George Zimmerman. (Reuters/Joe Burbank)
This is part five in my series on the global epidemic of violence against women. (Here are my posts on Serena Williams’s victim-blaming, the sexual assaults happening in Egypt, the forced sterilization of incarcerated women in California, and rape and social media.)
Last year, when the murder of Trayvon Martin began making national headlines, a USA Today/Gallup poll found that public opinion about this case was divided along racial lines—72 percent of blacks said racial bias was a major factor in the events that led up to the shooting death of Martin, while non-blacks were significantly less certain, with 31 percent saying racial bias was a major factor and 25 percent saying it was not a factor at all. That same racial divide was reflected in surveys conducted in 1995 about the murder trial of O.J. Simpson.
The New York Times’s Charles Blow was right when he said this comparison was a “bit loaded because the cases are miles apart in the details and circumstances.” But I do think there was one crucial link between Simpson and Zimmerman: both men repeatedly were accused of violence against women well before their murder trials began.
Zimmerman’s attorneys successfully argued that those acts were inadmissible or irrelevant. But these accusations offer us other truths: that violence against girls and women is often an overlooked and unchecked indicator of future violence.
It was well-documented that Nicole Brown Simpson was a victim of domestic violence. In Zimmerman’s case, two pieces of character evidence never made it to the trial. First, a recorded statement from Witness No. 9, Zimmerman’s female cousin, in which she said that he molested her for ten years when they were both children, beginning when she just 6 years old. Second, a report filed in August 2005, when Zimmerman’s former fiancé sought a restraining order against him because of domestic violence.