[This is the second post in a series, criticizing the recent campaign by anti-feminist Glenn Sacks against The Family Place. I'd like to remind readers that "Alas, a Blog" will match any contributions you make to The Family Place this week (up to $800 total), so please donate, and then let me know in comments or through this form.]
Prominent right-wingers Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin recently praised Glenn Sacks’ campaign against The Family Place, a domestic violence shelter that provides help to both female and male victims of intimate violence. Reynolds said:
They didn’t try to get anybody fired but they contacted them and asked them, “Did you realize that your money is supporting these ads? Is this what you want to do?”
They made a very big point of being very polite about it and not making any threats. They did get some action and did it without trying to get anybody fired or booted from their jobs or doing anything vicious.
Because there’s nothing vicious about attempting to cut off the funding of a domestic violence shelter.
I suspect that Reynolds learned this from Glenn Sacks’ site, where Glenn claimed this “achievement” for his campaign:
A sub-group of our protesters who I selected called over 50 of The Family Place’s financial contributors to express our concerns about the ads. Most contributors said they sympathized with us, and many told us they thought the ads and the subsequent protest were an embarrassment to The Family Place. Many contacted Family Place Executive Director Paige Flink with their concerns.
Several of The Family Place’s financial contributors withdrew or reduced the financial gifts they planned for the end-of-the-year giving season.
Like Roy Eduso in The Village Voice, and the blogger at Glenn’s Cult (warning: that link makes an annoying noise), I was concerned when I read this; I’d hate for the anti-feminists to succeed in depriving abused women and men of desparately needed support and services.
Fortunately, according to Paige Flink, Glenn vastly exaggerated the effects of his campaign. Unfortunately, contrary to what Glenn Reynolds (and, probably, Glenn Sacks himself) believes, the calls made to The Family Place’s volunteers and donors due to Glenn’s campaign were anything but polite.
Ms. Flink was kind enough to talk to me on the phone. Glenn Sacks declined to make any “on the record” comments to me.
Can you tell me how long you’ve been at The Family Place?
I have been on staff at The Family Place for seventeen years, and I was a volunteer for three years prior to that.
Is it a difficult job?
It is hard work, but when you see success… It’s unbelievable the families that we help. Even if they’re only in the shelter for 45 days, the difference is incredible. If we help them get a job, or go to school, it really improves their life for years to come. It’s awesome.
Plus I see bad things happen to women and it just makes me mad. The oppression is true, it’s real.
Glenn Sacks claimed his activists convinced some regular Family Place supporters to withhold donations. Have you seen any evidence of that from your end?
The only thing I know for sure is I got an email from a man who said he’d never give again, because of this. He once gave $25, in 2003.
It’s possible that [Sacks] convinced somebody besides that one donor.
Have you heard from any of your donors who had been contacted by Glenn’s campaign?
Yes. They were horrified.
What were they horrified about?
They were horrified that they were contacted. Not about the ad campaign. Horrified that someone from outside the state of Texas would call and say “don’t give money to The Family Place.” There was one of my board members who received 25 calls from the same woman.
What did the people calling them say?
It was… they were paraphrasing, so I don’t know exactly. They were told that you should not support The Family Place. This is a terrible campaign, they’re not a good organization, you should not support The Family Place, and we’re asking you to stop donating to The Family Place.
Some of the vile language and verbal abuse we took on the phone was horrific. The kinds of things they said to our staff about what they’re going to do to them was awful. I’ve had some “you’re going to go to hell, you’re a fat lesbian luring women into those shelters so you can prey on them.”
If I reply back to a victim I really am cautious in how I speak to her, because how do I know it’s a victim? We screen our clients on the phone, but…
I didn’t know there was this atmosphere out there of people who would say… horrible things to people they don’t know. They’d write in all caps like they were screaming and yelling. This is not a world that I’m used to. And the people would would say verbatim what he had said, like they’d drank the kool-aid… It was just amazing. It lasted a very short window of time. It was not much more than 10 days and then it fell off.
Did the campaign succeed in doing damage to The Family Place?
No, as a matter of fact, what he did was make us even more visible, in venues where we wouldn’t necessarily have been visible. We are not an AM radio organization. So even though some of it was negative… For example, he was on one of the radio stations here, and a huge organization, a very conservative group, emailed the radio station saying we support The Family Place. So just the name of The Family Place being out there might, in a perverse way, help, because we might reach someone who needs our services.
So I’m still thinking the campaign was very successful. When Glenn went on CNN, we got so many positive phone calls to our hotline that night, saying go for it, don’t back down, don’t let him do that to you.
I want to make sure it’s clear that we had a 60 day contract on those buses. It is not true that we took down our ads down. That’s not true. It was always going to end on November 30 — that was all the money we had.
I feel very strongly that the donors in this community understand what we’re doing in the family place. We have a lot of credibility. So I feel like our donors are going to stand beside us. It’s a shame that we’ve had to take anything away from the mission of this organization to even waste time in defending what we’re doing. It’s been a drain on time … it isn’t productive.
How much time did you have to spend dealing with this controversy?
I don’t know… hours, I had to spend hours. Thinking about the right strategy and how to respond and how to stay true to the message of The Family Place. If it’s five hours then it’s five hours too many.
We have a page on our website that we did make gender-neutral in response.
I’d like to thank Ms. Flink for talking with me.
My next post in this series will feature more from my interview with Paige Flink, including her advice to men’s rights activists who want to help male victims of violence. In the meanwhile, don’t forget to donate to The Family Place! Even very low donations are worthwhile, and remember, this week they’ll be doubled.