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So What Do Mass Killers Have in Common? Hint: It Has to Do with their Domestic Lives

By Nisha Susan

Omar Mateen (right) and Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel (left), the respective killers in Orlando and Nice

What did the Orlando mass shooting and the Nice attacks have in common? Both Omar Mateen and Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had a history of domestic violence. In both Orlando and Nice these were red flags that were ignored as having no greater, grander implications.

As Soraya Chemaly wrote in Rolling Stone in June, “Mateen reportedly beat his ex-wife, Sitora Yusifiy, and at one point held her hostage, but was never held accountable. She divorced him after only four months of marriage, citing his mental-health issues. Her family, she says, had to “pull [her] out of his arms.” She describes Mateen as practicing his religion — Islam — but showing “no sign” of violent radicalism. It’s understandable what she means there, but perhaps it’s time our society started to think of physical abuse, possessiveness and men’s entitlement to act in those ways toward women as terroristic, violent and radical.”

Slate writes yesterday, “A felony domestic violence conviction is the single greatest predictor of future violent crime.”

Let’s read that again. A felony domestic violence conviction is the single greatest predictor of future violent crime. The Slate essay goes on to say, “Between 80 and 90 percent of murderers have prior police records in contrast to 15 percent of American adults overall. Domestic murders are preceded by prior domestic violence more than 90 percent of the time, and 46 percent of domestic murderers have had a restraining order against them in the past. Furthermore, the probability of violence increases in a linear pattern with the number of past violent acts.”

This is not to discount the gross violence of geopolitics or well-funded terror networks, but  shouldn’t we pay attention to sentences such as the following in The New Yorker, where George Packer writes, “[Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhle] had a record of petty criminality and domestic violence, but how much does that predict?”

A lot, Packer bhai, a lot.

 

Update: Now a New York magazine piece makes the same point, saying, “Recent research done by Everytown for Gun Safety has found that of the mass shootings in the United States between 2009 and 2015, 57 percent included victims who were a family member, spouse, or former spouse of the shooter. Sixteen percent of attackers had been previously charged with domestic violence.”

Nisha Susan:

View Comments

  • wish this piece was a bit longer. especially reading that 16% statistic doesn't bolster the claim of the article. 16% is a small amount, but so also is only relying on a 'charge of domestic violence' misleading. 
    I think such an investigation into the domestic violence history of perpetrators of violent crime in India is very urgent.