As I bring this series to a close, I cannot end without talking about the most hotly debated topic in the country, as well as in domestic violence circles — the use of firearms. Statistics show that a woman is eight times more likely to die at the hands of her abuser if there is a firearm in the home. African American women are 2.5 more times likely to die than their White female counterparts.
This past May, I had the honor of joining a roundtable discussion/working group with the Battered Women’s Justice Project. As a prosecutor, I came in with the very specific mindset that if there’s any opportunity to protect a domestic violence victim by removing a firearm from the home, I’m going to take it.
But it was very interesting to hear of the other participants in the discussion, who came from the perspective of victim advocates, as well as law-enforcement. The participants came from across the country, from cities, rural areas and native tribes. The biggest debate came from the fact that sometimes the victims will say “yes my spouse is abusing me, but he never uses the gun to abuse me”. “Yes I am afraid of him, but he never threatened me with the gun he always hits me with his hands. If you take his gun, this will make him more mad and place me in more danger.”
Another consideration that was discussed is that of survival. The folks in rural areas will use guns to hunt, which is a major component of how they eat. There’s no driving to Publix, Walmart or Whole Foods, which some of us take for granted. Taking their gun is literally taking their ability to survive. Additionally, there are cultural concerns, where you have firearms or rifles that have been handed down from father to son. So by taking away the firearm, you are literally taking away a family’s history or disrespecting a tribal symbol.
This is why the battle continues. It was very eye-opening for me, and a reminder that life is not cut and dry, black-and-white. As a city dweller, I learned a lot from that discussion. On a personal note, I am married a man who has a ranch in Idaho. When I first went out to the area with my husband (aka the Cowboy), there was definitely a few cultural differences (high heeled boots are never the fashion in that particular town in northern Idaho. I am a Diva after all!). I had some exposure to using firearms in the past; but I definitely learned a new respect for them because it is the instrument of your survival in the woods when wildlife is your next-door neighbor. I understood the arguments that were made at the roundtable; I found some more persuasive than others.
Ultimately, the prosecutor/women’s empowerment side of me strongly believes that it takes just one angry word, one moment of rage, one moment in that explosionary part of the cycle of violence coupled with the easy availability of that firearm for a domestic homicide to happen.
So the discussion continues. There are no easy answers. But I believe that if we keep talking, if we keep raising awareness, and if we keep rallying around victims — letting them know that they are loved, supported, and that they do not have to stay with their abusers, we will find a way to eradicate this problem. And if we give victims support in testifying against their abusers, and getting justice, whether it be in the form of a prison sentence or psychological counseling for their abusers, we will go along way in restructuring how our society thinks about violence along with how relationships should be.
Here are a few resources.
National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or (800) 787-3224 (TTY) or visit their website
National Network to End Domestic Violence List of State DV Coalitions visit their website
American Bar Association For legal assistance visit their website
Stalking Resource Center (800) FYI-CALL or visit their website.
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (800) 656-HOPE or visit their website.
Whatever you are going through, you are not alone. There is help — you are loved, you are worthy, and you are STRONG!