As someone who has worked with over 500 court ordered offenders of domestic violence and their victims, I was glad to hear such a great and insightful discussion on your show today at lunch. I did not have time to call in before returning to work, but I thought I might pass along some things that I have learned over the years when I did the work. I did not do counciling with these men. I worked with a woman partner to perform education groups in which my primary responsibiliy was to support my woman partner in her role as an authority figure and confront these men on their unwillingness to be accountable for their behavior. One thing that all batterers have in common is the fact that they believe they did nothing wrong and that what happened was their victim's fault, and not theirs. This is due to many reasons that will become more apparent below, so hang with me Thom. We used the Duluth model that was created by Ellen Pence. In fact I was trained by her in the use of the model. I think you will learn quite alot about domestic violence if you look up Ellen Pence and the Duluth model and I sincerely hope you do. This model is based on holding abusive men acountable for various modes of abusive behavior that is centered on power and control. Different modalities were discussed on your show including the use of children, economic and physical isolation, emotional abuse, threats and intimidation, and of course physical abuse. Batterers do what they do based on a patriarchial belief system that is promoted through all sorts of means from popular culture, religion, education, movies, books, family members, etc. At the root of this belief system is that women are unequal to men and in most aspects inferior to men. All other beliefs such as women as mens' property arise from this basic notion of inequality. From these beleifs of inequality come the notion that because women are inferior and that they are men's property, etc., men have the right to make them do whatever they want them to and that women should be subserviant. Even though most men have this belief system in our society to some degree, it doesn't necessarily mean that all men will be abusive or batter their partners. Many times thier partner has the same belief system and therefore in many ways is a willing victim, which reduces any chance of violence being used by the abuser. Abusers often are able to make their patner do what they want through the use of emotional abuse, threats and intimidation, isolation, economic isolation and control, use of the children, and other methods without ever choosing to use violence. Those that choose to use violence are those that have chosen to "up the anti" so to speak because they feel that they are not getting what they want from their partner through the other means of power and control and therefore are losing control over their partner's behavior. This is exactly why abusive men kill their partners which almost always occurrs after their partner finally gets away from their abuser by leaving them or filing for divorce, etc. I must make the point very clear that these men make very conscious decisions to do all of these behaviors, including murdering their partners. They do not "snap" and it is not due to a mental illness. Most have stated for years that they would kill their wives or girlfriends if they ever left them, and when their victims do leave, that is exactly when they choose to kill them and they do so in a very strategic and methodical fashion. They have consciously thought about it for years, just as they had thought of how to use other forms of power control over the course their relationships to control their partners which stopped working for them. Again, the root of the problem is power and control over their partner and as the batterer perceives losing his power and control, he chooses to use more extreme modalities to achieve it. The key word here is choice. I used to ask batterers, who all state that they lost control of their behavior, if they would have beat their wives in front of a police officer, and of course they would say no because they would get caught and stopped. I used this to demonstrate the fact that if they could choose not to batter their wives in front of a police officer, then they could choose to not beat their wives in private. Batterers choose to beat their wives in private and strategically hit them in the areas of their body that can be covered up by clothing the next day when they go to work or out in public. They make these strategic conscious decisions in every single modality of power and control. I am sure you have seen the old Psychology S>R, or stimulus>response diagrams in behaviorism. These men also have a belief system based on this idea in that they believe that if somone does something to them or doesn't do what they want, their is an automatic response that is "triggered" that they have no control over. In essence they are like accidents looking for a place to happen because they beleive that it is fate in many ways that makes them do things instead of a conscious choice (or Stimulus>Choice>Response). For instance, they had already decided years ago that if their partner ever cheated on them, that they would beat them, and that they were perfectly justified in doing so. So when they perceive that their partner cheated on them, they "automatically loose control" and then abuse and beat their partner in a strategic way that is based on the scenario they made up in their minds years ago. Not all abusers have the same "line in the sand" that they have already decided upon in which abuse, physical violence, or murder is justified in their mind, but all of them do indeed have a predetermined "line in the sand." The fact of the matter is that they have already made the conscious choice based on scenarios they have created in their minds and when these scenarios occur (by happenstance in their minds although many times they also actively do things to make the scenario come to fruition), they automatically make the choice to use a power and control modality including violence, except of course if a police office is present. The other part of the Duluth model is centered around equality. The idea is that if men could adopt the core belief that women are equal to them, and therefore not inferior and a piece of their property to use and treat as they wish, then they would not need to control them and hold power over them to make them do what they want. That is why we insisted that the men we worked with called their wives or girlfriends partners because it implies an equal patnership in which two people in a relationship work to gether to achieve the same goals. We taught them alternative behaviors to the abuse modalities that were opposite of threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and violence like treating your partner with respect and kindness. You might be surprised how many of these men simply did not have the know how and skill to do these opposing bevaviors in order to avoid power and control behaviors and abuse, and these alternative behaviors had absolutely no scenario attached to trigger an "automatic" kindness and repectful repsonse at all. This again is mainly because men are not taught these things in our society due to the fact that our society does not value or promote behaviors based on equality as much as it values and promotes beleifs and behaviors based on power and control, inequalty, masogeny, and violence as a justified mean to all ends. Anyway, I really hope that you check out Ellen Pence and the Duluth model because I believe that it will clarify everything above that I may be over-simplifying based on current space limitations. I am sorry for such a long post, but I really thought that you may find this valuable and I know you will really dig Ellen Pence.
