photo of murder victim Molly Tibbetts at her graduation. Tibbetts death is controversial due to the immigration status of her assailant.

Mollie Tibbetts’ Death Was About Violence Against Women – Not Immigration

by Tony Wyman

Few would have blamed the family of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts if they had joined the president in condemning a race of people the day police were led to her body by the Hispanic immigrant accused of brutally murdering her. After all, they had just suffered through 34 days of unimaginable fear and pain, desperately praying for a miracle, only to be crushed by the news they would never again see Mollie’s beaming smile light up a room again. Emotions will lead us to public statements that we might, in other circumstances, consider poor judgment.

Millions of American fathers would have had compassion for Mollie’s dad, Rob, understanding the anguish he felt when police told him his daughter had been stabbed repeatedly. They would have understood the emotions pouring out of him if he had raged in fury at the injustice of his daughter’s death.

The American people would have sympathized with their grief and given the Tibbetts family room to vent their anger, to lay waste to anyone they felt was even remotely responsible for Mollie’s death. Even if their anger was wild and destructive, even if it was unfair and misguided, we would have stood silent out of respect for their pain and given them the time they needed to heal without thinking poorly of them for even a second. After what they went through, not many would have judged them ill.

But, instead, the Tibbetts, suffering the worst thing a family can experience, found room in their hearts to have concern and compassion for others. Under the most horrible circumstance, when most people would be introspectively consumed with their own pain, the Tibbetts saw that others were being treated unfairly and chose to say something about it.

“The Hispanic community are Iowans,” Rob Tibbetts said during his daughter’s funeral. “They have the same values as Iowans. As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.”

His comments were in response to those who chose to turn Mollie’s murder into a political attack on Hispanics living in this country, an attack based on racism and fueled by those who promote fear of immigrants to promote their nationalist agenda.

Rob Tibbetts
Rob Tibbetts, the father of murder victim, Mollie Tibbetts, originally believed she was kidnapped by “someone she knows” and “someone who cares about her.”

In a editorial he wrote for the Des Moines Register, Mr. Tibbetts said:

 “I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome. But do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist…My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons — Mollie’s cherished nephews and my grandchildren — are Latino. . . To knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag.”  

Mr. Tibbetts wrote his piece a day after Donald Trump Jr. politicized Mollie’s death to attack Democrats for what he described as “radical” immigration policies:

“The reaction from some Democrats and others on the left to the murder of Mollie Tibbetts is as despicable as it is revealing,” said Mr. Trump, Jr. “The mask is off and the true radical face of the Democrats has been exposed. They are seemingly more concerned with protecting their radical open-borders agenda than the lives of innocent Americans.”

Tibbetts Reject Anti-Hispanic Rhetoric

The Tibbetts, to their great credit, were having none of it.

“I’m a member of Mollie’s family and we are not so … small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals,” Samantha Lucas, Mollie’s cousin, tweeted at Pro-Trump Twitter personality Candace Owens. “Now stop being a … snake and using my cousin’s death as political propaganda. Take her name out of your mouth.”

To racists blaming Mollie’s death on America’s welcoming immigration history, cousin Sandi Tibbetts Murphy said,

“It is not your right to exacerbate this grievous act by hijacking Mollie and all she believed with your racist fear-mongering. You do not get to use her murder to inaccurately promote your ‘permanently separated’ hyperbole. You do not have permission to callously use this tragedy to demonize an entire population for the acts of one man.”

Mollie’s aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, added, “Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color. Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races.”

This message of love, brotherhood and decency was in direct contrast to the White House message, tweeted less than a day after Mollie’s body was recovered. “For 34 days, investigators searched for 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts. Yesterday, an illegal alien, now charged with first-degree murder, led police to the cornfield where her body was found. The Tibbetts family has been permanently separated. They are not alone.”

