Posted by: Knightbird | July 27, 2011

Sloganeering in Alaska State Government

The tools of lean are amazing, and with analytical thinking and facts, many of them can be applied to tackling difficult issues of public policy. One issue I have been interested in is domestic violence. Chugachmiut administers grants to address domestic violence (DV) in our region. I know how destructive DV can be to families. And I know that every family member can be both perpetrator and victim.

One of Dr. W. Edward Deming’s 14 principles asks us for “the elimination of slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity.” The governor of the State of Alaska has adopted a campaign for the elimination of domestic violence, which he calls “Choose Respect.” His campaign uses print, television and radio media, calling for “Men” to just “Choose Respect.” My argument is that this campaign will fail miserably because it does not address the root cause for domestic violence. First of all, the blame is laid on the behaviors of men alone. And the only domestic violence addressed is violence against women. Violence against men and children by women is completely ignored. And I also argue that one of the major root causes is the accumulation of Adverse Childhood Experiences, which increases the risk that both men and women will perpetrate domestic violence. Here is a chart from a presentation made in Ohio by Dr. Vincent

Men and women with 3 or more ACEs are more likely to perpetrate domestic violence. Women are 3 times more likely and Men almost 5 times more likely to perpetrate DV than someone with no ACEs. And like many behaviors, persistence of the behavior is similar to an addiction and difficult to defeat. Slogans won’t work.

It appears that the State knows that the sloganeering won’t work because they have targeted an aggressive criminal prosecution campaign. In a similar vein, the U.S. Department of Justice is skipping the slogans and addressing aggressive prosecution. I believe both approaches are very short sighted. Interesting, as a side point, is that successful prosecution of a father accomplishes inflicting a couple of ACEs for his children—having a parent in prison and having an absent biological parent. It may also contribute to a few other ACEs. A mother left without the financial contributions from her partner may be forced to physically neglect her children (inadequate or no housing, insufficient food and other attributes of neglect). Such circumstances may also contribute to an onset of severe depression. And it is very likely that alcohol abuse is also in the household. And it is extremely likely that the children witnessed or are aware of the DV. Children could emerge from this experience with their own baggage of 6 ACEs or more. The likelihood of children perpetrating DV as adults is significant.

And since the problem of DV is so pervasive, it will be easy for the State and DOJ to increase their level of prosecution and claim success. An example from California involving rape prosecutions might help explain what I mean. A Rand Corporation analysis stated that only about 2% of sex offenders in California ever spend time in prison. As a result, putting more investigators, prosecutors and judicial resources will lead to an increase in convictions because the pool of perpetrators is so large. The same is true of domestic violence. The pool of perpetrators is large and a larger well-funded effort will snare more of them. Unfortunately, the efforts target only Men and the pool of Women perpetrators will be unaffected. Women perpetrate DV on children in significant enough numbers to increase their ACEs score. Because the respective governments are relying on slogans and greater commitment of prosecutorial resources, they will not reduce the pool of offenders—instead they will take them out of circulation and drive their behaviors further underground and hidden. It’s human nature.


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