The Terrorist Next Door

October 10th, 2013


Too many victims

If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms,and it would be the lead story on the news every night.”– Rep. Mark Green

Terrorism is defined as ” the systematic use of violent terror as a means of coercion”.   We tend to define terrorists by incident- the September 11 attackers, the Boston bombers, the Oklahoma City bombers, the group behind the  Kenyan mall attack, and on.    The horrific September 11th, 2001 attacks gave rise to what we now call “the war on terror”, a war that may never end. September 11th also gave rise to a United States Government Department of Homeland Security.   Between FY 2001 – FY2009, $850 billion was spent on the War on Terror, according to this source. After over 3,000 citizens were killed that day, our elected leaders understandably pledged to do everything in their power to keep our citizens safe.

And yet, consider the millions of victims who are terrorized each day, and terrorized where they live.   Here’s a snapshot of the national landscape from Futures without Violence:

  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.
  • In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data collected in 2005 that finds that women experience two million injuries from intimate partner violence each year.
  • Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
  • Women are much more likely than men to be victimized by a current or former intimate partner.5Women are 84 percent of spouse abuse victims and 86 percent of victims of abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend and about three-fourths of the persons who commit family violence are male
  • There were 248,300 rapes/sexual assaults in the United States in 2007, more than 500 per day, up from 190,600 in 2005. Women were more likely than men to be victims; the rate for rape/sexual assault for persons age 12 or older in 2007 was 1.8 per 1,000 for females and 0.1 per 1,000 for males.
  • 15 million children in the United States live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.
  • The United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 3.4 million persons said they were victims of stalking during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006.


And the resources we commit to these terrible numbers?

On December 16, 2009, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117; H.R. 3288) was enacted, providing total FY2010 funding of $625.91 million for violence against women programs, of which $444.50 million is for VAWA programs administered by DOJ and $181.41 million is for domestic violence programs under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The difference in the amount allocated to the war on terror and to victims of domestic violence is a bit staggering.  Representative Green’s opening statement speaks volumes in how we see and deal with the perpetrators and victims of  family violence. The people who commit these acts are criminals, though they are usually called “perpetrators”.  But, there’s more to this.  If terror is “the systematic use of violent terror as a means of coercion”, then let’s call these people what they are. Terrorists.

 Lucy Berrington, in a Women’s E-News report in 2012, said this,  “Domestic abuse is a form of terrorism that comes from within our society, resulting in mass casualties and extremely high costs.  But for it’s victims, no big budget homeland security effort exists. “  

She’s got that right.  Others agree.

“Framing domestic abuse as ‘everyday terrorism’ helps us understand how fear works,” said Rachel Pain, the author of an English study called  “Everyday Terrorism: How Fear Works in Domestic Abuse”.

Not only do the victims of both forms of terrorism share the same painful consequences–the terrorists use the same tactics,” said Trese Todd, president of  a Seattle nonprofit that addresses domestic violence.

In my years working in violence prevention, talking to survivors, advocates, and educators, I realize that they all are saying the same thing.  The dynamics of intimate partner violence are eerily similar to the dynamics of terrorism , and they all know it and speak to it.  The tactics used by abusers are addressed in our new documentary “Private Violence”, a film that finally brings answers to the age old question, “why doesn’t she leave”?  She and her children are being terrorized, that’s why.

This October, during Domestic Violence month, I’m choosing to re frame the conversation and remember that terrorists don’t always hijack planes and don’t always come equipped with bombs capable of mass destruction.  Their weapons may differ, but they are terrorists, and they are in your town, they are on your street, and they may be just next door.

For more on what you can do to help prevent violence see

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

If you are being hurt by your partner, it is NOT your fault. You deserve to be safe and healthy. For help and information anytime, contact:

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
TTY 1-800-787-3224

National Sexual Assault Hotline 
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 
TTY 1-866-331-8453




2 Comments on “The Terrorist Next Door”

  1. Anne Caroline said at 9:51 pm on October 12th, 2013:

    On 9/11, my first thought was “welcome to my world.”

    I hope you will explore how many domestic terrorists escalate to perpetrators of shooting rampages. I started watching this dynamic after I learned that the DC Sniper’s intended tartet was his ex-wife.

  2. cindy said at 1:25 am on October 13th, 2013:

    Oh, agree Caroline. We interviewed his wife Mildred for PV, didn’t make it to final film, but we’ll have the clip online, when we get it all edited. Such a good point, and the first person to die in Sandy Hook was the killer’s mother, as well. And you read about men shooting up hair salons where their wives worked, etc.

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