Now to mass shootings. Even though I do beleive that domestic violence and mass shootings may have a connection which I think revolves around power and control and the willfull intention and choice to enforce that power and control (and not mental illness), I don't think we should over look the fact that, according to the recent Government Accountabilitty Office report, 73 percent of extremeist attacks including mass mortalities were perpetrated by right-wing extremists. That means that two thirds of all mass killings in the US between September 12th, 2001 and Decemeber 31st, 2016 were perpetrated by mostly men with similar belief systems. I would argue that these men have belief systems in common with batterers that revolve around power and control and justified violence, but also share other commonalities that I feel are very important that cannot be overlooked when attempting to examine this issue. Based on data collected in the US Extremeist Crime Database (ECDB), far-right extremist attackers are more likely to subscribe to beleifs that are: 1) fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation), 2) anti-global, 3) suspicious of centralized federal authority, 4)reverent of individual liberty (especially right to own guns and be free of taxes), 5) believe in conspiracy theories that involve a grave threat to national sovereignty and/or personal liberty, 6) believe that one's personal and/or national "way of life" is under attack an is either already lost or that the threat is immenent, 7) believe in the need to be prepared for an attack either by paticipating in or supporting the need for paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism, 8) express support for some versions of white supremecy, the Klu Klux Klan, and neo-Nazism. I would like to add one belief that I think may be obvious, but the report left out, that these mass murderers defintitely have in common with batterers. That is that violence is a justified means of getting what you want that is based on certain beliefs and events that occurr (either by happenstance or by willfull self-cuasality). The majority of these people are not menatally ill, but willingly choose to commit these murders which is evident in their very strategic and complex planning and execution of these acts. They are perfectly in control of their behavior and are making very conscious and complex decisions just like batterers. They do not "snap" and just lose control of their behavior as those do with real mental illnesses in which they are "hearing voices telling them what to do," not conscious of what they are doing (none of them black out), or actually have no volutionary control over what their body is doing such as having a seizure. By focusing on mental illness in these instances, we are ignoring the root of the problem which is that we live in a society that promotes these dangerous belief systems and behaviors. This promotion of these dangerous beleifs and behaviors is in fact very lucrative to all sources that promote these beliefs from media corporations such as movie, music, and video game makers, to arms manufacturers, to right wing politicians and their lobbyists and supporters, to all corporations and others that profit from disaster capitalism (see Naomi Kline's work). By focusing on the individual as having an "illness" that makes them do things they "have no choice over," we perpetuate an argument that simply blames those inividuals as having "something wrong with their brains" that we cannot control unless we find each individual, one-by-one, who may fit the "crazy mass-killer" profile, and make them get the psychiatric help they need before its too late. That is an impossible scenario, regardless of how much investment could be made into mental health an prevention in this country, and lets those that profit off of the perpetuation of these beliefs and behaviors off the hook. By focuing on the inividual and their "mental health," we deprive ourselves from addressing the real problem because it makes us overlook the real causes that are systemic to our society that promote beliefs based on power and control, inequality and inferiority, and violence as a means to and a remedy for all problems. I have not done the research, but I am willing to bet that societies in which their exists less inequality and that promote respect, love, and kindness in all aspects of its culture, that their are very few, if any, occurrances of mass shootings and very low rates of domestic violence. I am also willing to bet that there is little mental illness and not much spending on mental illness diagnosis, treatment, or follow up. I am also willing to bet that the crime rates in these societies are low and that people live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Therefore from a public health standpoint, I believe that we must create and adopt initiatives to rid our society of these cancerous belief systems that foster violence towards women and mass shootings. We can start by reducing economic inequality in this country as you are always beautifully explaining Thom, and then go from there.
Thanks for all you do Thom. You are my hero in so many ways!