What lies behind Robert Dear’s Black Friday shooting spree at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood?
Readers of the New York Times’ in-depth background report on Dear’s past call him a gun nut, a religious zealot, a terrorist, a Christian, not a Christian, isolated, a pro-lifer, a white supremacist, a drug user, a malcontent, bipolar and/or mentally ill. Most people posting comments are men driving forward the predictable debates about the joining of the words “Christian” and “terrorist.”
But as a lawyer practicing divorce for 20 years, I can tell you that most of my male clients and the husbands of my female clients have characteristics in common with Dear, who killed three people and wounded nine.
He married and divorced multiple times. He lied and told his current love interest he was divorced when he wasn’t. Then he went back to his first wife and made a baby. Like so many good Christians, he railed against women who had abortions but excused his own pleasure seeking, the natural result of which was pregnancy. If that isn’t hypocrisy and narcissism, I don’t know what is.
When Dear left his first wife for the second time, he demanded that his rights as a father be respected. But he refused to divulge his address to the mother, effectively kidnapping his son.
Like my male clients who swear never to remarry after having to share their assets with their ex-wives, Dear decided to shack up with his last girlfriend but not commit further. This way, she would never gain rights to alimony or property division.
She was also effectively kidnapped as they lived in a trailer, “off the grid.” She didn’t even have access to a phone.
Like many white, middle-aged married men, Dear had no need for friends. Reminiscent of Robert Durst, he actively chased them away by speeding down dirt roads in his ATV and mistreating his dogs. Instead, according to the Times, he “craved (I’d say, demanded) near-constant female company.” This is the modern marriage contract. Women do the emotional labor while men are free to — as Barbara Micheau, Dear’s second wife, described him — be “hard to please” and “erupt into fury in seconds.”
He expected reward and financial support without effort. He got himself fired from his job at a utility company for lack of effort. Since he wasn’t working, the money he used to buy a motorcycle and an “expensive gun” had to be from his second wife’s earnings. Divorce papers reveal a lot. Dear’s say he wouldn’t help with bills or clean the house. And he is not alone in being a burdensome husband. Today’s hipster fathers are proud to wear a baby sling but they still don’t do an equal share of housework, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Husbands also create seven more hours per week of housework for wives, according to a 2008 National Science Foundation study. Disputes over housework top the list of frequent domestic complaints.
In Dear, we have a sexual predator who aggressively pursued a woman, refused to take “no” for an answer and ultimately raped her at knifepoint. The victim’s husband, who may have also been infected with the same mindset, decided “we had to let God take care of it,” after a witness, described in the Times as a “Navy wife,” refused to testify against Dear. Prosecutors dropped the charges.
Rape is only occasionally an issue in my cases, but in one recent study, one in three male college students acknowledged they would have “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if assured they would not be caught.
Short of actual rape, exhibitionism is another form of sexual harassment. According to the Times article, Dear liked to sit outdoors in his underwear and swim naked in view of the neighbors, such that they had to build a fence. His exhibitionism betrays his sense of entitlement to acting however he pleases, including forcing the sight of his sexual organs onto nonconsenting others.
Sexism is a social disease and we’re swimming in it. Let’s call the attack on Planned Parenthood what it is: misogyny.