I don’t think I need to explain how horrified I was Sunday when I heard about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
But I’m not just horrified. I’m angry too.
We know there’s a link between domestic violence and mass shootings.
But when most of us think about domestic violence, we think of it as not-my-problem. If I’m not being hit, why should I care?
Besides the fact that it’s just basic human decency to care, it’s just not true that domestic violence is only the victim’s problem. If we let him get away with hurting that one woman, if we maintain a culture that enables him and encourages him to see women as things to be controlled, why are we shocked when the violence spills over into the rest of the community?
Before any information about the shooter came out, my sister stopped by my house, and I told her what had happened. We both had the same hunch. “I wonder if it was someone like Ray*.”
Here’s the thing about Ray.
I met him when I was fourteen. He was all about male headship of the family and female submission. With him, it was clear misogyny dressed up in biblical language so it’d sound nice to everyone in our congregation.
His wife left and divorced him after accusing him of domestic abuse and holding her against her will at their home.
Two years later, he began stalking me and eventually threatening to murder me.
Several years after that, he remarried. His new wife then left and divorced him after he was charged with domestic violence. She even had an order of protection against him.
Ray is not just my problem. He’s not just his ex-wives’ problem. Men like Ray are problems for all of us.
Ray’s still out there somewhere. He owned guns when I knew him, and I’m sure he still owns some. I don’t know if one day I might turn on the news and see his picture. I don’t know how many people he’s already hurt, and I don’t know how many people he’ll hurt in the future. But I do know he won’t stop.
If you’re trying to figure out what we can do, this is what we can do. We can stop these men before their violence reaches so many people.
We stop making excuses for men who treat women like they’re objects.
We stop tuning out the neighbor we hear hitting his girlfriend.
We stop letting these men sit in a pew next to us and pretend they’ve repented when their wives tell us they haven’t.
We stop enabling a culture that promotes toxic masculinity.
We stop blaming women when they’ve been abused, thinking they must have done something to bring it on.
We challenge attitudes of male entitlement.
We educate ourselves. Learn how to identify warning signs of abuse so you can identify these people in your community. Learn how abusers manipulate the people around them so that nobody will believe their victims.
We hold the men in our lives accountable for their actions and their attitudes. We have zero tolerance for men who try to control the people around them.
We believe and support women and children who are trying to escape these men.
We understand that “domestic” violence isn’t domestic at all. It’s violence against members of our communities. We don’t ignore it just because it doesn’t happen in public.
If we continue to ignore it, nothing will change.
And this has to change.
* Name changed.
Image Credit: Jason Jacobs, flickr, Creative Commons