Monthly Archives: July 2015

Men Kill Women in the U.S. So Often That It’s Usually Not Even Newsworthy

When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana, opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn’t a coincidence—that this was, like the Elliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at women. While Trainwreck is a fluffy rom-com, it’s also a popular topic of chatter in the feminist-sphere and therefore likely to be noticed by the seething misogynists who monitor the online activities of feminists with unsettling obsessiveness.

That fear is now moving from the uneasy-feeling column to the likely possibility column, with Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reporting that alleged shooter John Russell Houser was a rabid right-winger—he even went to one of those unranked conservative Christian law schools—who had particularly strong anger toward women for their growing independence and rights. Former talk show host Calvin Floyd had Houser on as a frequent guest, knowing that his off-the-wall opinions would generate audience interest: “The best I can recall, Rusty had an issue with feminine rights,” Floyd said. “He was opposed to women having a say in anything.” Houser also had a history of domestic violence.

It would be nice, as Jessica Winter argued in Slate after the Charleston shooting, if this country could have a grown-up conversation about gun control in the wake of crimes like this. Instead, we’re just going to hear a bunch of ridiculous rhetoric about how more guns will fix this problem, as if Lafayette isn’t one of those parts of the country where everyone and his poodle is packing heat. But since that’s not happening, maybe we can talk about the continuing role that misogyny plays in the relentless drumbeat of gun violence in this country.

Complete article

Women Lawmakers Revive Gun-Control Effort By Making It About Domestic Violence

Gun control’s weary warriors have been searching for a way to appeal to Republicans and give the issue a pulse in Congress. A couple of Midwestern women Democrats may have found a way to do it, by tying it to domestic violence.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell are pressing legislation to take guns out of the hands of men who abuse women. On Wednesday, Dingell introduced a bill along with a Republican, Robert Dold of Illinois, mirroring legislation Klobuchar reintroduced earlier this year in targeting those convicted of stalking and abusive dating partners.

For both women, the issue is personal. As a county prosecutor, Klobuchar helped establish some of the first domestic violence service centers in the nation before coming to Congress. Dingell grew up in a household where domestic violence and guns were a constant worry.

“I understand what a gun in the wrong hands can do and the fear and the anxiety that you live with for a lifetime,” Dingell said in an interview. Dingell’s husband, former Representative John Dingell, is a gun owner who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association. “No one should assume where I am on guns,” she said. “This is a very narrow bill.”

Efforts to revive gun control in Congress have been virtually non existent for the past two year. In 2013, Republicans and a handful of Democrats refused to support even modest changes to firearms background check laws in the wake of school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, prompting activists to shift their focus to the state level. It’s there, in places like Illinois and South Carolina, that lawmakers have agreed to stiffen penalties and bar those convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns.

Now proponents are trying to recreate that success in Washington by focusing on specific categories of individuals who are at elevated risk of becoming violent. The approach also broadens the traditional gun coalition to women’s groups that target domestic violence, like MomsRising and National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“I have not given up hope by any means on these more pragmatic focused approaches,” said Klobuchar, who noted that “you have a state as red as South Carolina doing something on gun violence related to domestic violence.”

Current law bars people convicted of domestic abuse from possessing firearms. At an event to unveil the Dingell-Dold bill on Wednesday, state-level bills were spotlighted that accomplish the same objectives. As of this month, bills addressing domestic abuse and gun violence have been passed or introduced in 23 legislatures, including Oregon, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Advocates for toughening U.S. gun laws say the lesson from the 2013 failure of legislation to expand background checks to Internet sales and gun shows is that comprehensive gun legislation is impossible in the current Congress.

What is possible, they believe, is advancing legislation to focus on specific categories of individuals, including domestic abusers, those on the terrorism watch list and individuals with a mental health condition that poses a threat to the safety of others.

“This is a pretty modest deal on something that’s already publicly accepted as what we can do to safeguard our daughters, our sisters,” Dold said in an interview.

Even so, Klobuchar has yet to attract a Republican co-sponsor for her bill, and the Republican champion of the 2013 effort, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, said he doesn’t know much about it.

The National Rifle Association, which has squashed major gun legislation for two decades, opposes both bills. According to an NRA fact sheet, it will “not stand” for taking away a “fundamental civil right for a misdemeanor conviction.” The bill, the NRA argues, “cynically manipulates emotionally compelling issues such as ‘domestic violence’ and ‘stalking’ simply to cast as wide a net as possible for federal firearms prohibitions.”

The domestic violence issue has a powerful correlation to firearms possession, according to a study by the Center for American Progress in Washington. From 2001 to 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the U.S. by an intimate partner using a gun—more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entire Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Of all women murdered by intimate partners during this period, 55 percent were killed with guns, and women in the U.S. are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than are women in other high-income countries. Seventy-six percent of women killed with a gun had been stalked in the previous year, Dingell said Wednesday.

After the shootings in Newtown in 2012, Dingell began to share her personal story. “I found my voice a few years ago,” she said Wednesday.

In January, she penned a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder asking him to veto a bill allowing concealed-weapons permits to be issued to individuals with a history of violence. “I will not forget the nights of shouting. The fear. The dread that my brother, my sisters and my parents would die,” Dingell wrote. “I will not forget locking ourselves in closets or hiding places hoping we wouldn’t be found. Calling for help, but finding no one willing to help.”

