They say most accidents occur within five miles of the home. This saying points out that while the world outside the home is a dangerous and unpredictable place, you need to be aware of domestic dangers as well. Of course, there are accidents and then there are “accidents.” And in family law, there are dangers and then there are DANGERS!
The New York Times recently analyzed all the “mass shootings” in America. It defined mass shooting as an incident where four or more people were killed or wounded by a firearm, including the shooter. In 2015, there were 358 shootings that fit that category, which resulted in 462 dead and 1,330 injured. Domestic violence incidents accounted for 39% of the total episodes and were responsible for 145 deaths. That’s around 31% percent of the total dead.
The Huffington Post re-analyzed this data to assess incidents in which four people were fatally shot, not including the shooter. They found that once you remove the death or injury to the shooter, the numbers shifted to show a majority of the incidents were linked to domestic violence. According to their analysis, in 57% of the mass shooting cases, a family member or an intimate partner was among the victims. Let that sink in. In a majority of mass shootings in America, the shooter is out to kill a significant other. That this the shooter's dominant motivation.
This is a subject that I’m sure touches home for many of us. Frequently we see these stories on the news and do not even realize that the violence is more often than not related to a family law issue. When we see stories on the news about mass shootings in public places, we probably automatically think that the shooter is linked to potential domestic terrorism in the political sense, without realizing this is domestic terrorism in the personal sense. These shooters are terrorizing, hurting, or killing their loved ones.
Obviously, our nation is grieving right now from one psychopath in Florida who shot up a bar because of his depraved hatred. So far as we know, that shooting is not related to domestic violence, though we are told that this shooter had a domestic violence past. I am from Central Florida and a far more common story is, in my home-town, a man recently took his gun to the local mall looking for his ex girlfriend who worked there. It did not end well. The psychopath in Orlando brought great misery with his depraved act. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen often. Unfortunately, the mad man looking to kill his ex girlfriend at a small town mall, does.
When you are in a relationship that may be putting yourself, or your loved ones, at the risk of harm, get help! Don’t let your story end tragically. There are many resources to help individuals who are in abusive relationships get out of those relationships. One options is to seek a protective order from the court to keep the other person from contacting, harassing, or being within a certain distance of you, and your children.
There are two types of protective orders which are meant to reduce this type of violence: a stalking protective order and a domestic violence protective order. In order to apply for a domestic violence protective order, the victim and the abuser must either be married, be in a parent-child relationship (including step parents), living together, or share a child in common; and the abuser must commit some type of crime against the victim (and generally any violence or serious threat of violence will apply). On the other hand, a stalking protective does not have any relationship requirement, but instead the victim must prove that the abuser is following or continually contacting the victim with no legitimate purpose for the contact other than to harass or intimidate the victim.
If you think you have a case for a protective order, you should contact an attorney or your local bar association for assistance in obtaining the order immediately, as Judges will compare the urgency of seeking the order to how recent the offending event occurred. Also, if it has gotten that bad, odds are terribly good that it will only get worse.
The only way to prevent, reduce or in any way impact the number of domestic violence shootings (barring massive gun reform laws) is for the victims to seek help before it is too late. It is no easy task to leave these relationships, as many of the shootings are related to victims attempting to leave the abuser, but the legal community is here to help as best it can.
Please realize that you have resources to help you. Whether you call the police, an attorney, a domestic violence shelter, or a safe families office, it is important to remember that you do not have to live in fear, and there are people around who will support you, care about you, and help you get through this. Do not let yourself, or one of your loved ones, become another statistic, mass shooting or otherwise.
You are worth so much more than that.