In Orlando, as Usual, Domestic Violence Was Ignored Red Flag

Early Sunday morning, Omar Mateen began killing people in what became the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Authorities will now study what may have made the 29-year-old go to the Pulse gay nightclub with the intention of ending so many lives.

The Washington Post reported Monday that “although family members said Mateen had expressed anger about homosexuality, the shooter had no record of previous hate crimes.” But that depends on how you categorize domestic violence.

Mateen’s coworker, Daniel Gilroy, who requested a transfer so he wouldn’t have to work with Mateen, describes him as “scary in a concerning way…. He had anger management issues. Something would set him off, but the things that would set him off were always women, race or religion. [Those were] his button pushers.”

Mateen reportedly beat his ex-wife, Sitora Yusifiy, and at one point held her hostage, but was never held accountable. She divorced him after only four months of marriage, citing his mental-health issues. Her family, she says, had to “pull [her] out of his arms.” She describes Mateen as practicing his religion — Islam — but showing “no sign” of violent radicalism. It’s understandable what she means there, but perhaps it’s time our society started to think of physical abuse, possessiveness and men’s entitlement to act in those ways toward women as terroristic, violent and radical.

As Huffington Post reporter Melissa Jeltsen wrote last year, “The untold story of mass shootings in America is one of domestic violence.” According to a conservative estimate by the FBI, 57 percent of the mass shootings (involving more than four victims) between January 2009 and June 2014 involved a perpetrator killing an intimate partner or other family member. In other words, men killing women intimates and their children and relatives are the country’s prototypical mass shooters; these killings are horrifyingly common. In fact, on Sunday, while the world watched in horror as news poured out of Orlando, a man in New Mexico was arrested in the fatal shooting deaths of his wife and four daughters.

Even when intimate partners are not involved, gender and the dynamics of gender are salient. According to one detailed analysis, 64 percent of the victims of mass murders are women and children, and yet the role that masculinity and aggrieved male entitlement plays is largely sidelined. Schools, for example, make up 10 percent of the sites of mass shootings in the U.S., and women and girls are twice as likely to die in school shootings. Gyms, shopping malls and places of worship are also frequent targets, and are similarly places where women and girls are predictably present in greater numbers.

Homophobia is nothing if not grounded in profound misogyny. Regardless of religion or ethnicity, anti-LGTB rhetoric is the expression of dominant heterosexuality that feeds on toxic masculinity and rigid gender stereotypes. Sunday’s mass killing targeted the LGTBQ community — including people who violate gender rules, such as men who are “like women,” per Mateen’s thinking. What’s more, according to several Pulse regulars, Mateen had previously been to the nightclub a number of times, and investigators are also looking into whether he may have been using a gay dating app. It’s still unclear why he might have done those things, but at least a few people have said he may have been gay and closeted, potentially adding another dimension to his homophobia.

The club where the shooting took place, Pulse, had been known as a particularly a safe space for queer and trans people of color, groups who are the target of the fastest growing number of hate crimes in the United States. If Mateen’s choosing Pulse as a target isn’t an indication of aggrieved entitlement and fragile masculinity, I don’t know what is. Pledging allegiance to ISIS, as he is reported to have done in the midst of the shooting, while related in many dimensions to this problem, seems more like a symptom, not a cause.

Intimate partner violence and the toxic masculinity that fuels it are the canaries in the coal mine for understanding public terror, and yet this connection continues largely to be ignored, to everyone’s endangerment. It is essential to understand religious extremism (of all stripes), racism, homophobia, mental illness and gun use, but all of these factors are on ugly quotidian display in one place before all others: at home. If experts in countering violent extremism are looking for an obvious precursor to public massacres, this is where they should focus their attentions.

There are major problems to overcome before we’ll see real change, though. First, we need to fundamentally shift how we think about and assess “terror.” Just as the public’s consciousness has been raised in regards to race, ethnicity and the framing of only some agents of violence as “terrorists,” so too should we consider domestic violence a form of daily terror. Three women a day are killed by intimate partners in the United States, and the majority of women murdered are murdered by men they know. There needs to be a dissolution between what we think of as “domestic” violence, traditionally protected by patriarchal privacy norms and perpetrated by men against “their” women, and “public” violence, traditionally understood as male-on-male. Acts of public terrorism such as the one in Orlando Sunday would be less unpredictable if intimate partner violence were understood as a public health and safety issue, instead of as a private problem.

Second, we must address the reasons why many victims of domestic violence are not comfortable going to the police — for instance, the fact that sexual “misconduct” is the second most prevalent form of police misconduct, after excessive force. Additionally, high rates of police brutality, particularly in communities of color, constitute a form of terror. This fact should be inseparable from tolerance for high rates of intimate partner violence in police ranks. Women, and perhaps especially women of color, who might otherwise be able to alert law enforcement about the early signs of violence or radicalization do not currently feel safe or comfortable going to the police.

The third major issue to address is that of violent men and their access to guns. In households where an abusive spouse has access to a gun, women are five times more likely to be killed. And yet, men who violently abuse women they are related to are not barred from owning or buying guns if their domestic violence is never reported to the police or prosecuted. What’s more, gun-rights activists are trying to overturn a 1996 amendment to a federal law that says it’s illegal for a person who’s been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor to buy or own a gun. And currently people with restraining orders associated with intimate partner violence are only prohibited from owning or buying guns in fewer than half of U.S. states.