This statement, of course, wasn’t a message of compassion to the Tibbetts family from the president. It was, instead, a cynical attempt to exploit Mollie’s tragic death to promote President Trump’s essentially racist proposition, repeated numerous times since he began his campaign for the presidency, that immigrants are dangerous criminals coming to America to hurt you.

Fear of dark-skinned foreigners has been a theme of Pres. Trump’s message to his largely white fan base from the start. He famously described Mexican immigrants as “rapists and murderers” during the campaign, exaggerated the danger posed by MS-13, a criminal gang founded in Los Angeles among Central American immigrants, exploited “Angel Families,” people who had loved ones killed by immigrants, all while ignoring crime statistics that show immigrants commit far fewer violent crimes than do native-born Americans.

The White House and President Trump know this, but since the facts don’t support their narrative that a whiter America is a better America, they choose to ignore them.

Running While Female

That doesn’t change the truth, however. Multiple studies show that increased immigration had no correlation to increased violent crime rates. And additional studies show immigrants, including ones in the country illegally, commit fewer violent crimes than do people born in the United States. In fact, during 1980 to 2016, when immigration increased by 118%, violent crimes per capita actually decreased by 36%. (Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice.)

The real story of the murder of Mollie Tibbetts isn’t that she was brutally murdered by an immigrant; it is that she was brutally murdered by a man. If the president wanted to truly have an impact that makes a real difference when it comes to violence in this country, he wouldn’t frame the discussion around race, he would frame it around gender.

After all, nearly 90% of murders committed in this country are perpetrated by men. In 2016, police across the country were able to identify the gender of murderers in 11,605 cases. Of those murders, 10,310 were committed by men.

One of those killers took the life of jogger Vanessa Marcotte, a 27-year-old digital marketer starting her dream job with Google.  She was out running alone in Princeton, Massachusetts, a bucolic town of just 3413, when a man pretending to work on a broken down car grabbed her, drug her deep into woods less than a half-mile from her mother’s home where he burned her face, feet and hands before beating her brutally enough to break her nose.  He then raped her and crushed her windpipe, causing her death.

Vanessa Marcotte.
Vanessa Marcotte, right, was kidnapped, tortured, beaten, raped and murdered by a stranger while she was jogging alone in Princeton, Massachusetts. The alleged killer was described by those who know him as hostile towards women.

Police arrested a 31-year-old Hispanic man, an American citizen born in Puerto Rico,  who acquaintances said had a long history of demonstrating anger and hostility towards women. He was married, had three children, no criminal record and was the son of a police officer. But his Worcester neighbors told investigators he was “perverted” and that he was known in the community for making “vulgar” sexual comments to women in the neighborhood. 

Female co-workers also reported that he sexually harassed them, making crude comments about sexual subjects at work.

The violent death of Ms. Marcotte was an extreme example of what women jogging alone report on an alarming basis.  While law enforcement agencies don’t compile information on the numbers of women harassed, assaulted, attacked or murdered while running, the results of a Runner’s World survey conducted in 2016 shocked the fitness world.  At least the male part of it.  Women, unfortunately, weren’t surprised by the survey results in the least.

Startling to men who won’t listen,” tweeted one female runner in response to CNN’s report using that word describing the number of women harassed by men while jogging.  According to the results, 43% of women reported being harassed during their runs compared to just 4% for men.

Female runners reported the harassment ranged from men blowing their horns at them, driving slowly behind them as they ran, whistling or yelling sexual comments about their bodies to less malevolent remarks that simply made the women at which they were directed feel uncomfortable or unsafe.  30% of women jogging say they’ve been followed by a man in a car, on a bike or on foot.  18% say they’ve been propositioned sexually.  5%, including my wife, have been flashed.

In Mollie Tibbetts’ case, her confessed killer told police that he approached her while she was running and became enraged when she told him to leave her alone and threatened to call police.  CNN commentator Symone Sanders described his reaction to Ms. Tibbetts’ rejection as toxic masculinity adding, Mollie Tibbetts lost her life b/c a man couldn’t take her saying no. Full stop.”

