Homicide rate explodes when guns enter into a relationship with domestic violence

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — This week, WAVY News has reported about two deadly shootings involving domestic violence.

In one case, a Virginia Beach woman is behind bars, accused of killing her husband. In Norfolk, police shot and killed a woman who allegedly shot her husband.

10 On Your Side talked to local domestic violence experts about why so many women in domestic violence situation end up dead or in jail.

Wynn Horton, with the HER Shelter said, “There’s a high rate of homicide in intimate partner violence.”

Horton works with domestic abuse victims everyday. When he saw the news reports of deadly shootings in Hampton Roads this week, one statistic leaps out at him: “When a gun is introduced into the relationship, the chances of homicide go up about 500 percent.”

Horton says that the presence of a gun puts both the victim and abusers at risk, but he said it’s usually the woman — who is usually the victim — that ends up dead.

“Seventy-eight percent of women that are killed are killed by an intimate partner; four percent of men that are killed are killed by an intimate partner, so you see the huge difference.”

According to the ACLU, as many as 90 percent of the women in prison today for killing men had previously been battered by those men. Many had filed charges or protective orders against those men at one time, but later dropped them.

“Victims of domestic violence are often coerced and threatened by their abuser not to follow through with legal action or seek help,” said Robin Gauthier, Director of Samaritan House in Virginia Beach. “Without support, they become isolated and vulnerable to defending themselves. We strongly advocate for alternatives to incarceration that are trauma informed.”

Horton says prevention is key.

“If we can help you get out now or we can help you get resources to a friend or a mother or a family member, that could be the difference between life and death.”

The four large domestic violence shelters in Hampton Roads are now connected to the same crisis hotline number, making it easier to remember and easier to get services to those who need them quickly. That number is 757-251-0144.