Category Archives: gender-based violence

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 Year the Murder of Women Reached a Tipping Point

image“One day someone is going to hug you so tight that all of your broken pieces stick back together,” James Harris wrote on Jasmine Wright’s Facebook wall. Later, he posted a picture of a dozen roses with the words: “All in for you.”
To someone looking at her Facebook page, it would be easy to assume Harris was dating Jasmine. But they were not in a relationship. In fact, Jasmine did not know him. All she knew about him was that he worked as a maintenance man in her apartment block.

Harris regularly stalked and harassed Jasmine, and she often told friends that she felt uneasy around him. In July, Jasmine – a 27-year old Drexel University graduate from the Bronx, New York – was on her way back from the gym to her apartment block in Philadelphia. She was talking on the phone to her mother, Virginia, when she arrived home.

Her mother heard a scuffle on the other end.

The line went silent.

Jasmine was later found dead on her apartment floor. Harris, the man who had been harassing her, was charged with sexually assaulting and murdering her. After he’d been fired from his maintenance job, he had kept hold of the keys to the apartments, and had been hiding in her home, waiting for her. While Jasmine was on the phone, he sneaked up on her from behind. Her mother said she could hear the struggle before the call cut off.

Despite having been arrested for or charged with more than 30 serious offenses – including rape and murder – Harris was allowed to work in Jasmine’s building, where his harassment of her was overlooked by authorities. According to a local report, another woman in the building had even changed her locks because she felt unsafe around him.

Jasmine’s murder may be just one case among the thousands of instances of violence against women worldwide. But it is also emblematic of a series of gender-based killings in 2015 that have begun to force a recognition that these are not isolated incidents, but part of a larger pattern of endemic, gender-based violence that need to be addressed.

Last month, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Šimonović, urged all member states to establish a “Femicide Watch” to tackle gender-related killings. She described violence against women as the most “atrocious manifestation” of the “systematic and widespread discrimination and inequality that women and girls face around the world.”

“Women and their children continue to die as victims of gender-related killing, often in cruel ways,” Šimonović said. “The weaknesses of national prevention systems, lack of proper risk assessment, and the scarcity or poor quality of data are major barriers in preventing gender-related killing of women and developing meaningful prevention strategies. These weaknesses result in misidentification, concealment, and underreporting of gender-motivated killings, thus perpetuating impunity for such killings.”

Gender-related murders – often referred to as “femicide,” a term used to describe killings in which the gender of the victim plays a role – differ from male homicides because they “involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence, or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner,” according to the World Health Organization.

Jasmine Wright’s murder highlighted the failure of the authorities to take action to deal with someone who was a known threat to women.

“This guy had been harassing her, and a couple of weeks before her death, she was getting really paranoid,” Bri, an old high school friend of Jasmine, told BuzzFeed News. “He had been leaving her flowers and cards by her door. It should’ve been obvious that as a repeat offender he was a very clear threat to the public. What everyone is now asking is: How was this man allowed on the street?”

After her friend’s death, Bri said she believes there is a “lack of protection” for women who are stuck in similar dangerous situations. She described Jasmine as a “really sweet girl”, the “mother” of the group who gave back a lot to her community. The last time Bri saw her was two years ago, working a summer job, where Jasmine was saving to go to grad school.

“You don’t see those who beat their spouses convicted until the victim is hospitalized or murdered,” Bri said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore feminist or anything, but I would say there is a worldwide plague of violence against women. It harms all classes, all races, all social and economic backgrounds. It’s something that happens every day.”

This year, reports of gender-related killings around the world have been hard to ignore. In England, a woman was killed by her boyfriend when she refused to hand over her Facebook password. Miss Honduras and her sister were killed in an attack by her boyfriend. A journalist and women’s rights campaigner in Fiji was killed at home – her partner was charged with her murder. In South Korea, a man impersonated his girlfriend for two weeks after he murdered her. In Turkey, a teenager admitted to killing a woman because she “insulted his masculinity.”

But 2015 also showed that the tragic murder of a woman could galvanize an entire country to sit up and call for an end to gender-based killings – and nowhere was that more noticeable than in Central and South America.

