By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Behind closed doors, one in four women will be beaten this year by an intimate partner, while 50 percent of all females will suffer a crushing beatdown because they own a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Not much has changed since wife beating became illegal in 1920 and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed for the first time in 1987. About seven years later, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and additions in 1996. During this same period, Congress also passed changes to the Gun Control Act making it a federal crime for some abusers to possess guns. Domestic violence is now a crime that can result in the abuser being charged with a misdemeanor or felony.
That’s the good news as the nation observes National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. The bad news is technology-assisted abuse against females is increasing. Tech abuse includes swapping nude photos, body shaming, hacking, rape threats, GPS stalking, and name calling. However, technology-assisted abuse is facing the same uphill battle that wife beating once faced, due to the fact that some say women “bring it on them self.”
Or they blame the victim, the way Ike Turner blamed his wife for his spiraling domestic-violence episodes. They married in 1962 and divorced 16 years later, in 1976.
“We weren’t even talking abut domestic violence, yet,” Tina Turner wrote in her 1986 autobiography, I, Tina. Later, she said on an Oprah episode, “It was just control.” (Ike Turner died at age 76 in 2008 from a cocaine overdose).
Now, few women are talking openly about technology-assisted violence. As a result, high-profile women, feminists and other female internet users have endured lengthy online campaigns against them, where groups of abusers have published their home addresses, created images of them being raped and beaten, threatened them with death and rape, and bombarded them with sexist and racist commentary. Many women have complained but are often accused of overreacting by friends and the police.
“They have been told it was just words and pictures on the internet and their fears were dismissed as an overreaction,” Suzie Dunn said in her 2021 book, The Emerald International Handbook of Technology-Facilitated Violence and Abuse. “In some cases, they have had to flee their homes, close their digital platforms, and cancel their events due to technology-facilitated attacks.”
A case in point surfaced in July 2022 on the steps outside the U.S. Capitol. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a frequent online target, shared a video on Twitter of a man harassing her with a video camera and making derogatory comments about her appearance and her support for abortion rights.
“Look at that big booty on AOC – that’s my favorite big booty Latina,” he said. “I love you AOC – you’re my favorite!”
The man, who was later identified as Alex Stein, a commentator on The Blaze TV, a media network founded by Glenn Beck, filed a lawsuit against her about a year later. He claimed Ocasio-Cortez was actually flattered by his comments, supposedly evidenced by her flashing a peace sign at him, but blocked him once she “realized” he was not a political ally. The lawsuit also provided a screenshot from Stein’s account showing that he was blocked.
Stein’s lawsuit requested that he immediately be unblocked from her Twitter account. But this was not her first encounter with technology-assisted abuse. Earlier, a minor league baseball team released a video describing Ocasio-Cortez as an “enemy of freedom.” On Sept. 8, 2022, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar was censured by the House months after he posted a video online that depicted him killing Ocasio-Cortez.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris is one of 13 female political leaders who has experienced (ongoing) technology-assisted violence, according to a 2021 report produced by The Wilson Center, a think tank, which produced the report by analyzing online conversations about 13 female politicians across six social media platforms. Researchers sorted through more than 336,000 pieces of abusive content shared by over 190,000 users over a two-month period.
The next year, Harris, in June 2022, announced the launch of a task force aimed at combatting and preventing online harassment and abuse, saying “for far too many people the internet is a place of fear.” The task force “aims to address the growing problem of online harassment and abuse which disproportionately targets women, girls and LGBTQI+ people,” a White House official told reporters.
Technology-assisted abuse is experiencing a clear uphill battle similar to the one domestic violence advocates faced in the early days, due to the fact that the technology-facilitated abuser aims to dominate, intimidate and control a targeted woman in order to influence her autonomy, (like the domestic-violence abuser, in other words). However both forms of violence arise from societal norms that excuse and normalize violence.
Describing how Ike excused and normalized his own violence, Tina Turner said in her 2018 memoir, My Love Story, Ike gave her Black eyes, broke her jaw, and poured hot coffee on her face, and routinely cheated on her with multiple women. In a 2018 interview, Turner said, “There was violence because he had this fear that I was going to leave him.” In a follow-up interview on Oprah in 2018, Tina Turner said, “I’m still trying to find out why he did it. Maybe something from his childhood followed him through life.”
This means that while a 2013 report from the World Health Organization called violence against women “a global health problem of epidemic proportion,” domestic violence still exists one decade later. Since 5.3 million die each year due to domestic violence, you could fit all of these victims into Houston (population – 2.288 million) and Chicago (population – 2.697 million) Each year, about 5.3 million women die due to domestic violence. A woman is beaten every nine seconds in the U.S.
…Continued Next Week