Women are Most Often Killed by Men They Know

The reality is, though, that the murders of Ms. Tibbetts and Ms. Marcotte are extremely rare.  Even less aggressive physical contact from strange men directed at solo female runners is rare.  The Runner’s World survey showed only 3% of women reported being grabbed or groped by male harassers.

The chances of a woman being murdered are extremely low, only 1 in more than 35,000, more than twice as unlikely that being killed in a car accident.  Murder at the hands of a stranger is substantially lower yet.

The Violence Policy Center’s report studying data from 2015, showed of the 1551 women murdered that year, 1450 were killed by a man the victim knew. Of that number, 64% were killed by their husbands or a past or present romantic interest. Over all, women were 14 times more likely to be murdered by a man they knew than by a complete stranger.

The real danger to women isn’t illegal immigrant strangers. Instead, it is the men they know. If we want to make being a woman in this country safer, we need to confront that fact.  And, the reality is why men kill women they know isn’t a mystery.

We understand perfectly well why men kill the women we know, we simply aren’t willing to take the action needed to substantially reduce the violence.  If, for some reason, you still labor under the misconception that domestic or partner violence directed at women is mysterious, read the Pulitizer-winning series done by the Charleston Post and Courier in 2015 for enlightenment.  The series is called “Till Death Do Us Part.”  Find it here.

What the series determined is South Carolina, whose murder rate for women is more than twice the nation’s, has to make real, substantial and meaningful attitudinal changes in its men if it wants to see real reductions in the numbers of women killed in the state by men they know.

Domestic violence is an ingrained, complicated and generational problem in the Palmetto State. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be solved,” said the report.

Among solutions to the problem, the report suggested the following:

  1. Increase jail time to a maximum of 1 year in prison for 1st-time offenders, putting it in line with states like Georgia and Alabama.
  2. Pass a law allowing law enforcement officers to confiscate guns from homes where domestic abuse occur. Currently, 65% of spousal murders in South Carolina involve guns.
  3. Create a state-wide lethality test like the one pioneered by Maryland that empowers officers to incarcerate perpetrators of domestic violence if there appears to be evidence that violence could occur again or worsen once officers leave.
  4. Give restraining orders real teeth, including the use of electronic monitoring devices.
  5. Establishing a team to study “domestic homicides” as 41 other states in the country have.
  6. Since domestic abuse is a generational problem, one that is often passed down from father to sons, establish a victim advocate service that works with children from homes plagued by domestic violence to help break the cycle and to look for signs of domestic violence growing in the children.
Domestic abuse is generational.
Domestic abuse is generational, passed down from abusive fathers to their sons who learn to use violence as a means to resolve disputes in the home.

The last recommendation the report had was for the state to look at domestic violence as more than just a criminal problem, to address it as they would any social ill that originates in lack of education or mental illness. 

The report cited the Centers for Disease Control that view domestic violence as a public health crisis affecting 5.3 million women a year in the United States. 


The report recommended teaching classes on domestic abuse and how to prevent it in public schools and to start programs that promote healthy relationships and peaceful conflict resolution, providing young men with tools they need to resolve issues with the women in their lives without resorting to violence.

Approaching domestic abuse, sexual harassment and violence directed at women as a health crisis, one that identifies destructive, anti-social behaviors in men prone to violence against females, would go a long way towards making the country safer for women.  It would address the real issue head on, rather than allowing itself to get diverted into discussions of such politically-charged subjects as illegal immigration.

Yes, Mollie’s killer was an immigrant, one here illegally, at that.  But, before he was an immigrant, he was a man, one who apparently harbored anger and hostility towards women.  And that, not his nationality or residency status, is what made him dangerous.

As Mollie’s cousin, Sandi Tibbetts Murphy said,

“(The killer) could have been a citizen, born in this country; he could have been an older, white man from anywhere … He is a man who felt entitled to impose himself on Mollie’s life, without consequence … Mollie was murdered because a man denied her right to say no.”                                                                                                                                                                                     

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