When acts of gun violence occur, the conversation inevitably turns to restrictions, gun safety and mental health. They should be focusing on domestic violence.
Twenty-four years after the Violence Against Women Act was signed, the conversation surrounding domestic violence hasn’t improved much. The majority of mass shootings involve the killing of a family member or intimate partner. Most don’t make national news, but even high-profile shootings, like theStoneman Douglas High School shooting, reveal that those who exhibit violence in public were first violent at home.
Based on evidence and findings, the trend seems to be this: When abusers get guns, women die.
Tragic events like the Charleston, North Carolina, church and Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater shootings get widespread coverage, but are not representative of what the majority of mass shootings in the United States actually look like. These cases garner widespread attention because of their randomness and the horrible number of victims that result from these incidents.
The reality is most mass shootings (commonly defined as an instance where at least four people are killed with a gun) take place in private, and victims are usually women and children, according todata from Everytown for Gun Safety. Fifty-four percent of shootings in the U.S. involve a former or current partner or family member. Seventy percent occur inside the home.
In these shootings, the shooter seeks revenge on a family member or intimate partner. Others become victims from being either related to the victim (there have been multiple incidents where revenge involves killing the entire family), or from being an innocent bystander.
Certainly gun restrictions and regulation are one path that could lead to reduced shootings, and early recognition of mental health issues is another, but speaking up about domestic violence is one that seems to be forgotten.
Recognizing signs of domestic abuse, speaking out about it and having early intervention can prevent greater tragedy. Acceptance of violence toward women has been a part of the zeitgeist of society for too long, with wife-beating only becoming illegal in 1920 and attention to domestic violence rising in the 1970s. Of women 18 or older in the United States, one in four have been the victim of “severe physical violence by an intimate partner,” according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
The point is that we’re missing the point when it comes to shootings. They are thought of as unpredictable and random, but often all the warning signs are there.
Omar Mateen, who opened fire on the Pulse nightclub, beat both his wives. Before fatally shooting 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza killed his mother. Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was remembered for publicly berating his girlfriend, and Devin Patrick Kelley, the Sutherland Springs shooter, was kicked out of the Air Force for domestic violence and a sexual assault accusation.
Lauren McCluskey had only dated Melvin Rowland for about a month before ending the relationship. Just days before her death on Monday, she reported being harassed. Her story is tragic, heartbreaking and serves as a wake-up call to the community about the reality where domestic violence can lead.
Unfortunately, her story is not unique.
October happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Individuals and families suffering from domestic abuse should be able to find help, and find it quickly, to prevent possible escalation or repercussions. Resources in Utah are limited and generally unknown, with an internet search leading to only one nonprofit and a few shelters or transitional homes scattered throughout the state. The number of resources and their publicity and availability need to be increased to allow victims a better chance at escaping further harm.
Simply adding more shelters and resources, however, is just a temporary bandage. The numbers don't lie: Domestic violence can lead to tragedy. The pattern will only continue without early intervention and a societal change that does not tolerate violence toward partners or family. Preventing every shooting incident may be impossible, but better recognition of, and action to end domestic violence can save lives.