporations are getting into the act. In this case, it’s a double whammy as domestic violence victims are added to the mix.
On Friday, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence issued a press release announcing their intentions to provide $6000 grants to women’s shelters, and $2000 grants to individual victims of DV in cooperation with cosmetics giant Mary Kay, and the Altria group, (the parent company of Kraft Foods, and Philip Morris which also has an interest in SABMiller brewing).
There are so many problems with this particular PR campaign, I hardly know where to begin.
Rather than illustrating the depth of these corporations’ compassion, it gives a clear picture of their lack of understanding of the issue and their willingness to profit from the misery of people affected by intimate partner abuse.
This campaign is a thinly-veiled attempt to create a special class of hurricane victims by claiming that those who are already “battered victims” as the release says, are somehow “invisible” and in danger of “slipping through the cracks.” Does this mean that LCADV and NNEDV believe that organizations providing hurricane relief will not provide the same services to these individuals that they provide everyone else?
The press release gives no mention of the fact that Katrina has already done a significant portion of the shelters’ job for them. It has effectively removed women and their children from their homes, which is a key function of shelter procedure. The second part of the program – divorce – becomes almost a moot point in a situation where the government entities which deal with these issues are at best, in disarray. The third part of the program, the revenge portion, which generally consists of submitting the man in the relationship to economic sanctions, “re-education” programs, or outright incarceration, is also problematic when law enforcement has critical issues of criminal activity to address. Police will be far less likely to be willing to arrest men for personal relationship problems simply on the word of the woman involved when so many serious crimes against people and property are being committed.
In this case, with so many people in close quarters at refugee centers, and other situations where families are no longer isolated behind closed doors, those who abuse their spouses or families at a degree that requires intervention will most likely be recognized and dealt with as such.
The fact that the orgs involved seem to believe all their special class of victims need is money as fast as possible, (there is no mention what they expect this money will be used for), is particularly telling.
Wouldn’t you think they would be asking for volunteers to counsel victims in dealing with their problem, or some other focused solution of relevance to their issue?
Certainly, that is the logical need of this particular group of people, but shelters do not provide that sort of aid in the first place. All women’s shelters provide is an opportunity for separation, divorce, and revenge. In some cases they also provide some minimal preparation for entry-level jobs.
Shelter advocates are on a continuous fund-raiser, because they believe money is the solution to the problems they face, so it shouldn’t be any surprise they don’t have a defined idea of their clients’ need, now that the rest of the population of the area is also separated from their families and seeking relocation aid. They want money to keep their programs running, and more money for their clientele, because it has never occurred to them to ask for anything else.
Mary Kay and Altria see a chance for some good PR that makes them seem compassionate and altruistic, so why not provide some minor grants which would probably cost significantly less than advertising for their products? This is common practice in the corporate world. They are doing nothing more or less than expected. Yet in this case, they are demonstrating their ignorance of the organizations they support, and they may well come to regret this knee-jerk, poorly crafted bit of PR as it is such an obvious ruse of benefit to no one.
No one, that is, but the women’s shelter advocates who see their incomes and community influence disappearing in the flood.
So there is potential for good in this scenario. In times of crisis, nonessential and ineffective programs tend to come to light as what they are, and often do not survive. Once the public recognizes what these domestic violence agencies actually do and how they function, perhaps there will be better and more realistic approaches down the road. We can only hope this comes to pass.