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Category: News

November 19, 2013

Most Recent Zimmerman Arrest Shows Need to Address Language and Myths Related to Domestic Violence

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) urges the media to cover domestic violence accurately.

With high profile cases of domestic violence in the news, such as George Zimmerman’s most recent arrest November 18, 2013 on aggravated assault and battery-domestic violence charges [1] [2], the media has the opportunity to debunk myths and set the record straight on the realities of domestic violence. 

First, the myth of anger:  Media reports repeatedly [3] [4] [5] refer to Zimmerman having been previously ordered to attend anger management classes, or to his anger in general, calling him an "angry, belligerent" man [6] and a "thug with an anger problem" [7]. The fact is that perpetrators of domestic violence do not have anger management issues – they abuse their power and terrorize people they claim to love. These abusers actually manage their anger well – they speak to 911 operators, police officers, judges, and other professionals with calm and confidence, as in Zimmerman’s case where media outlets have repeated the claims that he was “passive and cooperative”[8] and that he “offered no resistance.”[9]

Second, language that implies mutuality:  Media reports use sanitized and inaccurate phrases such as “domestic dispute,” “domestic disturbance,” or, in this case, “fight with his girlfriend.” The reality is that when police are called because one person is assaulting or threatening another person, it is not a “domestic disturbance,” [10] an “incident,” [11] or a “fight.” [12] It is domestic violence. Calling abusive, violent, and threatening behavior "disputes" or "fights" – as if both parties are equally involved – redirects attention away from the abuser’s actions and minimizes the life-threatening danger of domestic violence.

The criminal justice system will ultimately make the decision in each reported case of domestic violence. The media, however, plays a vital role in naming the reality and shaping our public dialogue. NNEDV calls on media outlets to cover domestic violence accurately.

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[1] USA Today article "Zimmerman accused of pointing shotgun at girlfriend" http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/18/zimmerman-trayvon-arrested/3628591/

[2] ABC News article “George Zimmerman Charged With Aggravated Assault of Girlfriend” http://abcnews.go.com/US/george-zimmerman-charged-aggravated-assault/story?id=20926767

[3] Fox News Article "Judge to decide if Zimmerman gets released on bail after arrest on assault charge" http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/11/19/judge-to-decide-if-zimmerman-gets-released-on-bail-after-arrest-on-assault/

[4] Atlanta Black Star article "George Zimmerman Jailed, Charged With Battery and Assault of Girlfriend" http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/11/19/zimmerman-assaults-new-girlfriend-arrested-jailed-florida/

[5] LA Times article "George Zimmerman charged with pointing gun at girlfriend" http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-george-zimmerman-arrests-20131118,0,7859772.story#axzz2l7lMlbK3

[6] Slate article "There's Something Wrong With a Country That Lets George Zimmerman Have a Gun" http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/11/19/killing_an_unarmed_teenager_allegedly_threatening_women_what_will_it_take.html

[7] Salon article "I’d hate to be a former Zimmerman juror today" http://www.salon.com/2013/11/19/id_hate_to_be_a_former_zimmerman_juror_today/

[8] CNN article “George Zimmerman charged with felony after allegedly pointing gun at girlfriend” http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/18/justice/florida-george-zimmerman-arrest/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

[9] NBC News article “911 calls released following Zimmerman domestic disturbance arrest” http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/18/21521590-911-calls-released-following-zimmerman-domestic-disturbance-arrest?lite

[10] NBC News article “911 calls released following Zimmerman domestic disturbance arrest” http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/11/18/21521590-911-calls-released-following-zimmerman-domestic-disturbance-arrest?lite

[11] CNN article “George Zimmerman charged with felony after allegedly pointing gun at girlfriend” http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/18/justice/florida-george-zimmerman-arrest/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

[12] ABC article "George Zimmerman charged with assault, battery in fight with girlfriend Samantha Scheibe" http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/national_world&id=9331223

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