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Republican legislators’ response to 'domestic violence' at the Capitol

By Pat Priest

We are perplexed when victims of domestic violence sometimes recant after calling the police during a harrowing experience. That can happen even though officers and neighbors were witnesses to the violence — just as we all witnessed the unfolding terror at the Capitol on our televisions on January 6th in 2021. Former House leader Kevin McCarthy is a good example of the fear and pressures victims experience at different stages. During the rampage, McCarthy made a desperate call to President Trump but found him unwilling to help while thousands of angry protesters brutalized police and hunted for Vice President Pence and other elected officials. And he was still angry after Trump finally called off the attackers. On January 13th, he said, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob.” Or take Senator Lindsey Graham: He said on January 8th that he had “never been so humiliated and embarrassed for the country.” So why do victims of domestic violence such as McCarthy or Graham later recant? Of course, fear is a factor. Republicans fear Trump’s vengeful nature and the ire of his supporters. They saw how dangerous some of them can be. There are other commonalities: the abuser often strives first to minimize his actions and then to convince their victims that prosecuting them will jeopardize the family. And, in a whiplash fashion, that’s what happened: Republicans who feared for their lives days earlier later recanted in order to hold their party together. It didn’t take long for McCarthy to kowtow to Trump so that the former president might support his bid to be Speaker of the House now that Republicans have regained the majority. Furthermore, victims sometimes refuse to bear witness because they face harsh economic circumstances or a loss of status if their abuser goes to prison. Similarly, Republicans felt their chances for reelection in their primary would plummet if they pinned blame on Trump, and that has certainly been the case for almost all of the Republicans who spoke out against the former president or voted for his impeachment. Laws have been put in place to prosecute perpetrators even when victims recant. That’s why the congressional hearings were necessary: so that victims of domestic violence who are afraid, the police who respond, and other people, too, are protected from future violence. And that’s why we need to vote in every election: to support courageous, principled civil servants; hold people accountable; and safeguard our vulnerable institutions from corruption and cowardice.

Pat Priest is a local writer, producer, and event planner.

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