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Connecting Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings: Orlando gunman’s history of DV

Interview with Soraya Chemaly discussing DV and Mass Shooting, June 14, 2016

In what has become the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Omar Mateen shot dead 49 people last Sunday morning. Moments before, these individuals had been dancing in celebration of Gay Pride Month and Latin Night at a historic nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

My stomach sank as I heard the horrific news, and a predictable question flashed in my mind: could we have stopped him earlier? News outlets reported that Mateen had no previous record of hate crimes. But that depends on how you define a hate crime, according to journalist Soraya Chemaly. Mateen had a history of beating, controlling, and abusing his then wife.

In her most recent article for Rolling Stone Magazine titled “In Orlando, as Usual, Domestic Violence Was Ignored Red Flag,” Chemaly lays out the connections between domestic violence and mass shootings. Between 2009 and 2012, 40% of mass shootings started with the shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife.[2] Last year alone, nearly one-third of mass shooting deaths were related in some way to domestic violence.[3]

Years earlier Omar Mateen’s then wife Sitora Yusifiy stood on the frontlines of his violence. In a news conference following Sunday’s mass shooting, Yusifiy described how Mateen brutally beat her and held her hostage until her family came to take her away. As many of us have long known (and come to know in unfortunate ways), the division between public and private violence is a false one.

Chemaly writes:

“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.”

The idea of domestic violence as a private affair that should be dealt with quietly, without social or institutional support, remains a dangerous but entrenched idea in many of our communities. Women Aware encourages anyone experiencing domestic violence to reach out for support. As Chemaly concludes:

“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.”

Signing off in hope and peace,

Katie Orlemanski, Women Aware Staff

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Candlelight Vigil

OCTOBER 6TH, 2016 | 7:00- 8:00 PM

Join us in honor of all those who have been impacted by domestic violence. Women Aware will host our Annual Candlelight Vigil for Domestic Violence Awareness on October 6th, 2016 at Monument Square Park in downtown New Brunswick.

[2] Source: White House Press Release, “Grants on Domestic Violence” , Mar 13, 2013 https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/13/vice-president-biden-and-attorney-general-holder-announce-grants-help-re

[3] SHARON LAFRANIERE, DANIELA PORAT and AGUSTIN ARMENDARIZ “A Drumbeat of Multiple Shootings, But America isn’t Listening” May 16, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/23/us/americas-overlooked-gun-violence.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0