The assault on Ben Jacobs has given us a window into what millions of women experience daily behind closed doors.
Wednesday evening the Republican candidate for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives body slammed Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. An eyewitness to the attack described it in a first-hand account, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.”
In the aftermath, the Billings Gazette rescinded its endorsement of Gianforte writing, “We’re at a loss for words. And as people who wrangle words on a minute-by-minute basis, that doesn’t happen often. What happens even less — hopefully never again — is a Montana candidate assaulting a reporter.”
While the perpetrator and victim in this case are an unusual pairing— a candidate and a reporter— this type of interpersonal violence is far from unusual. Attacks like the one on Ben Jacobs happen every day to women at the hands of an intimate partner. In fact, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a US woman is assaulted every nine seconds. A third of women and a quarter of men have been abused by an intimate partner.
Like most perpetrators of domestic violence, Gianforte presented a false account of the incident and blamed the victim, implying he deserved the assault. Through spokesperson Shane Scanlon, Gianforte explained, “It is unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”
Perpetrators of domestic violence employ the same tactic, blaming the victim and framing a one-sided assault into misunderstanding or mutual dispute. Ben Jacobs was able to produce an audio recording of the assault, and several witnesses have corroborated his version of the attack. Domestic violence takes place in secret, without witnesses. Victims rarely report, and when they do, their perpetrators’ Giantforte-esque explanations render criminal prosecution difficult.
The Gianforte assault has generated near-universal outrage from politicians, journalists, and the general public. To contrast, most incidents of domestic violence go unreported and happen in the privacy of the victim’s home without witnesses or media attention. When a celebrity is accused of domestic violence, the response is often inadequate. In 2015, Giants kicker Josh Brown was accused of domestic violence. In fact, his wife reported over 20 physical incidents to police. His initial punishment? A one-game suspension.
It is commendable that the Billings Gazette rescinded their endorsement of Gianforte. And, it is commendable that they articulated their outrage and horror in the face of such violence.
Domestic violence should generate the same outrage and sense of horror. Victims of domestic violence deserve the same level of concern, solidarity and sympathy as Ben Jacobs.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline .