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Orlando: Violence & Entitlement

Sunday morning, people across the country awoke to news of the worst mass shooting in US history. The current death toll stands at 49, with more than 50 others hospitalized. The shooting took place just before closing time at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, FL on Latin Night. This tragedy of unimaginable proportion happened during Pride month – a month that celebrates living openly and proudly, that commemorates the incredible strife LGBTQ Americans have endured in a homophobic and transphobic society, and that honors the tremendous achievements the LGBTQ rights movement has made in resisting and overcoming centuries of oppression. We stand in solidarity, mourning the victims, and the tragic loss endured by their families, friends and communities.

In moments like these, it’s important to take time to reflect; to complete the difficult task of examining why tragedies like this occur. Unfortunately, rather than deep reflection, we see rampant fear-mongering, finger pointing, and flames of discrimination being fanned. Right now, many in the country are scrambling to “otherize” the perpetrator’s violence and point fingers at a religion practiced peacefully by billions around the world.

At NYSCADV, our mission is to create and support the social change necessary to prevent and confront all forms of domestic violence. How is our mission connected to the recent events in Orlando, and the countless other mass shootings committed across our country? The largely untold story about mass shootings and intimate partner violence is their complex interconnection and the toxic feelings of entitlement that underlie them. Like so many others that have committed mass shootings (a recent national study found that at least 57% of all mass shootings in the US involved perpetrators of domestic violence[1]) the identified gunman had a history of domestic violence.

Toxic feelings of entitlement are what drive abusers to use coercive and violent tactics to control their partners. This toxic entitlement is perpetuated by social norms and beliefs that are meant to maintain the status quo, benefiting a privileged few while oppressing all others. These toxic feelings of entitlement devalue the lives of others, seeing their only worth in how much they can be controlled. This quickly turns into violence when a perpetrator feels threatened by the freedom of another. Resistance is seen as a justifiable cause for violence, with death being the ultimate form of control.

The same toxic entitlement that drives intimate partner violence drives countless mass shootings. The perpetrators seek to control, to instill fear, to force others to bend to their will at any cost. When combined with easy access to firearms, these toxic feelings of entitlement result in a country where people are 25 times more likely to die from gun violence than in other developed countries[2], and where access to firearms yields a more than 500% increase in risk of intimate partner homicide when considering other factors of abuse.[3]

This is not a time to point fingers, to perpetuate hate and Islamaphobia. These toxic feelings of entitlement are woven into the very fabric of our society. Our history is rooted in violent patriarchy, racism, misogyny and other forms of discrimination – all driven by toxic feelings of entitlement. In order to end the violence that floods our society, we must recognize the interconnection of oppression – misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, etc. – and challenge the widespread social messaging that validates it.

It is time for us to weave a new fabric - to create a country that views all of its members as valuable and which views violence, including institutional violence, as intolerable.


[1] Everytown For Gun Safety. (2015) “Guns and Violence Against Women: America’s Uniquely Lethal Domestic Violence Problem”

[2] Grinshteyn, E. & Gemenway, D. (2015) “Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High Invome OECD Countries, 2010”

[3] J. C. Campbell, J.C.,Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J. and et al. (2003). Risk Factors For Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From A Multi-Site Case Control Study. American Journal of Public Health. 93(7).