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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Gun Laws Affect Women

Posted By Elvira Cortez: A President's Perspective, Tuesday, November 5, 2019

As a mother, I can think of few situations more scary then having a child experience a school shooting. Unfortunately, too many mothers have experienced that horror. Indeed, too many sisters, aunts, daughters, and wives have lost a loved one to gun violence. I have experienced the loss of a friend to gun violence and know someone who was assaulted with a gun by an abusive husband.

I used to think that gun violence was not that prevalent. However, the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio remind us of the horrors of gun violence and the failure of legislatures to enact meaningful gun restrictions. Indeed, despite having experienced over 300 mass shootings since the beginning of the year, no federal legislation and few state laws have been enacted to reduce gun violence. As the media and politicians have debated assault weapon bans and red flag laws, the conversation has missed the devastating toll gun violence has on women and the strong correlation between gun violence and domestic violence.

Research has shown that over 50% of mass shootings were related to domestic violence. Women are five times more likely to be murdered by a domestic abuser if there’s a gun at home. Women are twenty-one times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed nations.

There are many examples of perpetrators of mass shootings having a history of domestic violence. The shooter who perpetrated the shooting at the Annapolis Capital Gazette was known to have threatened a former female classmate. The Marjory Stoneham Douglas shooter was abusive to his ex-girlfriend, and threatened and stalked female classmates. The shooter at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas had been convicted of domestic violence against his wife.

Given these statistics, the solution seems deceptively simple – just prohibit the possession of guns by someone convicted of domestic violence. Since 2001, federal law, under the Lautenberg Amendment, has prohibited convicted individuals from possessing guns. However, significant loopholes to gun ownership by domestic abusers exist.

For example, while federal law prohibits perpetrators convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns, thirty-six states lack confiscation policies. In other words, nothing prevents convicted offenders from using guns already in their possession.

Federal law also does not apply to abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers. Women are as likely to be killed by dating partners as by spouses. In an average month, at least 52 American women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, and many more are injured. Nearly 1 million women in the country alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. Moreover, 85 percent of attempted homicides of women were preceded by a stalking incident by the perpetrator.

In addition, background check requirements do not apply to gun purchases from unlicensed, private sellers. From January 2009 to December 2016, 34% of mass shootings were committed by shooters prohibited from owning guns. Background checks should be required for all purchases, including gun shows and private sellers, to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence perpetrators and others prohibited persons.

As Lawyers Club advocates for laws to better the lives of women in society, common sense gun restrictions are necessary not only to prevent mass shootings but to prevent violence against women in general. Enacting protective gun measures will not only help keep our communities safer but also our homes.

 

-Article first published in LC News, November 2019

 

Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.

 

 

Tags:  background checks  domestic violence  gun safety  gun violence  Lautenberg Amendment  loopholes  mass shootings 

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Guest Blog - Surviving Domestic Violence: My Personal Journey

Posted By Dovie Yoana King, Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Guest Blog - Surviving Domestic Violence: My Personal Journey

 

Domestic violence is a serious, preventable, public health epidemic that affects millions of Americans each year. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, education, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or national origin. Domestic violence is usually accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control.

 

Survivors of abuse tend to suffer alone in silence, leading lives of isolation, shame, fear and secrecy. It takes incredible determination for survivors to step forward and seek help. I speak from personal experience, as I too was once a victim of domestic violence.

 

In my case, I married over a decade ago with every illusion of living a happy life. I was a young attorney at the peak of my career and thriving in my personal and professional life. I had a bright future ahead of me; however, the illusion of happiness quickly shattered. I endured domestic violence in the form of emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, and financial abuse for years. 

 

Unfortunately, like many other professional women, I did not think it could happen to me. After all, I am educated, bright, and talented. I have high self-esteem and am successful in my career as a lawyer, fighting for social justice on behalf of my clients. Thus, I did not feel I fit the stereotype of an abused woman. But behind closed doors, I was hiding a dark secret – I was being constantly berated, belittled, humiliated, and devalued by my abuser, and all of this was compounded by other forms of abuse.

 

But all was not lost. I decided to break the silence and get help to escape the abuse. I contacted a hotline for help and was put in touch with my local police department. From there, I was referred to the San Diego Family Justice Center, which is an organization that provides free and comprehensive services to victims of abuse and their children. I filed for divorce and successfully obtained both a domestic violence restraining order and the sole, legal, and physical custody of my young child. I began attending weekly support groups and therapy sessions for abused women. In the process, I connected with other survivors who came from all walks of life, finding mutual support and inspiration that persists to this day. In time, my child and I were able to move from San Diego to Boston, where I accepted a position at Harvard Law School. We now enjoy greater peace and safety.

 

Despite that devastating chapter in my life, I consider myself lucky because I got help through it. My goal in publically sharing my story is to shatter stereotypes about who is affected by domestic violence. Often, intelligent and successful women like me fall victim to abuse and are quickly engulfed in shame. That shame is one way an abuser exerts power and control over a woman to keep her trapped in the abusive relationship, and reaching out is a good first step in breaking free. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers confidential 24/7 help at 1-800-799-7233.

Guest blogger Dovie Yoana King is the founder and director of SOAR for Justice (www.soarforjustice.org), an organization dedicated to helping survivors of abuse rise for justice. 

Tags:  abuse  custody  domestic violence  escape  family violence  guest blogger  hotline  LCB  National Domestic Violence Hotline  police  San Diego Family Justice Center  stereotypes  survivors 

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