In June, following the killing of Chiara Páez – a 14-year-old girl who was buried alive at eight weeks pregnant – Argentina erupted in wave of protests that took over cities across the country. The public demands were loud and clear: Take gender-based violence seriously, and put an end to it. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against gender violence in Argentina – more than 1,808 women have been killed in the country in seven years – using the slogan “They are killing us”, and later #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) on social media.

Fabiana Tuñez, executive director of La Casa del Encuentro, an NGO dedicated to women’s issues, told BuzzFeed News: “This is a worldwide problem, but in Argentina in particular, there are a few structural inequalities between men and women that are deeply rooted in our culture, and violence is the vehicle for these inequalities to persist.”

A month later, in July, Mexico jailed five men for nearly 700 years each for the gender-driven murders of 11 women, a historic sentence against femicide and a significant move in a country where six women are killed every day, according to the National Citizen Femicide Observatory. In Colombia, where on average one woman is killed every two days, femicide was made a distinct and legally defined crime in the same month, with jail sentences of 20 to 41 years.

Gender-related killing is beginning to be recognized worldwide, but experts say a lot still needs to be done to address the problem. Dr Aisha K Gill, reader in criminology at the University of Roehampton, in London, said it is important for countries to collect information on gender-based violence, and stressed that policies and initiatives to prevent it need to be grounded in “the reality of the experiences of the survivors of gender-based violence.”

“Policy-makers need to recognize that acts of femicide occur within a general framework of the abuse of women – they does not simply happen ‘out of the blue’, and so need to be conceptualized as part of a broader effort to end gender-based violence,” Gill told BuzzFeed News. “The most urgent requirement is to establish specialist refuges, shelters, and support services for girls and women who are at risk of femicide and other forms of gender-based violence in the countries and communities most concerned, as an issue of basic human rights.”

In the meantime, women are taking the task of documenting gender-related murders into their own hands. In Turkey, local activists built a digital “wall” on which they listed the women killed in their country year by year, including Ozgecan Aslan, the 19-year-old student who was killed after fighting off a rapist in February, sparking nationwide protests. Murals of dead women and the slogan #NiUnaMenos on walls in cities across Mexico and Argentina remember and pay tribute to the lives lost to gender violence. In Australia and the UK, a project called “Counting Dead Women” collects the names of women thought to have been murdered for their gender. Compiling the names and images of the victims may not stop gender-based killing, but activists say they will continue to do so until governments around the world recognize that the responsibility ultimately lies with them.


Ending Domestic Abuse

Nearly one week ago E’Dena Hines, the granddaughter of A-list actor Morgan Freeman, was allegedly brutally murdered by her boyfriend. A few days before Ms. Hines was killed, Valerie Jackson, her six children and her husband were reportedly killed execution style by Mrs. Jackson’s ex-romantic partner. Days later, Alma Hernandez’s ex-partner showed up at her place of employment and shot her to death before killing himself.

To be clear, these are only the individuals I am aware of and nowhere close to the actual number of women killed in the last seven days in what’s called intimate partner violence (IPV) or domestic violence (DV). Every day three women are killed by a current or ex-romantic partner in the United States. Nearly five million women “experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year.”

Where is the outrage for the taken lives of these women? Where are the marches and protests in resistance of male violence against women? This issue should headline every Sunday news show; talks of the prevalence of IPV should be on the front page of local and national newspapers tomorrow morning (and every morning). Occasionally an online search engine will footnote an article with a vague description of events such as “two people shot dead in murder suicide.” This phraseology misrepresents the issue ignoring the gendered nature of the crime, in that a male killed a female before ending his own life.

I prefer the phrase male violence against women as calling this abuse ‘domestic violence’ does not acknowledge that it is often men abusing women. To be clear, men are also victims of family violence; however, male perpetrated IPV is more severe and women are more likely than men to be homicide victims of IPV. The crime is also grossly under-reported; we can therefore reasonably presume that the overall numbers of women being abused is much higher than above.

Keep in mind that IPV is more than physical assaults. Male violence against women is any attempt to exert control over a partner, ex-partner, and family member. This includes (but is not limited to) financial control, any type of manipulation, verbal and non-verbal threats, attempts to instill fear, intentional or unintentional controlling behavior, gestures, looks, or correspondence designed to manipulate, any form of stalking, attempts to check up on whereabouts, asking her friends, family, acquaintances, or children about her whereabouts, cyber-stalking, cyber harassment, using social media accounts to control or manipulate, or seeking to manipulate and abuse through spreading information about her in an attempt to destroy or defame her character. The reader is referred here for a more exhaustive list of the types of abuse.

