Tag Archives: domestic violence

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

3 Dec

The other day I was telling this kid about a dream that I have. The dream is to have access to a room with an exposed brick wall, a safety suit (including, but not limited to, safety goggles and heavy duty boots) and shelves full of different types of glass. Nothing too pretty. Bottles, mainly. Oh, and a cleaning crew on call that I would pay very handsomely.* The idea is that when I get really, really angry I can go to this room, put on my safety suit and throw glass forcefully against the wall. I imagine this would be very therapeutic. And then I would call the cleaning crew to clean up. Now, even in my dreams I am aware of the expense of having such a room, and so when I am not using the room (which would be often I hope) I would rent it out to other people. I think I would have to charge them a flat fee for the space itself but also a certain amount of money for each glass broken. Otherwise some asshole with a real rage problem could go in there, run his hand along a shelf and just knock all the glass to the floor, shattering it! And some more conscientious rage-a-holic would throw one or two glasses only more thoughtfully and end up paying the same amount. That would not be fair. And besides, it would not be a good business model to piss off people who get angry enough to hurl things against a wall and watch them shatter. I know. I am one. Anyway I told him this story and instead of getting the giggles that I anticipated (come on, it’s absurd!) I got the following question:

You get angry enough that you want to throw glass against the wall?

I was quiet for a second because, yea, I totally do.  But also,

Yea. You don’t? Do you read the news?

And that brings us here. To today. The day after yet another massacre in the United States, this time at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Many of us might, with disgust, realize that this is the second such massacre this week, the first one being in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood clinic. That, however, is incorrect. According to the New York Times, on average there is more than one mass shooting every single day.

On average there is more than one mass shooting every day in America.

So far this year, 462 people have died and 1,314 people have been wounded in attacks like the two that were publicized this week alone, attacks that oftentimes take place on streets and in public gathering places and universities. If we look at the number of deaths used by congressional researchers to categorize these events – 4 or more dead – the number of mass shootings does go down. But of course, the killing in Colorado would be left out of that measure because Robert Dear only managed to murder three people. Even without those shootings with less fatalities, the numbers are still harrowing. According to two databases that track all shootings with 4 or more fatalities — shootingtracker.com and gunviolencearchive.org, both unofficial — there have been 354 such shootings in 220 cities in 47 different states since January. According to the Times article,

“In November, six people were killed, five of them shot to death at a campsite in East Texas; 17 were wounded in a shootout as a crowd watched the filming of a music video in New Orleans; and four died, including twin five-month-olds, in an episode of domestic violence in Jacksonville, Fla. So far this week, five people were wounded Sunday morning in a shooting in Kankakee, Ill., and a shooting Wednesday, before the San Bernardino attack, left one woman dead and three men wounded in Savannah, Ga.”

Get ready for it though: it actually gets worse. According to Ted Alcorn who is the research director for Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, we have a much bigger problem. It is, he acknowledges, a horrible tragedy that 14 people were killed in one day in California,

“But likely 88 other people died today from gun violence in the United States.”

Alcorn’s organization has studied shootings occurring between 2009 and mid-2015 that left four or more people dead and found certain patterns.

“In only 11 percent of cases did medical, school or legal authorities note signs of mental illness in the gunmen before the attack… Domestic violence figured strongly: In 57 percent of the cases, the victims included a current or former intimate partner or family member of the attacker. Half of all victims were women. More than two-thirds of the shootings took place in private residences; about 28 percent occurred in public spaces… More than 60 percent of the attackers were not prohibited from possessing guns because of prior felonies or other reasons.”

Looking at that information, this whole thing got a hell of a lot scarier. These mass shootings that are covered extensively by the news, are fucking horrifying and exhausting. But that isn’t even the half of it. If we treated domestic violence with the same disbelief that we react with every time there is one of these seemingly random shootings on a street corner somewhere — no, scratch that, if we acknowledged domestic violence as a huge problem at all — it would probably be hard to even leave the house. Just like date rape and intimate partner rape is not treated with the same seriousness as stranger rape, murder at the hands of an intimate partner or family member is not categorized as a public health crisis, or a violence problem, or as symptomatic of the patriarchy but as a private issue. That the victims are mostly women only makes that case stronger. But that’s not the point. A shooting is a shooting is a shooting, a murder is a murder is a murder. Which brings us to something interesting. Something we should perhaps remind those around us, mostly conservative, who pitch a fit every time we think about increasing gun control measures.

Your hero, the man you herald as the Conservative of all Conservatives, was a supporter of gun control. That’s right. The one and only Ronald Reagan, in an op-ed for the New York Times in 1991, said,

“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns. This level of violence must be stopped.”

