We saw the shooter coming. I want you to see it, too.
For those of us who have worked in the field of sexual and domestic violence, we see the connections between mass shootings and domestic violence. We see why people who tolerate or dismiss abuse towards women or partners would also dismiss or minimize the impact of racism. We see how a loud, interrupting, menacing man who promotes violence as a joke would also be the person to make terrible decisions.
And we want you to see these connections, too.
Most people think of the field of intimate partner violence (IPV) as one that looks at the relationships between intimate partners, or maybe even family or household members or dating partners.
It is that, yes. But more than that, it is the study of power and the abuse of power.
It is my plan to save you some time. I’m going to show you who have done other worthy things with your lives what I have learned to look for after 29 years in the field.
It goes like this: in order to be abusive, in order to oppress anyone, you would have to uphold some or most of these deeply held beliefs, or values. If you hold these values, it should be no surprise if you are a terrible boss, if you go on a mass shooting spree or if you make decisions that will be destructive to those you feel superior to. It just depends how deeply you uphold these values.
The overriding abusive value is this:
“I can hurt or intimidate you if I feel uncomfortable.”
- By “uncomfortable” I mean the whole range of simply not liking what you hear to an intense reaction. To people who hold this value, hurting or intimidating others is justified when they don’t like what they see or feel.
- Believing that I am inherently superior, or that males are superior as a gender, or that traits associated with the feminine are inferior, or that other identities are inferior based on age, race, (dis)ability, LBGTQ, etc.
- Believing that it is my partner’s or someone else’s job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
- Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out something about me that threatens my self-concept.
- Believing that you must celebrate me, my growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed.
- Believing that I can act disgusted, insulted and insulting if you point out significant things that I forget or do not know.
- Believing that I can establish reality (fact patterns) to my liking.
- Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
In a healthy relationship–whether in an intimate partnership, a workplace, a community, a country, we ARE answerable to one another within our roles. We do not uphold the values that say one group is inherently superior to another. We understood this as a country, at least as an aspirational idea, when we got started.
I have been teaching about this for a long time, but now, perhaps, you, too can see why domestic violence is not a personal matter that has no impact on other spheres of life. It rests on a set of Abusive Values. People will tell you that it is “mentally ill” people who are violent, but this is not accurate. Research show us that when people who are mentally ill are violent (and they are not, by and large, violent) they are violent for the SAME reasons people who are not mentally ill are violent: because they uphold the value that believes in the use of violence, and they have friends and other supports who reinforce these values.
This is a gift from the field. Use it to predict who will hurt you. Use it to identify the root causes and what must change. Use it to show you what we do not want to be anymore because this is not who we are meant to be.
JAC Patrissi is founder and President of Growing A New Heart, inc, a consortium of leaders dedicated to personal and community social justice transformation.