Domestic Violence is terrorism

act of terrorism, terrorism, terrorist act - the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

domestic violence - the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against an intimate partner or other family member in order to attain control over them to achieve the illusion of powerfulness; this is done through a pattern of intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

Batterers are terrorists

In the wake of the tragic events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, domestic violence service providers nationwide witnessed an increase in our clients’ post-traumatic stress which directly correlates to the traumatic affect of the attack on the nation in general.

Terrorists, as we are coming to learn, are people who feel slighted, who feel an injustice has been done to them, who feel they are victims of an oppressor, and that their violence is justified to right the “wrong” and balance the scales.

Batterers, as we have always known, feel exactly the same way. They are known for blaming everyone else for whatever goes wrong in their lives, blaming everyone else for their own actions and failures, and they justify their abuse by blaming their victim.

One Sojourn client, who was born and raised in the Middle East and has lived in the USA for many years, discussed her experience as a long-term battered woman in the context of the 9/11 attacks. She told us the following:

  • Terrorists blame America for all their troubles, just as my husband blames me for all his troubles.
  • These terrorists were very intelligent, and were able to outsmart law enforcement, just like my husband.
  • The terrorists have intelligence and other resources, but they use them for malicious and destructive purposes rather than for positive ones, just like my husband does.
  • The terrorists destroyed themselves in order to destroy Americans, just as my husband is destroying his own life just to get back at me.
  • Terrorists at first seem crazy, but in fact they are quite calculating in their actions, just like my batterer.
  • Terrorists are successful at creating terror and fear in others, and people begin to live in dread, fearing what they will do next. This is the way I live and have lived every single day for many years.

The terrorist attack on September 11, was designed, in part, to make citizens of this country no longer feel safe in their own homes, on their streets, in their cities. Victims of domestic violence – both women and children – never feel safe, no matter where they are.

Among the many losses suffered by victims of terrorism is the fundamental right to liberty. Much discussion currently is centering on what Americans must be willing to sacrifice in order to feel safer. In much the same way, battered women must make choices which partly or entirely disenfranchise them. Women who are living with their batterer “walk on eggshells” in a constant state of hypervigilance. Not free to speak their mind, come and go, choose their friends, or decide for themselves, they are virtual prisoners in their own homes. Women who attempt to leave their batterer must give up their home, their neighborhood, their daily routine, church, gym, job, car, pets, and belongings to live in hiding. Occasionally, they must give up their identity. Too often, they lose custody of their own children.

For years and years, many American women have been living with terrorists. It’s taken all those years to make changes in the law to address the issue.

by Pat Butler and Erika Stewart

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