On April 28, right on this blog, I posted an essay on the clues the FBI missed with regard to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two Boston Marathon bomber brothers. Tamerlan was the elder brother, the one who died when his younger brother, driving a carjacked vehicle, ran over him.
What I said at that time – less than two weeks ago – was this:
“Life is not a waffle, every square separate and walled-off from every other square. Instead, life is linguini. Each strand touches other strands. People who abuse their spouses are likely to be doing other nasty things that require the same arrogance and rules-breaking. They cheat on income tax, perhaps, or force sex on children or trafficked people. They speed through red lights or embezzle from work or drink too much before getting behind the wheel. Or they decide to make homemade bombs and set them off by remote control behind crowds at the Boston Marathon.”
Or, they kidnap teenagers and young women, imprison them, torture and rape and beat them, withhold food and medical care, dehumanize them, threaten them with death, for a period of years.
Yes, I’m talking about Ariel Castro (perhaps his brothers, as well – so far, they have not been charged), who has been arrested for perpetrating crimes against at least three people in a dungeon in his Cleveland house, while pretending he was a stand-up guy to neighbors, friends and family members.
Instead, he was a torturer, and a self-pitying one who once penned a suicide note indicating it was all his victims’ fault.
They were both abusive to women who loved them. They were both guilty of relationship violence – in fact, Castro had even kidnapped his own daughters.
Now, relationship violence by itself is not murder, torture, rape.
Yet it’s a clue. It is an indicator that the people who commit violence against those in relationship with them today are more likely to commit violence against strangers in the future.
That makes sense. They practice violence with spouses and significant others. They’re slapped on the wrist. Told to attend anger management classes. Maybe they spend a minor amount of time incarcerated – less than a year in jail, it turns out, results in more recidivism, more crimes once they get out.
Then, because they enjoy the feeling of power and control, they decide to take it further. They decide they will exert power and control over people they don’t know, sometimes have never seen before.
On April 28, I wrote this:
“Where the FBI and police forces need to look is at the strands they do know, in order to get clues as to strands they have not yet seen. Pay attention to behavior that hurts individuals (in this case, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife) in order to stop it and prevent future harm to groups. It’s the difference between a small pain footprint and one that’s huge, smashing scores of people.
“This is no futuristic, Tom Cruise-ish, ‘Minority Report’ suggestion. This is reliable policing and investigation. It’s paying attention to broken windows in order to prevent bigger crime. Anyone who abuses family members ought to be regarded as a person who might be hiding other crimes and misdemeanors, and is likely to accelerate that behavior much as a runaway car picks up speed downhill.”
Ariel Castro is that kind of person. He accelerated his abusive behavior from assault on his ex-wife (leaving her with wounds and broken bones) to kidnap, rape, torture, abuse that lasted for years.
We don’t need to know the specifics of what someone will do later when we deal with current relationship violence. We just need to look at that violence as a huge red flag indicating the abuser’s system of ethics is broken, and that sooner or later, he will commit more and greater violence.
As I wrote:
“This may be hard for the FBI and police groups to get used to. Officers who abuse their own family members or romantic interests may not want to arrest or investigate someone who ‘just’ hurls insults and furniture, someone who is a domestic terrorist ‘just’ at home. Yet this is exactly what they must do. The same principle governs vaccinations: Impose a little pain now (the MMR jab) in order to prevent more harm later (measles, mumps and rubella, with their host of potential offshoot harms). It’s preventive medicine for the community health as well as that of the abused family members and friends.”
Relationship violence — which is really a form of domestic terrorism — is a red flag to future, larger violence. Police and prosecutors, pay attention!