Insight on the connection between Terrorism and Domestic Violence from NMCADV’s Executive Director Pamela Wiseman.
Not the Usual Suspects: Terrorism and Domestic Violence
By Pamela Jayne Wiseman
It has recently come to the attention of the media and various public officials that domestic violence and terrorism may be linked. In fact, those who work in the field of domestic violence have known that for a long time.
So how are they connected?
Those who commit domestic violence do so, most of the time, with a definite purpose. That purpose is to intimidate, frighten and control. Abusers want to make a point. They want to win. They want respect and they want to be right. At least that’s what they say.
I have often been asked whether men who abuse women dislike them. Are they misogynists? The answer is that some are misogynists. But some aren’t. In fact, it’s impossible to generalize about all mass murderers and all people who commit domestic violence. But there are commonalities.
Most abusers, though not all, feel a sense of powerlessness, often understandable, which they attempt to rectify by demonstrating that they can frighten, control, hurt or even kill. Others may feel quite powerful and entitled. They threaten, punish and control, including innocents, just because they can. The idea of power is absolutely central to our understanding of all of it.
Many domestic abusers who kill their families also kill themselves. Not unlike the more visible, high profile terrorism acts that we have seen of late. And the sense of vulnerability that our communities feel in the face of terrorism is not unlike the vulnerability that victims of domestic violence feel and have always felt.
What is the lesson to be learned here?
Terrorists exist in our homes and in our communities. They create fear and wreak havoc. They have the power to change how people live, often for generations. And it’s a hard problem to address. But the first step is to understand that terrorism, as we know it today, may not be so different from what we know of as domestic abuse. Except for the choice of target and degree of damage, the purposes, motivations and effects, both short and long term, may be more the same than they are different.
How we will be directed by this dawning realization is yet to be known. But one thing is clear. We will have to look more deeply and more broadly at the problem of violence than ever before. The connections are real and powerful, even if too often, hard to fathom.
Pamela Jayne Wiseman is the author of a bestselling book on domestic abusers and is working on her second book, Not the Usual Suspects, which explores the connections between domestic violence and abusive culture.