By: Kayley Corley
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect views of the Journal, the William H. Bowen School of Law, or UA Little Rock.
Domestic terrorism is federally codified as the actions taken by an individual or a group of individuals to intimidate or coerce civilians or government officials in an effort to establish or enforce their desired power structure within the United States of America. These actions can come in the form of threats to life and property, cyber attacks, bombings, mass shootings, and disruptive behaviors meant to frustrate administrative bodies.
These coercive acts are an attempt to forcibly dictate public discourse without the benefit of general discussion or assent by weaponizing fear generated by violent and harmful actions in the public sphere. A public that fears for their safety and that of their loved ones is easier to manipulate. This is directly counter to the ideological foundation of modern democracies. Terrorism weaponizes fear to silence dissent.
Incidents of domestic terrorism increased by 357% between 2013 and 2021 according to the Government Accountability Office. Scholarship surrounding this increase in sectarian violence has become increasingly relevant due to this pattern shift. One aspect of this new scheme that has not been adequately studied is the connection between intimate terror, otherwise known as domestic violence, and domestic terrorism. This connection is far from tenuous and can provide important information and mitigation options for stakeholders across all levels of law enforcement and government agencies.
Intimate terror occurs when one individual in a private association uses coercion to establish and enforce an uneven power structure within a private relationship. This can mean limiting access to financial resources, meaningful employment, educational opportunities, property rights, or participation in meaningful decision-making either within or outside the relationship. These intentional limitations lead to a dysfunctional relationship dynamic where one party has either partial or total control over critical daily functions necessary for a well-ordered life. This uneven power structure is maintained by coercion and violence similar to domestic terror. Domestic abusers, intimate terrorists, also weaponize fear to silence dissent.
The treatment of women within their significant relationships has deep implications for the well-being of an entire nation. This connection has been well documented by researchers such as Dr. Valerie Hudson and her research team at Womanstats.org. Domestic violence is domestic terrorism at the micro level. Where domestic terror impacts localities and nations, intimate terror impacts individuals and families. Their effects are similar in the way they both lead to psychological, economic, and physical damage. Intimate terror simply does not leave scars on the landscape large enough for entire communities to recognize as the same destabilizing threat as domestic terror.
Domestic violence is a form of domestic terror. Instead of weaponizing the fear of many to silence targeted those individuals, those who engage in intimate terror weaponize the fear of the few they have access to in order to maintain control. It is unsurprising there is a connection between those who engage in intimate terrorism and those who engage in domestic terrorism. This connection between domestic violence and domestic terrorism must be further scrutinized, and if it continues to show a reliable connection, acted upon by policymakers. Our nation’s security and the lives of its citizens are counting on it.