REPORT TO FRIENDS--February 1999

You've probably heard the sad news. Oakland missed its golden opportunity by one vote to honestly address the root cause of domestic violence and juvenile crime. Child beaters are breathing easier for the moment. Parental behavior in Oakland, as elsewhere in the U.S., no matter how risky to children, remains sacrosanct--that is until a child is damaged or broken. Give us a dead baby and everybody knows exactly what to do and what to expect: a shot of the perpetrator in cuffs being hustled off to jail, the arresting officer saying it's the worst thing he's seen in all his 20 years on the force, a few tearful comments from bewildered neighbors, a bouquete of flowers to mark the spot where a child once lived, and then, feeling cleansed, we all go back to our routine. Until the next time.

Reaction is not prevention.

At the council meeting, I was appalled by Ignacio de la Fuente's blatant maneuver to squelch debate by limiting support testimony to a mere 10 minutes. The video we prepared for showing (using 5 of our allocated 10 minutes) was an excerpt from the 1992 20/20 Segment, with Hugh Downes and Barbara Walters, "The Lesson They'll Never Forget." It is the most powerful documentary on legalized child abuse (showing spankers in action, in their own homes, against their own children) ever shown on network TV. At the City Council hearing, the video was played with the volume low, the bass at maximum level, the treble at minimum level, thus wiping out the sounds of the children's cries and making conversation nearly unintelligible. The bad sound effectively ruined the presentation. I might have attributed the problem to faulty equipment except for the fact that I was in the hearing room early, before others arrived, when the technician was setting up. He tested the video. It was perfect. His equipment was perfect. And I had to scrap my prepared testimony (requiring 3 minutes) because of the time constraint. See Riak's testimony to the Oakland City Council, Feb. 9, 1999.

My plan now for the resolution is to resurrect the original version, delete references to Oakland, and offer it as a blank form into which one can write one's own neighborhood, town or city. It'll be a do-it-yourself resolution. Added to the face of the form will be endorsements from major organizations (not individuals), especially professional associations serving people in child-related fields and health care. I have begun soliciting endorsements and will add them as they arrive. I expect the list will be very impressive before long. It will add credibility, reassure the timid, and mute the scoffers. I'll offer the resolution in printed form and, of course, readers can make prints from here. See: Resolution.

I apologize to everyone who requested posters, booklets, etc., or is waiting for me to respond to their e-mails. For the past three weeks I've been totally swamped. But the phone is ringing less frequently now and the volume of e-mail is subsiding. So I should be able to work through the backlog before too long. If you think your request was overlooked, you might be right. Remind me and I'll try to deal with it right away.

Jordan Riak,
Executive Director
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE)

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