The facts and stats around domestic violence and gun violence are clear: When someone who is abusive has access to a gun, victims and their children are in serious and immediate danger.
That’s why we are shining a light on the intersection between gun violence and domestic violence during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please read this blog post to learn how guns dramatically increase the risk of homicide for victims of domestic abuse, how the threat of gun violence impacts children, why guns in the home go underreported, and critically, how survivors can get help.
Statistics: How domestic violence survivors experience guns violence
People causing harm do many things to control domestic violence survivors and anyone involved in the abusive relationship. Guns are a serious threat on their own and when an abuser has access to a gun, domestic violence survivors are at much greater risk. According to the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) July 2003 via Everytown, domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when guns are in reach.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics data compiled by Everytown: The Impact of Gun Violence on Children and Teens, guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens. Nearly 3 in 4 children and teens killed in mass shootings died in an incident connected to domestic violence. (Everytown: Mass Shootings in America)
Gun violence does not have to be fatal to cause harm. Children living in homes where domestic violence is present are exposed to, or experience, higher rates of physical and sexual assault. (DOJ, OJP)
Facts: How guns are used to abuse domestic violence survivors and children
Guns put survivors’ lives in more danger.
Survivors experience psychological terror when threatened with a gun. The person causing harm can threaten to shoot the survivor, a pet, or a person the victim cares about. In addition, they could clean, hold, or load a gun or even fire the gun during an argument.
When domestic violence escalates because of gun violence, children can suffer the most.
Children who see their parent killed with a gun suffer severe PTSD, behavioral problems, and suicidal thoughts. Child trauma from witnessing a parent killed often follows children into adulthood. (Journal of Family Issues)
Why Domestic Violence Survivors Don’t Report Guns in the Home
Guns in the home make domestic violence survivors afraid for their lives, even if the person abusing them isn’t home. That fear, and the trauma it causes, can last for years, even after a survivor is physically safe.
Sometimes they have access to a gun because they are or were previously employed by law enforcement. Other survivors have had negative experiences with the justice system and simply don’t believe that reporting that their partner has a gun will help them.
How Safe Horizon Can Help
Safe Horizon can support domestic violence survivors who have been threatened with or experienced gun violence. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you’re looking for long-term support or connections to resources, call our 24/7 hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE (4673).