Other Voices

Mass shootings and domestic violence: a lethal link

Randa Black hugs McKenna Post during a Pulse nightclub shooting vigil in Orlando, Fla. last month.
Randa Black hugs McKenna Post during a Pulse nightclub shooting vigil in Orlando, Fla. last month. AP

This week, we continue to mourn the deaths and remember the lives of five Dallas police officers who were gunned down a year ago: Dallas Police officers Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens and Michael Smith, and DART officer Brent Thompson — the first officer to be killed in the line of duty since DART was established in 1989.

July 7, 2016 marked the single deadliest day for law enforcement since September 11.

It’s also been just over a year since the deadliest US mass shooting in history: the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando where a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 58 others.

Although both seemingly disturbed, Dallas sniper Micah Johnson and the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen were extremely different. Johnson, 25, was an Army veteran loner with no criminal record; Mateen was a 29-year-old U.S. citizen of Afghan descent who possibly pledged his allegiance to radical Islam.

Johnson said he “was upset with white people and wanted to kill white people,” while Mateen was allegedly enraged by homosexuality. But there was one common denominator between the two men — a history of aggression and violence towards women. Even more alarming, this shared trait holds true when looking at many of the deadly mass shootings in U.S. history.

Mateen abused his wife for years, taking her paychecks, forbidding her from leaving the house, physically assaulting her, and at one point, even holding her hostage. She divorced him after only four months of marriage due to his violent behavior.

Dallas gunman Johnson was accused of sexual harassment by a female soldier. The Virginia Tech gunman was investigated for stalking two female classmates before going on to kill 32 classmates.

Documents were found on the Sandy Hook shooter’s computer objectifying and belittling women; he subsequently gunned down 20 children and seven adults, including his own mother.

The gunman who killed three people and injured nine at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 had a lengthy record of violence against women, including a previous arrest for rape and sexual violence.

A shooter in Isla Vista, Calif. who killed six left a video aimed at women who scorned him, stating, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.”

And the recent Alexandria shooting that left five injured wasn’t an exception — in 2006, the gunman was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm, choking his own daughter and shooting at her friend’s boyfriend.

The list goes on.

Research backs up the anecdotes. Data from the FBI shows a significant connection between mass shootings and domestic or family violence. In 57 percent of mass shootings between 2008 to 2012, the shooter killed a current or former spouse, intimate partner or other family member.

At Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support, we recognize the parallel between private abuse in the home and public violence in the community. We know that because it impacts us all, domestic violence cannot be considered a private matter.

Mass shootings shock and frighten us, but domestic violence often does not — even though violence in the home is much deadlier and can serve as a precursor to horrific acts in public.

We applaud the efforts of those who run into the line of fire instead of away from it to stop these horrendous acts.

Genesis and our partners have made great strides, but we cannot merely leave the solution on the steps of city hall or the courthouse. We must all be willing to do what we can to end violence at home. One thing on which we can all agree — women and children must be safe at home if we are ever to be safe in our communities.

Jan Langbein is president and CEO of Genesis Women’s Shelter

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