Fourth, it’s time to correlate the known risk factors for intimate partner killing, determined in what is known as a lethality assessment, to other factors that might help predict who will engage in acts of mass shooting and killing. Given the ridiculous pace of intimate partner and mass shootings, there’s no shortage of data to study. We know what behaviors presage men’s murdering women and children and then, often, turning guns on themselves. What if those metrics were integrated into models designed to understand and counter what is traditionally thought of as violence extremism? If, as Jelsten pointed out, experts believe that domestic homicides are “the most predictable and preventable of all homicides” then, given what we know about the inciting incidents in most mass shootings, so too are the majority of acts of public terror.

It does not take intensive analysis or complicated transnational databases to conclude that men who feel entitled to act violently, with impunity, against those they care for will, in all probability, feel greater entitlement to act violently toward those they hate or are scared of.

The sooner we start recognizing this fact, the safer not just women, but all of us, will become.

Source: Rolling Stone

The Role Of Toxic Masculinity In Mass Shootings

The man who committed the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history had a history of domestic violence and disrespecting women, according to people who were close to him. The emerging details about Omar Mateen fit into a bigger and often overlooked pattern of violence in this country, in which crimes against female partners often escalate to crimes against greater numbers of people.

Mateen, who opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning — killing 49 people and wounding 53 others — used to abuse his wife.

“He was not a stable person,” Sitora Yusifiy, who was married to Mateen for about two years after the couple met on an online dating site, told the Washington Post. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

One of Mateen’s former coworkers, Daniel Gilroy, told the Miami Herald that Mateen often bragged about his relationships with other women while he was married to Yusifiy. “All he wanted to do was cheat on his wife,” Gilroy said. “He had very little respect for women.”

This news is unsurprising to people who work on issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and gender roles. There’s a lot of evidence that men who hurt their female family members often go on to hurt other people.

Between 2009 and 2012, 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife.

Last year alone, nearly a third of mass shooting deaths were related in some way to domestic violence. And when you look beyond public shootings, the majority of mass shootings in this country actually take place inside the home, as men target the women and children they’re intimately related to.

Employing harassment, violence, and coercion against women has long been considered a normal way for men to behave in romantic relationships, as deeply ingrained gender norms teach men that they’re entitled to women’s bodies. This toxic approach to masculinity has been directly linked to the sense of entitlement that drives many mass shooters to commit their crimes.

Nonetheless, while national politicians are quick to pinpoint shooters’ crimes on their immigration status or religious affiliation, the harmful effect of toxic masculinity doesn’t receive the same high-profile attention.

Domestic violence advocates, however, say it’s obvious that men who commit crimes against women should be taken more seriously within society as a whole. As lawmakers debate the best way to prevent mass shootings, one policy solution would be tightening existing loopholes in an effort to make it more difficult for domestic abusers to obtain firearms.

Here are just a few recent examples of shootings where the perpetrators likely had a toxic attitude toward women before they opened fire — a list that includes many men who were directly connected to incidents of violence and abuse against women:

Mainak Sarkar, who made a kill list of his UCLA professors.
Earlier this month, the UCLA campus was shaken by the murder of a beloved professor in his office. Doctoral student Mainak Sarkar had planned to kill two of his former professors, but could only find one before he turned the gun on himself. Before Sarkar loaded up his backpack with guns and ammunition for the trip to UCLA, however, he murdered his estranged wife. According to authorities, he climbed through a window to kill her in her home.

Cedric Larry Ford, who killed 3 people in Hesston, Kansas.
Ford’s shooting spree in February at Excel Industries, which killed three of his co-workers, may have been prompted by receiving a restraining order from someone he had previously abused. He got the restraining order about 90 minutes before opening fire. Evidence from court documents shows that women in romantic relationships with Ford were afraid of him. One former girlfriend said that he tried to strangle her and that she was worried about his mental state.

John Russell Houser, who killed 2 people in Lafayette, Louisiana. Houser opened fire in a movie theater last July and, although his motive for the crime was unclear, his family had previously raised alarm about his violent behavior. In 2008, Houser’s wife asked for a temporary protective order against him, arguing that he “perpetrated various acts of family violence” and “has a history of mental health issues.” According to those court documents, his wife became so concerned that she removed all of the guns from the family home.

Robert Lewis Dear, who killed 3 people in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dear, who opened fire in a Planned Parenthood clinic last fall, has a long history of being accused of preying on women. In 1997, authorities responded to a domestic violence call after Dear’s wife said he hit her and pushed her out of window. Five years later, he was investigated for making “unwanted advances” toward a neighbor, who said she was hiding in the bushes by her house and “leering” at her. She eventually filed a restraining order.

Syed Rizwan Farook, who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. There’s some evidence that Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a company holiday party last December, grew up in a violent home. In court documents regarding his parents’ divorce, Farook’s mother alleges his father abused her in front of the children — hitting her, pushing her toward a car, and once drunkenly dropping a TV on her. She sought multiple domestic violence protection orders against him. Witnessing this type of domestic violence in the home can have a serious impact on children who see a model for inappropriately treating women. Just days after the shooting, authorities investigated Farook’s brother on a possible charge of domestic battery.

Elliot Rodger, who killed 6 people in Santa Barbara, California. Rodger went on a rampage near a Santa Barbara, California university campus in 2014 against women who had romantically rejected him. In revenge for still being a virgin, which he perceived as women’s fault, he pledged to “slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see” inside the “hottest sorority house of UCSB.” Rodger planned the crime for more than a year and was deeply involved with misogynistic online communities that have degrading attitudes toward women.

Cho Seung-Huim, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech.
Before Cho committed one of the deadliest school shootings to date in 2007, two women complained that he was stalking them. They reported receiving persistent calls and messages from Cho, who went through campus disciplinary proceedings. After the massacre, Cho left behind a manifesto that the Associated Press described as a “rambling note raging against women,” as

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