In 13 hours, two seemingly unrelated tragic events shocked the nation and claimed the lives of 30 individuals.
These devastating events join over 250 mass shootings that have occurred in America since the start of 2019, astoundingly outnumbering the days that have passed thus far. Though we maintain an understanding of the impacts of mass shootings, we fall short of identifying the issues that have become blurred by media headlines.
Lost in the Conversation
We struggle to make sense of the senseless acts that flood the media headlines. What could drive someone to commit such a senseless act? How can we prevent these things from happening in the future? We feel personal violations, no matter the distance between us and tragedy and question our personal safety within our communities.
The desire to define is not misplaced, either. It drives advocacy and conversation, allowing us to identify actions that we can take to build a safer community. Heightened emotions turn to raised voices, yet we consistently witness the oversight of one crucial piece of awareness – the interconnectivity of domestic violence and perpetrators of domestic violence. Yet we see a consistent oversight in a conversation essential in moving forward.
In 2017, Devin Kelley gained national attention after entering First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and opened fire on the individuals inside. The lives of 26 individuals were lost in an instant, a dozen of which were children, and a community was left shaken in the aftermath. His uncle would later say that he “never in a million years could believe Devin could be capable of this kind of thing,” yet those in Kelley’s past came to reveal a disturbing history riddled with Red Flags.
Girlfriends of Kelley paint a picture of a troubled individual prone to stalking and harassing them after they broke off their relationship and, in 2014, he was arrested in 2014 on an animal cruelty charge. Even more disturbingly, Kelley was court-martialed after three years in the Air Force and later convicted of fracturing his baby stepson’s skull and assaulting his first wife.
Though he was confined for a year, given a bad conduct discharge, and reduced in rank to airman basic, the Air Force would later admit to mistakenly not entering him into a database that would make it illegal for him to purchase a gun.
The interconnectivity of domestic violence and mass shootings is becoming more prevalent in research. We know that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500% and that 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner. Even more astoundingly, a study from Everytown assessed mass shootings from 2009 to 2017, finding at least 54% of these shootings involved a perpetrator who shot an intimate partner or family member.
Understanding the totality of domestic violence means that we must recognize it not only as a red flag for future violence but for the harm it can do on its own. We often talk about the 26 lives that Adam Lanza claimed at Sandy Hook Elemtnary School in 2012, but do you remember the 27th victim? Befor Lanza took his mother’s car and drove to the school, he committed domestic violence towards his mother through threats that ultimately lead to him taking her life.
We see the same charactersitics of domestic violence appear in Omar Mateen’s past, the indiviudal responsible for taking 49 lives at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, after it was revealed he consistently beat his wives.
Again, Elliot Rodger tookt he lives of six indviduals near UC Santa Barbara’s campus, but not before he once splashed coffee on two “hot blonde girls” because they didn’t smile at him.
Each instance, though varying in severity and unrelated, are ultimately connected through one individuals need for power and control over others.
Barriers & Connectedness
Understanding the totality of domestic violence means that we must recognize it not only as a red flag for future violence but for the harm it can do on its own.
Violence is an epidemic that we have become accustomed to compartmentalizing, allowing us to assign levels of importance that divide how we view its occurrences.
Understanding community connectedness is an essential step towards understanding the roles we can play in the prevention of violence. Imbalances to the number and strength of connections that we each experience can be detrimental to our community. Two individuals may have health insurance that covers a psychologist with a co-pay of $40. But what if the first individual makes a combined total income of $120,000 and has no children while the second earns $40,000 and is a single mother of three?
Understanding community connectedness, we can shed light on the barriers that the second individual faces. Are they faced with having to decide between seeking help and feeding their children for the week? Is someone able to help with the children while they attend their appointment? Will their place of employment allow them to take time between 8:00 – 5:00 to make the appointment? If not, are there psychologist covered under insurance that has extended hours?
Barriers to healthcare are only one piece of the larger puzzle. How are indiviudals expected to get to work when they lack the funds to purchase a car but don’t live near a bus route? What happens when a person is laid off and suddenly can’t afford to purchase food? Is the fresh food at the local bazaar accessible and affordable to all? (Pro Tip – Learn how Urban Seeds is leading the SNAP benefits charge at local markets!)
To build a community that we may all feel equal amounts of safety, equality, and respect, we need to focus on identifying the barriers that we come accustomed to ultimately overlooking. Developing this understanding furthers our voice and allows us to build strong community relationships that normalize conversations and focus on equity and wellbeing.
Ending Violence Through Personal Advocacy
The beautiful thing about advocacy is that it can mirror your individuality and amplify the strength of your voice. Understanding the effects of sexual and domestic violence is one piece of a larger puzzle. You empower those impacted by violence and can further make a change by:
- Advocating in your ways! Host a Facebook Fundraiser, talk to your friends and family, compliment a stranger, and know that random acts of kindness are one of the many ways you can make someone feel appreciated. Find your passion and run with it!
- Attend An Evening of Hope on Friday, August 16, and join us as we raise awareness of the effects sexual and domestic violence have in our community. All proceeds 100% go towards supporting and empowering those impacted.
- Contribute today and inspire tomorrow! Your contribution takes your advocacy to the next level and extends your support to those working with Albion, providing hope and empowerment in times of need.