This, of course, was because Ronald Reagan, along with his press secretary Jim Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, was the victim of a shooting. Reagan was convinced that this event — a mentally unstable young man opening fire with a .22 calibre that he obtained at a pawn shop — never would have happened had the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (AKA the Brady Bill), named for Jim Brady, been law back in 1981 when the shooting occurred. The Brady Bill, signed into law by Bill Clinton on November 30, 1993, mandated federal background checks on gun purchasers in the United States and imposed a 5-day waiting period on purchases until the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was started in 1998.

Obviously, the Brady Bill and NICS falls extremely short of actually limiting access of fire arms to people just in general. The proof, unfortunately, is in the pudding. And it doesn’t help that the National Rifle Association is run by money grubbing nutjobs who somehow manage to convince people they are fighting for the Second Amendment when in reality they are a lobby run by extremists who block safety measures in order to continue to line their own pockets with all the blood money that rockets in their direction. (It is worth noting, by the way, that the NRA was not always so fucking insane. It supported the first major federal gun law back in 1934 and backed the 1968 Gun Control Act. Oh, how far they’ve fallen.) But like, the fuck? When does it end? When do we take the power back? When do we say enough is enough? And when did Ronald Reagan seem like the only reasonable Republican out there?

So, yea, I am mad enough I could throw shit. Often. The question is: why aren’t you? And what the fuck are we going to do about it?

*This word is spelled so weird! It goes from hansom to handsomely! Two extra letters. Both silent!

Money > People

23 Oct

If you haven’t yet noticed through reading this blog, or if you don’t already know about this through knowing me personally, I work in parallels.  I read things, I get upset about things, but sometimes the only way for me to make sense of it all is to compare the thing I am upset about — but that I lack the language to work through — to something else seemingly unconnected to it and draw a line between the two.  I guess I like to create an equal playing field within my mind and hold dissimilar things to similar standards.  That’s how I got from domestic violence within a human rights framework to trade agreements.  Onward.

This past week I had the pleasure of leaving Brooklyn and traveling, via Bolt Bus, to Washington, DC to visit a very good friend of mine who just recently started law school.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  She was on fall break and needed a small brain vacation from the stresses of the first year of law school which, as I understand it, is a torturous experience.  I needed a vacation from the stresses associated with the ridiculous amount of guilt I feel about avoiding my thesis.  It’s basically become a full-time job.  Anyway, one of the things we did while I was down there was attend a super interesting talk about the idea of domestic violence within the international human rights framework.  Yea, I didn’t really understand how that worked either.  So here is my very basic explanation of the things we learned about, lacking probably crucial details, because my memory just ain’t what it used to be.

So basically what I learned was that being a woman is a lot of times terrible.  And, not surprisingly, this is no different within the legal framework.  The professor and guest lecturer went over a number of cases over the past few decades within the United States that basically eroded the ability of victims of domestic violence (generally women and children) to bring charges against the state for negligence.  When someone takes out a restraining order, the idea is not that the state is in that person’s house, intervening at the first sign of trouble.  Instead, the police (or so I thought) have an obligation to enforce a restraining order if the holder of it calls them, reporting that the order has been broken in some way.  I learned that although one would think that a mandatory restraining order means that the police, an agent of the state by the way (until they are inevitably privatized which scares the shit out of me), are required to protect the holder of the order of protection from the person she took it out against.  That, oddly enough, is not exactly the case.  Mandatory, in this case, doesn’t actually mean mandatory.  The state is under no legal obligation to protect a victim from her victimizer even if she has gone through the appropriate mechanisms to seek guaranteed safety.  There were a few different legal avenues a woman could previously take to bring charges against the state for negligence.  All of those avenues have been systematically eroded, now leaving a victim without means to sue the state if, say, her children are murdered at the hands of her violent ex-husband from whom she is supposedly protected.  Scary, right?  So what is the next step?

This is where international human rights enters.  Human rights, or at least the way that I think about them, are based upon this moral and ethical understanding that all people are equal.  I know that is super simplistic.  What has happened in the US in terms of DV is that the state apparatus is protecting itself from the whims of its citizens.  Part of human rights is that they protect individuals from the whims of the state.  So, the next step could be that women, who have exhausted all domestic options in terms of holding someone accountable for the actions, or lack thereof, of the state or an actor of the state, bring their tale of violated rights to an international human rights body.    That body, in the case we heard about it was the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which then looks at the facts, looks at the legislative trail and comes to a decision as to whether or not an individual’s human rights have been violated and then sends that finding to the offending state, allowing the state in question to respond.  In the case of the US who, obviously if you know anything about our record on this sort of thing,* has not ratified whatever it needs to ratify to be held accountable by this organization and so whatever the IACHR might find in the case of the US basically holds no water.  It is an embarrassment to the US, sure, but there is nothing that the IACHR can do.  It has no power.

