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Ex-Wife Reveals Orlando Gunman's History Of Domestic Violence


We're going to talk now about the shooter in Orlando and his apparent history of her domestic abuse. His ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has described him as both physically and psychologically abusive.


SITORA YUSUFIY: A few months after we were married, I saw his instability. And I saw that he was bipolar, and he would get mad out nowhere. He started abusing me physically very often and not allowing me to speak to my family, keeping me hostage from them.

MCEVERS: Deborah Epstein studies domestic violence at Georgetown University. She says what the shooter's wife is describing sounds like a classic example of what's called intimate terrorism.

DEBORAH EPSTEIN: Those are situations where a partner tries to exercise an incredible degree of coercive control over their partner - their finances, their employment, what clothes they wear, their social contacts. And one of the methodologies of enforcing that control is violence.

MCEVERS: So do we know anything about whether a history of this kind of intimate terrorism is a risk factor for committing mass shootings like this one in Orlando?

EPSTEIN: I'm not aware, and I don't think there are any actual studies that have explored that connection between intimate terrorism, domestic violence and terrorism. But is certainly true that in the aftermath of terrorist events on American soil, we often learn that the perpetrator had a history of domestic violence against their intimate partner or multiple intimate partners.

MCEVERS: What do we know about the link between domestic violence and gun violence?

EPSTEIN: We know that guns are used in a relatively small number of domestic violence incidents, overall. But we also know that in states that require a background check for handguns, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners. So there is a link between background checks and the reduction in fatalities due to domestic violence.

MCEVERS: And what does this case tell us about how domestic violence does or doesn't get reported? I mean, it of course raises the question - if this person had had a criminal conviction or restraining order, maybe he wouldn't have passed a background check.

EPSTEIN: I think it's well accepted in our culture - the idea of see something, say something in the terrorist context. But we are still seeing a reluctance in American society for bystanders to say something and intervene in incidents of domestic violence. Bystander intervention is absolutely essential if we're going to really reduce and eradicate domestic violence in our culture. And this potential link between domestic violence and mass shootings - terrorism - gives us another reason to intervene early in cases of domestic violence.

MCEVERS: That's Deborah Epstein. She's a professor at Georgetown Law and director of the school's domestic violence clinic. Thank you.

EPSTEIN: Thank You. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.