I’m going to begin with the inexplicable presence of domestic violence that is woven into our culture and brought to the fore by recent events in the White House. And casting a wider net, I wonder how to explain so many of our attitudes toward women that are made manifest in sexual assault, battery and gun violence by intimate partners, while desperate and terrified women seek a fragile safety behind restraining orders.
I have struggled to understand the act of rape in our society. To rape a woman is an act of extreme brutality that stems from ... what?
And there is, of course, the almost reflexive objectification of women, words best exemplified in the Access Hollywood tape.
And now the defense by the White House of Trump’s highly placed aide, Rob Porter, who, despite the graphic testimony and photographic evidence accusing him of verbal and physical abuse was defended and only grudgingly, belatedly, after repeated questions from the press, uttered the words “domestic violence.”
I fail to understand how a sustained epidemic of violence against women can exist in our nation. How is it that men (Porter is but one example, his public persona urbane, competent, well-educated and well-liked) fall into an abyss of a rage that targets a woman ostensibly loved, turning her into a victim — battered and denigrated with fists and words.
How to understand such behavior? Are women not our sisters and daughters and wives and mothers?
And yet, every day in America three women are killed by an intimate partner. The precursor to that ultimate act of irretrievable violence is a pattern of physical, sexual, emotional and economic abuse. Some 20,000 go to emergency rooms because of domestic violence.
Know that domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic boundaries. It happens to one in four women at some point in their lifetime. And yet in our culture there is a familiar response of denial or outright disbelief of the victims. Consider Trump’s tweet, posted after the Porter story broke:
“Peoples (sic) lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation — there is no recovery from someone falsely accused — life and careers are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
But the reality is that this is not ultimately about “due process,” but about a social phenomenon wherein women feel lost, isolated, trapped and fearful for their lives.
And then there’s the reality that more than half of all women killed by intimate partners between 2001 and 2012 were killed with guns.
We know that guns in the hands of the deeply disturbed create a lethal intersection. Especially if that weapon is an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (a weapon of war) which was used by the 19-year-old shooter just last week in a high school in Broward County, Florida. Seventeen people were killed, most students, by the gunman who had been expelled from the school earlier.
The response by many (not all) focused on mental health issues. Trump’s address of condolences to the nation and the families of those lost did not mention the word “gun.” But then we know that the NRA contributed some $21 million alone to the Trump campaign. We also know that Trump/Congress recently revoked a regulation (that originated with the Obama administration), once again making guns more accessible to the mentally ill.
And so our legislators, if they say anything at all, begin and end with “our thoughts and prayers are ...” Meanwhile there have been 18 school shootings since Jan. 1 of this year. A stunning, incomprehensible number. We are in desperate need of a national debate. Our nation’s attraction to guns reaches beyond the Second Amendment and enters (at the risk of sounding hyperbolic) the realm of the pathological.
Will anything change? I doubt it. Did any legislation (bump stocks) result from the horrific Las Vegas mass shooting, or the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre (which for me remains a defining moment)?
So far this year, 1,800 people have died from gun violence, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Some 3,000 have been injured.
Of course, our “Thoughts and prayers are with those ...”
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.