Part of the reason for this is that the United States, in all its exceptionalism and all its talk about holding other countries accountable for human rights violations, does not want to be held accountable for its own.  It does not want to give any other body jurisdiction over the affairs within its borders.  It’s like human rights isolationism.  So aside from a strongly worded letter, a victim has absolutely no recourse.  No wait while I blow your mind even more.

I just recently (as in about 20 minutes ago when I decided to write this blog) read this article in Salon by Matt Stoller.  It’s worth a read and contains a whole lot more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) than what I am about to say.  Basically, the TPP, along with NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, gives foreign companies the rights to impact US law.  The WTO, for example, can put sanctions on the US if its domestic environmental, financial and social interest laws are too restrictive of foreign products.  Have you noticed that all tuna cans no longer have huge labels pronouncing that product dolphin-free?  That’s because it was negatively impacting companies exporting tuna to the US.  When we are dealing at an international level without standardization in regards to manufacturing and product safety, this is not something we can really afford.  And yet we do it.  Somehow it is reasonable to amend our laws to permit the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes but not to guarantee state-sanctioned protection of a domestic violence victim.  Abiding by international trade laws is more important than human rights norms.  Placating trade partners is more important than protecting our citizens.  Money is more important than people.

* The US has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or the landmine ban, among other things.  I leave you to imagine why that might be.

According to Pridemore, Abuse is Not an Excuse

15 Mar

So I am still on about this Glenn Grothman bill that I posted about last week.  Basically, Senator Grothman proposed a bill that essentially equated single parenthood with abuse and neglect.  I did not, however, give the necessary attention to the bill’s co-sponsor, Representative Don Pridemore, who was reported mid-firestorm as saying that he believes that even in abusive relationships there are options better than divorce.  In a local broadcast from Wisconsin, Pridemore said women should just “re-find those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place.”  Good idea, Pridemore.  Let’s try and convince women to stay with their abusers for the benefit of the child because said abuser never turns his attention towards the children.   Therefore, I thought maybe I would just present some information about the prevalence of abuse against women in the United States.  I mean, since, as Grothman insists in an interview with Alan Colmes, women are choosing to be single parents and all in order to take advantage of government payouts (and, presumably, having nothing to go with what they might face in the home), I thought some meager statistics about domestic violence might be useful.  I promptly proceeded to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. There I found the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS).  Here are some of the “highlights” of the 2010 survey:*

– 1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey

– 51.1% of female rape victims reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance

– 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe violence by an intimate partner

– 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short or long term impacts related to the violence experienced in this relationship such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and injury

I don’t know about you but if I left an intimate partner because said intimate partner was raping, stalking, or beating me I would take my children with me.  I would not think to myself, “hey, why don’t I think back to the good times before I was afraid for my safety and that of my children?  After all, being in a two-parent household with an abuser is way better for my children than raising them alone.”    I mean, after all, even though women can take care of a family in some situations, men are the disciplinarians in the household and without them “kids tend to go astray.”**  Nothing like getting your kids back in-line with some good old fashioned discipline from your favorite wife-beater!  According to an article published by the University of Michigan News Service, it has been shown that exposure to their mother’s physical or emotional abuse was shown to cause significant emotional and behavioral problems in children as young as preschool age.   The article discussed a book edited by Sandra Graham-Berman and Alytia Levendosky:

“Children of battered women showed higher rates of sadness, depression, worry and frustration than peers from nonviolent homes. Their emotional responses to events were less appropriate, and they were more likely to express anger and frustration by hitting, biting or slapping others, even when unprovoked. They were also found to verbally abuse their peers, by insulting them and calling them names, more than did children from nonviolent families.”

So yes, Pridemore, let’s get those families back together for the sake of the children!  What goes on in the home stays in the home, right?  Except, of course, if that home is run by a single mother.

*Since Grothman and Pridemore decided to word this bill in such a way as to victimize single women, I am only providing statistics and information for domestic violence against women.  Domestic violence against men is also a problem, but has not been as widely reported for, off the top of my head, at least two reasons: (1) it simply happens less often and (2) because of our cultural and societal tendency to think of men as the stronger and dominant gender, there is probably (unfortunately) an additional amount of shame felt on the part of the male victim in a violent, heterosexual relationship.

**The quotes for this section were taken from a news report from WTMJ’s coverage from this past Friday (can’t figure out how to get the video in my blog…my tech-brain is a work-in-progress)