Domestic Violence and Terrorism: Lessons to Learn?

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to work with thoughtful, passionate and energized colleagues.  My colleague Professor Marie Failinger, who specializes in Constitutional Law, Law and Religion, and Gender and Law ( just sent me this email.  It bears sharing:

This morning as I contemplated the Trump budget, I realized that terrorism has achieved a success that mimics the domestic terror experienced every day by many women in households throughout the world.

One of the signs of domestic violence is that victims begin to change their behavior to avoid the violence they fear will occur—they stop going to school or to work as they understand that their independence challenges the power of their abuser, huddling in the place where their abuser expects them to be at all times.   So too, Americans and others around the world have stopped visiting places that they fear might be the next place of attack, huddling against the prospect of a terror attack.

Domestic violence victims begin to invest all of their emotional energy and resources in devising ways to forestall an attack, leaving little of themselves to care for their children or themselves, or contributing to the outside world.  So too, the Trump budget is proposing to divert billions now dedicated for the care of others, from the young to the disabled to the old, to build walls and missiles, hoping to forestall that next attack that may be coming.

Abusers of domestic violence victims slowly cut off all of the victims’ ties to those they care about, and those who can help them understand their increasing intellectual and emotional imprisonment.  It is such a slow and incessant process that those victims almost cannot remember what their lives were like, or what they hoped for, before the terror.

So too, the President’s men propose that we cut off ties with whole nations that we are afraid of, even nations that might possibly harbor those we are afraid of, making our national world smaller and smaller, a constriction so subtle that we will not notice how we have turned in on ourselves, how we have lost the vibrancy of the interdependent world we once knew.

We know about domestic violence that it will continue, and will continue to escalate, if there is no escape, no willingness by the victim to decide that her life can no longer be controlled by the abuser, that she will live the life she dreamed of rather than the life imposed on her.   The abuser’s power to control is addictive, and it must often be fed with increasing the levels of degradation and control of victims to continue to satisfy.

The addiction of terrorism will, too, grow as terrorists achieve the rush of power that fuels their activities, a rush that eclipses the original “noble” purpose that they claim to serve.   The idea that we can control terrorism by abiding by the terrorist’s imposed rules on the victim that cause her to fear, withdraw, give up her integrity and her self and focus on protection against the next attack, has already been disproven in the domestic violence context.

Perhaps we should pay attention to what we have learned.