By Beth Morrison, HAVEN President
Rodrick Dantzler hated women. From information gathered in media reports, Dantzler had a long history of abusive behavior toward the women in his life. Multiple Personal Protection Orders were taken out against him from his mother (it also included that he was abusive towards his sister), former girlfriends and mothers of these girlfriends, and a pregnant former girlfriend (who reported that he beat her while pregnant, including throwing her down a flight of stairs). His criminal record included domestic violence, property destruction (during a domestic assault) and assault and battery. Last week’s murderous rampage ended the lives of his partner (who, according to neighbors, was in the process of ending their relationship), his daughter, an ex-girlfriend, and four other members of these women’s families. Another ex-girlfriend survived her gunshot wounds.
Many have been quick to blame Dantzler’s bipolar disorder or his alleged substance abuse as the cause for this horrific violence. Let us all be very clearly reminded that there are many who have the diagnosis of bipolar and who live violent free lives. Substance abuse can certainly contribute to violence but it is never the cause of violence. Let’s hold batterer’s accountable for the choices they make and not minimize or allow for excuses. Violence against women and girls is not excusable.
If excusing the violence based on mental illness or substance abuse fails, blame the victim? Many reporters, commentators and reader comments, question or directly implicate the victim’s for having ever had any type of relationship with Dantzler, even if it was a past relationship. “What’s wrong with these women”, wrote one reader following a column which outlined the lives of the victim’s of this shooting. Another wrote, “they (victims) should have known better”.
I have a better idea. Let us first clearly put the responsibility for the violence, past and present, inflicted upon these women on Mr. Dantzler. It was his choice, his action, his decision to have a history of abuse towards the women in his life. Second, let’s take a critical look at our system (law enforcement, courts, schools, medical, spiritual, etc) and work toward a stronger and more comprehensive approach to addressing such violence. The “system” is significantly better than it was several decades ago but it still fails too many. Third, let’s all face our own buy in to the violence against women and girls. Our society’s acceptance of such violence is the true key to its continued success. We, as a society, tolerate and accept the objectification and exploitation of women, the denial of true equality, the flagrant use of violence in the media and our willingness to quickly place blame where it does not fall.