We don’t know what causes people to become killers. There are theories, but many murderers have a stark pattern: they abuse women. This link is well-documented. The Golden State Killer, unmasked as Joseph James DeAngelo, fits this pattern, as new information about him has revealed.
DeAngelo is said to have had “a volatile relationship” with his estranged wife, Sharon Huddle. An anonymous neighbor told the Mercury News that he could hear DeAngelo and Huddle screaming at each other; DeAngelo even yelled at her from the driveway outside the home. The neighbor called their arguments “epic” and said that the family was an “unstable household.”
To be clear, there is no evidence of physical domestic violence in this portrait of DeAngelo and Huddle. Ostensibly, investigators are still constructing a profile of his life, so reports of domestic violence may come out later, but current reports do indicate that he was emotionally abusive towards his wife.
DeAngelo was also reportedly obsessed with an ex-fiancée named Bonnie. He apparently proposed to Bonnie, but for unknown reasons, they never married. One of his rape victims told police that after he attacked her 1976, he yelled “I hate you, Bonnie,” and cried into a pillow. Police were stymied about the identity of Bonnie until DeAngelo was caught and investigators pieced together his history.
It’s not just mass shooters or serial killers that have a history of domestic violence. Garden-variety domestic murderers are overwhelmingly male and their victims are overwhelming their female partners. The Atlantic, citing a 2017 report from the Centers for Disease Control, found that 55% of women murdered were killed by former and current partners or their families. Of that pool, 93% of those victims were killed by an intimate current or former romantic partner. 30% of the time, the couple had argued right before the murder. “We found that approximately one in 10 victims of intimate-partner-violence-related homicide experienced some form of violence in the preceding month,” said Emiko Petrosky, a CDC official, to NPR regarding this report.
These statistics should ring alarm bells. Scientific and anecdotal data shows a clear link between domestic violence and homicide of many types. If we want to prevent mass shootings and serial killing sprees, as well as intimate partner violence, we should look in the home first.
We need to acknowledge that toxic masculinity, abuse, and homicide go hand in hand. When men are taught to react to situations with unbridled anger, that anger leads to violence. We know this, we see it every single day. Men who abuse women describe feeling enraged, with insecurity as a trigger. Our culture demands that men be tough, emotionally hardened, and ready to use violence to achieve a goal. That dangerous combination leads to abuse — and, in some men, homicidal behavior.
It’s upsetting to see so many reports of domestic violence in the history of killers. We can clearly see a moment where intervention could have saved lives. Had the abuser been incarcerated or monitored by police, it’s possible that they could have stopped the killer before they killed. The #MeToo movement implores us to listen to women, to believe women, and to defend women. Women like Yusufiy and Huddle endured violence that they never should have — and law enforcement did nothing to protect them. In both cases, the culturally pervasive indifference towards violence against women had deadly consequences for many other people.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.
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