Garnering public support to address the social injustices regularly practiced in family court is like negotiating peace in the middle east: Though there is a tremendous upside to a positive resolution, no one wants to spoil a perfectly broken system.
Nevertheless, the more or less right-headed are compelled to try. History shows that, sometimes, the good (or at least more sensible) guys win.
Strategically thinking, I understand that the biggest obstacle to change is to get people to listen to reason. The only way to do that is to first get them talking.
Consider this impromptu list of social injustices once seldom discussed in the open…until they were:
Racism: America’s dirty little open secret — until the civil rights movement erupted in the 1960s, giving rise to the two preeminent black activists of the modern era, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. One-hundred fifty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and 45 years after the peak of the movement, America has still not totally achieved racial equality, but no one can deny that racism is a topic of daily national discussion.
Sexual Violence: An article published August 8, 2014 in Ms. Magazine by Caroline Heldman and Baillee Brown reports that female victims of sexual violence have been fighting for justice in the United States as far back as 1866. That year, a group of black women testified before Congress about gang rapes committed during the Memphis Riot. Even after this, rape as an issue did not become a part of the public conversation before the ’70s during that era’s Feminist Movement, more than 100 years later.
Domestic Violence: In 1977, the case of Francine Hughes, a Michigan house wife who set her abusive husband afire as he lay passed out drunk on their bed, thrust the issue of domestic violence into public awareness. Ms. Hughes was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity at a subsequent trial, but the lack of options available to victims of domestic violence could no longer be ignored or excused.
Human Trafficking: We in the U.S. are just learning the global scope of this multi-billion dollar industry. Efforts to thwart this ruthless practice on our shores were spear-headed by a pair of Brown University students who became aware of a brothel within blocks of their campus. Katherine Chon and Derek Ellerman founded the Polaris Project in 2002, but traffickers continue to operate under the noses of a largely uninformed public.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it goes to show that a social injustice can go unaddressed for decades, centuries, even before some catalyst drives it under a spotlight for public examination. As learning the ropes of activism goes, I consider myself lucky. I’m not alone in the effort to drive family court reform, there are plenty of better educated, more experienced people already involved and this is one cause with which I bet many, many cops can identify.