“I had a father that I’m sure loved me but could snap like that,” Dingell said Wednesday. “When a gun was near you didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Dingell’s younger sister suffered from years of anxiety and eventually committed suicide. “I don’t think she ever recovered,” Dingell said Wednesday. “She was always afraid for her life and had anxiety the rest of her life.”

In addition to the recent law in South Carolina, supporters say they are optimistic that the legislation can gain traction because Congress has in the past acknowledged the nexus between guns and domestic violence. In 1994 and 1997, Congress acted to take guns away from domestic abusers and those under restraining orders. Yet Klobuchar, Dingell are Dold are arguing that serious loopholes remain.

“I don’t look at this as a gun bill,” said Dingell. “I look at this as a domestic violence bill.”

Common characteristics of domestic violence murder-suicide and recent cases

The cases listed below are just a few of the domestic violence related cases which ended in murder-suicide reported in the news within the last month. In the U.S. more than three women a day are killed by their intimate partners.

The most common characteristics of murder-suicide in families are a prior history of domestic violence, access to guns, increased specific threats and a prior history of poor mental health or substance abuse, according to the National Institute of Justice.

According to statistics gathered by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.

Veteran Suspected in Murder-Suicide had a history of domestic violence

Two dead after domestic dispute in Northside

Deaths of Boothbay Harbor family ruled double murder – homicide

A domestic violence incident in May turns into a murder-suicide in June

Shooting suspect in murder-suicide has lengthy history of domestic violence

Argument, break-up threats preceded double murder-suicide

Police identify woman, man in suspected murder-suicide

ID released in Sterling Heights murder-suicide: husband was arrested in May for domestic violence

Sheriff IDs victims in murder-suicide

Patterns and risk factors are discussed in a paper The Dynamics of Murder-Suicide in Domestic Situations (pdf)

Femicide: The Hate Crime You’ve Never Heard Of

Twenty years after the Beijing Platform for Action set out its agenda to prevent and eliminate global violence against women, such violence is still ubiquitous. Even in the U.S., four women each day die at the hands of a past or current intimate partner. Femicide, the killing of women because of their gender, is the most extreme form of violence against women. Current U.S. law doesn’t pay adequate attention to the role of gender dynamics in violent interpersonal relations. In order to more effectively protect the lives of American women, the US needs federal law prohibiting femicide.

The prevalence of violence against women is startling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 35.6 percent of American women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. The impact of that violence can include physical injury, psychological distress, loss of work and the need for legal services. Women need legal protection from violence and its consequences. The laws we currently have on the books aren’t enough.
The Violence Against Women Act and its hotly contested 2013 reauthorization do not even scratch the surface of femicide. The law focuses mainly on much needed support services for survivors but does nothing to document or punish femicide. Meanwhile, some states have tried to respond to femicide by enacting their own legislation on violence against women.

Take the case of Gwen Salley, who was kidnapped and later shot in May 2014 by her husband in Caddo Parish, La., shortly following his release from jail on a domestic violence arrest. “Gwen’s Law” passed the Louisiana legislature with unanimous approval and was signed into law less than month after Gwen Salley’s death. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle coalesced around the egregious case of violence.

“Gwen’s law requires a cooling off period and a fatality risk assessment for offenders of domestic violence statutes in an effort to save lives” said Patricia E. Koch, 9th Judicial District Court Judge. It is a major step toward protecting victims, but it doesn’t provide for the criminalization of femicide. Existing Louisiana statues for first-degree murder provide protections for specific groups like police officers, youths and the elderly as well as individuals who have existing protection or restraining orders. Yet there is no specific mention of murder prosecution for intimate partners or the role of gender in the crime of murder.

Over half (51.8 percent) of women killed in the U.S. are murdered by an intimate partner or family member. By its nature as a crime committed on the basis of gender, femicide is inherently discriminatory. While hate crimes legislation does include gender-based violence, there’s evidence that federal hate crimes statistics drastically underestimate the prevalence of femicide.

Twenty-eight states have hate crimes legislation including gender and national hate crime legislation includes gender among the categories of crimes motivated by biases. The FBI reported only 25 anti-female gender-based hate crimes in 2013. Those numbers are in stark contrast to what we know about the murder of women.

Nearly 3,000 women are murdered in the US each year and just over half of those crimes are committed by women’s partners. That means that roughly 1,400 women a year are being killed by past or current intimate partners. Even if only a small portion of these murders are femicide, these numbers don’t align with the low number of gender-based hate crimes reported. Women and girls have even been targeted in some of the mass violence that unfortunately has become all too familiar with in our country. Current federal data can’t adequately capture or reflect the true frequency of femicide in the US.

Certainly, a federal law against femicide won’t prevent violence. However, the law would be an important piece of the puzzle in addressing violence that many women face. A well-conceived femicide law will define the crime of femicide at the national level and create mechanisms for more accurate accounting.

Federal legislation on femicide would affirm our belief in the value of women’s lives for the women at risk today and in the future.

By Dabney P. Evans – Evans is assistant professor at Emory University.