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National Gun Violence Awareness Week, Feb. 1st-7th, Addresses Lasting Effects On Survivors

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Everytown For Gun Safety

Missouri has the6th highest rate of gun violence in the US. Gun-related deaths have increased 47% from 2010 to 2019, and Missouri saw its deadliest year yet for gun violence in 2020, which was worsened by the pandemic.

According to a study by a Penn State College of Medicine researcher, gun violence increased by more than 30% in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers explain that stress, domestic violence, lack of social interactions and greater access to firearms are likely contributors to the increase.

February 1-7 is Everytown’s ‘National Gun Violence Survivors Awareness week’.Everytown is a research and support fund providing national news on gun violence in America.

Cape Girardeau Native Leslie Washington is a three-time gun violence survivor.

“I had two cousins that died by gun suicide, and then I had another cousin that was murdered in 2015. I am a survivor of domestic violence, and once I left my Ex he threatened me with a firearm with a fully loaded clip, he posted it on his Instagram page after I left him, so to send that message that he was going to kill me,” said Washington.

As a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Leslie works actively in her community to share her personal story and spread awareness, hopeful for change. Washington explains that effects of the pandemic have allowed these rates of gun violence to rise, especially among domestic cases.

“Typically with domestic violence and gun violence they play hand in hand. A lot of people may have lost jobs due to the pandemic so tempers are at a rising number. These situations can turn deadly, like they are down to maybe one income or no income, so women are walking on eggshells, typically because they're afraid of their abuser, and a lot of times we never know that somebody is going through domestic violence because it doesn't get reported as much,” said Washington. “I know with my ex husband, he would always keep our business to ourselves and not discuss it, so a lot of women are in that era, where they don't discuss, they have to endure. Too many women are dying and being affected by gun violence and domestic violence.”

Jessica Hill, Executive Director of The Safehouse for Women in Southeast Missouriexplains that many of the Safe House’s residents are individuals that have been threatened with guns, specifically in domestic abuse cases.

“The main thing that we see is a tool for threats, intimidation-- We also see that as violence escalates in a domestic violence situation, that the presence of a gun makes it more likely that you know an extreme level of violence will take place.”

Everytown reports that the presence of a gun in a domestic setting makes it five times more likely that the abusive partner will kill his female victim.

Guns are the most common weapon used in domestic violence situations.
Everytown for Gun Safety
Guns are the most common weapon used in domestic violence situations.

The Safe House works as part of a state coalition of domestic violence agencies, called the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence which helps to develop further regulations on weapons.

“One of the things that they do is work towards legislation that will prevent abusers from being able to either purchase or retain weapons if they are convicted of a domestic violence crime or if they have a full order of protection against them,'' said Hill. “So those are some things at the state level that are being worked on on behalf of victims of domestic violence to try to ensure that very dangerous, abusive people will have less access to weapons.”

Sharon Braun, PhD. is Director of Public Relations at the Community Counseling Centerin Cape Girardeau. She explains that one instance of gun related violence is likely to impose an everlasting effect on the mental health of an individual.

“In domestic situations, and when a child is a witness to a parent or even a sibling being shot, that will dramatically affect that child, probably for the rest of his or her life. We’re talking trauma, post traumatic stress disorder that would continue…”

Gun Violence Survivors Awareness Week acts as a social platform to share and honor the stories of those who face these lasting effects in their everyday lives, due to the impact of gun violence. Braun says opportunities like these also act as a therapeutic outlet for victims in the process of their recovery.

Everytown for Gun Safety

“It's a huge loss, of course… and when you share your story, especially with someone else who has experienced a similar event, there's a camaraderie, there's a healing, there's acceptance, there's more understanding… and that just has a very broad scope of wellness,” said Braun.

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