Statement of purpose In the context of intimate partner violence (IPV), perpetrators may use guns to injure, scare, and/or manipulate their partner. Gun threats are associated with increased PTSD symptom severity, sleep loss, and heightened fear among IPV survivors. Gun threats are also an indicator for homicide risk. Despite the negative consequences associated with gun related IPV, little research documents the prevalence and nature of these nonfatal behaviors. Fortunately, state and federal law restrict gun access for IPV perpetrators in qualifying domestic violence protective order (DVPO) cases. Using data from DVPO cases, we sought to document the extent to which perpetrators (DVPO defendants) engage in gun related IPV.
Methods/Approach We used observational data from DVPO casefiles and hearings that were collected for the CASE IPV study, a North Carolina-based project that used a representative sampling strategy to examine civil protective order processes and outcomes.
Results In our sample (n= 406), there was evidence of gun related IPV in one out of four cases (n=101, 25.6%). Specifically, perpetrators had verbally threatened to harm their partner with a gun (22%, n=84), displayed or discharged a gun in a threatening manner (10%, n=42), or physically used a gun to shoot at or hit a survivor in (0.6%, n=3). More severe abuse (including physical abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, etc.) was associated with increased odds of gun related IPV (OR = 2.01, 95% CI: 1.5, 2.7), controlling for defendant age, race, county rurality, and marital status.
Conclusions Survivors of IPV who seek protective orders experience high levels of violence, and the incidence of gun related IPV in this sample was disturbingly common. Furthermore, gun related IPV co-occurs with other severe abusive behaviors.
Significance We must ensure that existing legal mechanisms to restrict abuser access to firearms for DVPO cases are properly implemented and enforced.
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