A joke versus physical assault

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

Thinking about this more, this is really something. A joke provokes nation wide outrage, but actually beating up a woman and kicking her merely brings shrugs.

Our attitude toward Depp’s two crimes — a documented history of abuse that’s met with a shrug on one side, and a tasteless joke about assassination met with mass outrage on the other — mimics our larger cultural attitude toward domestic violence. We generally don’t consider violence against women to be a big deal until it leads to political violence. And ironically, that attitude means we don’t notice when perpetrators of domestic violence are ready to move into the sphere of political violence.

It’s time to recognize that violence against women is violence, full stop, and to take it just as seriously as we take bad jokes about political violence.

As Amanda Taub has pointed out in the New York Times in her article on the correlations between domestic violence and terrorism, about nine times more people die from domestic violence every year in the United States than have died from terrorism in the US over the past decade. Domestic violence is so overwhelmingly common, in fact, that it is rarely considered major news: Man-hurts-woman is generally treated as a dog-bites-man kind of story.

But domestic violence can be an early warning sign for terrorism. The gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety studied all of the mass shootings that took place in the US between 2009 and 2015, and found that 57 percent of the shootings were directed at or involved members of the perpetrator’s family.

Many of the perpetrators of the most high-profile mass shootings of recent years have had domestic violence in their pasts. James T. Hodgkinson, the gunman who shot Republican Congress members at a baseball park last week, was arrested for domestic violence in 2006. Omar Mateen, the gunman behind last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, had been accused of beating his wife. Robert Lewis Dear, who attacked a Planned Parenthood in 2015, was accused of physical abuse by two of his three ex-wives and of sexual violence by another woman. But these men only came to be considered major threats to society once they had committed politically motivated mass violence.