Kay Marie Sisto was shot to death last May 26th by her husband, Michael Peterson. He shot her 3 times in the back of the head and wrapped his arms around her before shooting himself as well. The walk today is dedicated to her at the request of her family. Kay did not suffer from physical abuse, or at least not that she reported. Often abuse is not physical and noticeable to others outside of the relationship. The Power and Control Wheel found in the link here was developed by the founders of the Duluth Model. It's a useful tool for working with abusers and those who are abused in understanding the causes of the abuse. The wheels show how abuse can mean more than physical. It can be emotional, economic, guilt, use of children, bullying and threats. For some, it can be actual physical abuse or ultimately, death.
Selfish. Violent. Needless. Preventable. Power and Control. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she is trying to leave a relationship or has just left. A gun in the wrong hands. Where did he get the gun? Why did he need to shoot her? Why didn't she seek help? Painful. Ugly. Grief. Loss. Why? Why her?
Kay's sister Kim writes about many things in a blog but most especially about the pain of losing her sister. She mixes her posts with her painful thoughts about her sister, Kay, and recipes and fashion. And she writes about Domestic Abuse with passion, emotion and sometimes anger. This one is particularly powerful. Kim and I have shared thoughts and a few hugs. We are "sisters" because we have lost sisters to a man with a gun intent on snuffing out the life of someone who was trying to get away from the marriage. It's inconvenient to lose power and control. It's too convenient to get a gun and "solve" your problems by shooting the person standing in the way of your power and control.
The Legal Community Against Gun Violence keeps track of the patchwork quilt of state laws dealing with domestic abuse and firearms. It is clear from this study by LCAV that a firearm increases the risk of a woman being shot and killed by a partner/spouse in a domestic dispute. Between 1990 and 2005, firearms were used in more than 2/3 of spouse and ex spouse domestic homicides, according to this study.
In Minnesota last year, ( from the linked article about Kay Marie Sisto), "..15 women, seven children, four family members and two men died in domestic violence in Minnesota."
The state of Oregon has stricter laws about orders for protection and making sure guns cannot be purchased by those who have them. This linked article sums up nicely what the problem is and the potential solution. ""The key to bringing down domestic violence assaults and homicides is prevention," Holton said. "That's precisely what the federal firearms statutes are intended to do." In Maine, Groban said the U.S. Attorney's Office learns of every gun case prosecuted in state court, "so we know whether to prosecute them federally.""
This is an international problem. The International Action Network on Small Arms is concerned not only about the proliferation of small arms to and from countries around the world but about domestic violence. This project of the IANSA is working on the issue world wide. No matter where the abuse takes place, it is about the same thing. Power and control are usually at the root of the problems in abuse situations. Loss of either of these or both can cause anger, depression, and emotional tension within a relationship. The person losing the power and control is often male, as it turns out. And when a gun is used, senseless fatalities occur.
The Illinois legislature has just passed a law that extends the time for those convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun to indefinitely. It has been a period of five years. This is good news for the women of Illinois.
Domestic abuse is an issue that most can agree is a problem but we still have work to do to assure that abusers who have guns don't keep them or those who don't have them can't get them. Laws such as closing the private seller loophole so that a background check would reveal the person to be a prohibited purchaser would be one way to stop known domestic abusers from getting guns from a private seller as well as from a licensed dealer. More laws such as the one passed in Illinois (above) to keep guns away from abusers indefinitely should be passed in more states. More awareness of abuse and the dangers to women in homes where there are guns could save lives (see LCAV study above).
Because a gun was available, two beautiful women are now dead leaving their families with a hole in their lives. I will walk for Kay and for Barbara and for all the other women whose lives have been lost to domestic violence and for the women who suffered from abuse and are alive today because they got help. Women like Kay and Barbara can no longer walk in their shoes. We walk for them. Common sense tells us that guns and domestic abuse do not mix. Let's work to stop the violence.