What Zimmerman Tells Us About Domestic Abuse

The details of new domestic violence allegations against George Zimmerman are horrifying: He allegedly pointed a gun at the woman known only as his girlfriend. He allegedly broke a glass coffee table and barricaded the door after shoving her out of the house, according to the arrest report. Today, at a court hearing, prosecutors claim there was a previous unreported incident during which he allegedly choked his girlfriend.

And though the incident itself is terrifying for the presumed victim, it’s not all that surprising. Zimmerman had previously been suspected of domestic violence, though charges never came through because he smashed the iPad allegedly containing the video of key evidence against him.

All too often, incidents of domestic violence aren’t the first time a partner has threatened the woman he is in an intimate relationship with. In an age in which we are constantly trying to calculate the next attack, incidents of domestic violence are by comparison almost easy to predict.

Just last month, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine discovered that a simple, 4-minute survey could accurately detect 78 percent of women who had been victims of domestic violence in the previous year.

A lengthy New Yorker profile in July examined a pilot program in Massachusetts that uses 20 risk factors for a victim of domestic violence that would likely lead to a homicide: A score of 18 or more means that victim is at extreme risk of being killed by her partner.

The evidence also piles up anecdotally. When Vikings superstar Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old son was beaten to death, allegedly by a man in a relationship with the child’s mother, it was revealed that 27-year-old Joseph Patterson had a previous conviction for domestic violence and had violated a domestic violence abuse bond last year.

When Kansas City Chiefs lineman Jovan Belcher shot his 22-year-old girlfriend Kasandra Perkins before taking his own life, reporters discovered the team was so aware of problems that they paid for “counseling” for the couple.

When actor Charlie Sheen had his very public meltdown (and subsequent rehabilitation) in 2011, Anna Holmes compiled a lengthy list of previous incidents of abuse against women in his life.

Reports also surfaced that singer Chris Brown’s “temper has manifested itself in violent ways in the past” before the infamous incident with his on-again-off-again girlfriend Rihanna just before the 2009 Grammys.

All the evidence points to the fact that abuse is a pattern that can indicate future behavior. It’s time to start treating it that way.

This post has been updated. It originally said charges were filed against Zimmerman in a pervious domestic abuse case, but no charges were ever filed.