The endorsement of patriarchal socialization and its concomitant traditional gender roles contributes to male violence against women. In the context of domestic violence, men internalize a sense of entitlement to control their female partners. Violence against women is then seen as an aspect of systemic oppression which serves to perpetuate male privilege and thereby male domination of women. Abuse is therefore a choice that the abuser makes to sustain his control over his partner, not a reflection of ‘lost control.’

Black women are three times more likely than their white peers to be killed by a known male acquaintance. Nearly one third of black women have endured physical or psychological abuse by a current or previous intimate partner. Black female IPV victims likely do not receive marches or protests, and their stories are often unheard. A combination of racism and patriarchy, both deeply seated into every fabric of American society ignores the brutality inflicted on Black women and women of color in general.

To be clear, male violence against women is endemic in U.S. society and pervasive across diverse ethnocultural communities. In her seminal book “We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity” author bell hooks explained “white patriarchy is just as misogynist as black patriarchy and offers death as the price all women must pay if they ‘get out of their place’… black male violence simply mirrors the styles and habits of white male violence. It is not unique” (emphasis added). In the same book hooks later revealed “sadly and strangely, individual black males have allowed themselves to become poster boys of brute patriarchal manhood and its concomitant woman-hating.”

It has been said that black male abuse of women is a reaction to enduring a racist world intent on preventing black male participation in society. I believe there is validity to this notion; I also believe that black male domestic abuse is about patriarchal socialization as well as coping with a racist world.

I am sick and tired of hearing questions like “why does she stay in that relationship”? As author Christi Paul rightly revealed this is “the wrong question” to explore. Fact is her risk of being killed is at its highest when she disconnects from the relationship.

For men especially, the question we should be asking is “who the hell told him he had the right to abuse her? What gave him the right to menace, threaten, or control his partner/ex-partner”? I hope you are looking into a mirror when you ask yourself that question my brother, because the answer is staring right at you!

To the degree that we collude in promoting patriarchal masculinity we are culpable for male violence against women.

To the degree that we collude in promoting patriarchal masculinity we are culpable for male violence against women. It is my belief that each time we blame women for being abused with ridiculous comments such as “she hit him first” or “why would she take him back.” Each time we refuse to speak or write about the prevalence and brutality of domestic abuse we are condoning such behavior. Each time we refuse to call out other men on their abusive behaviors we are sending the message that domestic violence is acceptable. We are responsible. The good news is, we can all play a role in eradicating male violence against women.

Being part of the solution requires a respectful, non-abusive, egalitarian approach to all relationships. However more is needed to eradicate domestic violence. We must confront the abusive behaviors of other men. We cannot allow intimate partner abuse to breed in our communities. The problem of domestic violence is that males are choosing to be emotionally, financially, sexually, verbally, and/or emotionally abusive towards females. Therefore eradication of domestic abuse requires males holding themselves and every other male accountable to being non-abusive. This also means we have to stop asking questions like ‘why does she stay’ in an abusive relationship and declaratively stating ‘he should not be abusing her.’

When a male chooses to abuse his partner or someone in his family the entire community suffers. In order to help reduce the prevalence of male violence against women and children I believe men must be willing to become outspoken critics of patriarchal terrorism and domestic abuse.

Reducing domestic violence requires redefining ideas about male identity away from power and control over others. Additionally, we must break the community silence about male violence against women. In order to do this we must commit to talking about domestic violence in our churches, schools, community centers, hospitals etc… Furthermore, more needs to be written about the insidious nature of male violence against women.

We need to do a better job of connecting maleness and masculinity to the affirmation of emotional vulnerability while rejecting narcissistic rage. Also we have to be willing to confront the men in our lives on their misogyny. All too often the chore of challenging domestic abuse falls on the shoulders of women, yet as men, I believe we have a responsibility to be among the first to draw attention to this issue. This can include talking with your sons, nephews and young males and educating them about male abuse instilling in them the idea that male violence is wrong.

By Bill Johnson II


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

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.