Joan Smith (c) Alexander Seale

Joan Smith

Home Grown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men into Terrorists

FoI at Waterstones/
Wed 29 May 2019

Joan Smith

Home Grown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men into Terrorists

Joan Smith (c) Alexander Seale
Wed 29 May 2019,

In the debate about what makes a terrorist, a striking common factor has long been overlooked – a history of domestic violence. Journalist Joan Smith was the first person to point out that all of the 2017 UK terrorist attackers had a history of domestic violence. From the Manchester bomber, who was known to police for assaulting a woman, to the London Bridge attackers, who abused their wives, mothers and sisters, the portrait is shockingly clear.

Terrorism is treated as a special category of crime and this has blinded us to the obvious – that it is, almost always, male violence. It stands beside cases such as those of the Finsbury Park Mosque attacker and the Florida school shooter: these are atrocities committed by privately abusive men whose public outbursts costs lives. The Charlie Hebdo killers provide a further insight into the role of childhood trauma in developing violent behaviour. But the greatest proof lies in ISIS, the world’s biggest violent boys’ gang, who deliberately recruit youths who have been inured to cruelty and rape. Until Joan Smith’s radical outcry in 2017, the authorities missed this link – largely because violence against women is dangerously normalised in our culture. Yet, since domestic abuse often comes before a public attack acting as a rehearsal and deadening levels of empathy and horror in the perpetrators – acknowledging this link provides a weapon against the scourge of our age. Smith sets out a course of action that could transform our approach to domestic abuse and save countless lives on our streets. In conversation with Finn Mackay.

Image credit: Alexander Seale

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