The member organizations of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence -- that represent the thousands of programs and advocates serving victims and working to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking across the country – mourn the tragic loss of life this past weekend in the latest horrific mass shootings that occurred in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. We call on all policy makers to condemn the bigotry and hateful rhetoric that is fueling increased violence. We also call on policy makers to enact common-sense laws to curb gun violence and help prevent countless murders and the severe harm inflicted on individuals, families, and communities.
The work of ending domestic and sexual violence is, at its core, an effort to end the harm caused when one person exerts dominance over someone else through tactics of abuse and control, which often results in violence. With each incident of mass violence, it becomes more evident that gender-based violence, abuse, oppression, and bigotry are inextricably tied, and efforts to prevent these heinous acts require a larger societal commitment to end abuse and oppression in all its forms, particularly at the intersections. The quest to end domestic and sexual violence must align with the quest to end racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, religious bigotry toward Jewish and Muslim communities, and other forms of oppression toward marginalized communities, including immigrant and Native American communities.
What happened in El Paso was a result of white nationalism in which an attacker felt emboldened by the hateful and racist rhetoric of white supremacy, the dehumanization of those considered to be outsiders, and the slander of their communities. Failure to condemn hateful and dehumanizing rhetoric only further fuels the actions of those who feel entitled to use violence to further their ideology. This was demonstrated by the actions of the El Paso shooter who drove nine hours to a peaceful border community to inflict grievous harm to a majority Latino and immigrant population and whose published statements demonstrate his white supremacist ideology and the purpose of his violence, with a call to others to engage in similar violence.
Seeking to characterize mass murder as primarily the acts of someone with a mental health issue runs the risk of further stigmatizing individuals with mental illness while deflecting attention from the failure of policy makers to pass common sense gun laws and support other initiatives to enhance prevention, accountability, and safety for all individuals in this country. Congress needs to act immediately to update laws, support programs, and insist on policies that meet the complex challenges that the United States is facing with horrific levels of gun violence not seen in other countries, despite the fact that other countries have similar rates of mental health issues.
It is also important to uphold our nation’s commitment to critical protections for immigrant victims of violence. At a time when many migrants are women and children who are fleeing persecution and gender-based violence in search of safety under international human rights laws, the administration has repeatedly sought to undermine access to safety and protections under international and national laws for those seeking asylum. Using terms such as “invasion” to characterize the plight of refugees seeking assistance, and other such language characterizing minority communities as outsiders, only further fuels the dehumanization and bigotry that has resulted in violence by white supremacists.
Furthermore, as the climate of fear grows among immigrants, it is well known that domestic abusers, sexual predators, and traffickers-- whether in the home, the workplace, or on the streets-- count on the climate of fear to engage in abuse and exploitation. This climate of fear also hinders immigrant victims from seeking safety and services, as recently demonstrated in a survey of attorneys and advocates working with immigrant survivors. Additionally, policy makers need to address numerous recent policy decisions that undermine access to safety and protection for immigrant victims and their families under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
Hateful rhetoric furthers violence, whether it is directed toward immigrants or toward other marginalized communities, including Black and Brown communities, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and others, as well as language that furthers misogyny. It is important to address the roots of bigotry and hatred and work together to end violence in all its forms. We call on the leadership from both political parties to speak out against hateful rhetoric and policies that seek to dehumanize individuals, and instead stand in support of all people in our country. We must come together to promote the values and principles that celebrate the diversity of our country as one of its greatest strengths. It is also critical for leaders to have the courage to take action that seeks to enhance access to safety and well-being for all. This also means taking meaningful action on gun violence prevention legislation. We must show that hate has no home in the United States of America.