The most recent murder of a woman by her husband is particularly alarming.
Diana Raz, z”l, who was shot in the head on Friday by her husband, Amir Raz, in front of their four children, should have been able to read the signs. Diana, a 32-year-old relationship coach, specialized in teaching women how to recognize healthy versus abusive relationships. The clips she shared with her 15,000+ followers on Facebook in a group called "Strong women make healthy relationships," are smart, strong, and empowered. Diana shared that she had been in a bad relationship in her early twenties, and the lessons she learned from that experience informed her work and her life. “I am now married to my best friend,” her self-description gushes, referring of course to the man who killed her. It is chilling.
This story fills me with shock and dread. For a few terrifying reasons.
For one thing, there seem to have been no signs that this was going to happen. The family, the neighbors, the friends, are all expressing shock. Even the husband/murderer seems to be shocked by himself. “One minute we were having a dumb argument and the next minute I put two bullets into her,” is how he describes it.
It is entirely possible that this story will change as it evolves. We may learn that he had little quirks, cute little jealousy things, a funny need to have her to himself. But so far, everyone in their circle who has been interviewed says that they did not see it coming. In fact, Diana's friends and followers are having a particularly hard time, because if anyone could read the signs, she could. Or so we thought.
Interestingly, when Michal Ben Sela, z"l, was killed by her husband Eliran Melul in 2019, her sister, the powerful feminist activist Lili Ben-Ami, also said that she did not see any signs.
Of course today, Lili talks about signs that were there that she didn’t know to recognize. A certain kind of possessiveness and control that can seem almost loving. A reclusiveness that can be interpreted as romantic. And all of these things are crucial to look out for. But it’s easier in retrospect. Lili was interviewed on Ilana Dayan's program during the months after the murder, and the interviewer asked her over and again whether she saw signs. She didn't. Michal's family loved him. They were completely taken by the man who ultimately murdered their sister. It's incomprehensible.
Diana knew all this. She knew the signs well. And she still did not see it on herself.
If someone like Diana who had all the tools could not protect herself, how can anyone else be expected to protect herself?
Maybe, the hard reality is that sometimes there are no "signs".
Or maybe there are constant signs, everywhere, all the time, in every relationship, but we push most of them aside.
The second reason this story is terrifying is that the husband/murderer is a police officer.
Which means a few things.
It means he has the convenient label of being a "good guy".
But in fact, we know that, universally, police officers are among the most brutal wife-beaters around. An estimated 21.2% of male police officers are violent towards their wives.
But guys who are seen by other guys as good guys are the most protected of all. They are held up by bros in all kinds of settings for being bros.
We have this problem in the Jewish community, too. Where men accused of being violent or abusive are described by their buddies as being a great guy.
It's hard to wrap our heads around the reality that a guy can be both a "great guy" in some settings and a murderer or abuser in other settings. It seems so unreal.
Or maybe, he is a "great guy" among his buddies and an abuser/murderer when he's alone with certain women. Maybe women who trigger certain feelings for him. Lack of control. Jealousy. Rage. Whatever. Kate Manne's book Down Girl is essential reading for understanding the many sides of men who hate women. Certain women.
There is another reason why the fact that the wife-murderer is a police officer should worry us all. And that is, it means he walks around holding a gun.
I mean, Israel is considered to be a country that is “accustomed” to guns everywhere. But are we really? Is this something that we should consider “normal”? And IS it normal?
We don’t really talk about gun control in Israel. I mean, we’re not like America where kids with gripes bring machine guns to school and wreak havoc and devastation. Right?
It’s not the kids who are paying the price of too many guns around in Israel. It’s women.
And anyway, we know that in America, the greatest indicator in the profile of a mass shooter is a guy who hates women.
And isn’t that everywhere?
I mean, the thing that terrifies me about this police officer/husband/wife-murderer is that he seems like he was a nice guy, a good guy, who just happened to harbor somewhere deep inside of him a hatred of women so intense that it could flip him in a split second. In one split second of loss of control that part of him that sees women as hated objects could just erase all sense of normalcy and decency and make him do the unthinkable.
My real question is, how prevalent is this?
Because from my experience, the deep-seated hatred of women is everywhere. Sexism and misogyny are such a normal, expected part of everyday life that I don’t even flinch at it anymore.
I mean, a tiny little incident that happened to me the other day, on the rare occasion that I went out to do an errand, and I walked up to the door where a man was not wearing a mask. I said, “Please put a mask on,” and he looked at me with disdain, flicked his hand and said, “Get out of here!” (Oofi mipo!) It was this little flick from a guy, standing among men, where I was the only woman on the scene, and the man looked like he was going to hit me, and nobody else said boo. At the time, I didn't flinch. I said, "No, you get out of here! Or put on a mask." Which could have gotten me into trouble, but he actually walked away. Afterwards, I thought to myself, I should have been scared. But at the time, I wasn’t, I just dealt with it. But the fact is, the guy could have very easily hurt me. Had I provoked him a bit more or a bit differently, he might have hit me. Definitely plausible.
This kind of misogyny is just a fact. It’s something that we as women live with so constantly that we often don’t even bother complaining or even thinking about it.
How many guys like Amir Raz are out there? Men who seem like such nice, loving guys, who become good-guy police officers, who are seen smiling with their wives and kids, but who deep down have a feeling of hatred for women that could violently flick in a split second?
That is the thought that terrifies me.
Because no matter how many signs we recognize, no matter how much training we give women, no matter how many blogs and Youtube videos we make, we are up against the culture that forms the foundation of our entire society. Men controlling women. It is just everywhere.
Last year, 19 women were killed by their intimate partners in Israel alone. Around the world, the corona quarantines have put women in increasing danger. More stressful situations, more secluded time, more people being alone with their dark thoughts. This is a problem that is getting worse not better.
So what are the solutions?
A few things.
First of all, we need to take care of the gun problem in Israel right now, before we become more like America. The army has already begun limiting soldiers’ ability to take guns home – more out of concerns about suicide than femicide, but it’s a start. The same should be happening wherever there are guns – police, security guards, etc.
Second of all, we need to work harder to teach both women AND men about the signs of abuse. So that men can also recognize in themselves whether they harbor feelings of control, possessiveness, jealousy, anger, and rage towards women. So that the onus can start to be on men as well as on women to uproot the culture.
Finally, we need to address not only the incidents of murder but also the everyday misogyny that brings us to that place. Because unless we start to ask the really hard questions about how and where husband-murderers foment the desire to kill their wives, the problem will only get worse.
We are all afraid of the answer. We are all afraid of how close this is to all of us. It is absolutely terrifying.
But that is exactly why we have to do the work right now. To fix our culture right now. To teach boys and girls how to love instead of hate. How to cherish girls and women in society, how to celebrate women, and how to view women as whole people. That is where the real work it.
Dr. Elana Sztokman is the author of, most recently, Conversations with my Body: Essays on my life as a Jewish Woman. Available at Lioness Books www.lionessbooks.com/shop Follow Elana at www.conversationswithmybody.com or on FB, twitter, or IG