15 Sep 2016

How my story might have been different had guns not been a part of the equation?”

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genesis

Gun Panel Discussion

Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support

Luncheon Lecture Series

Meadows Museum

(SMU Campus)

09/07/16

 

 

My husband suffered from mental illness and as his illness escalated, so did the verbal abuse that over time escalated to violent behavior. He was a very sick man and when his illness became un-manageable, I asked for help.

 

I repeatedly pleaded with the Champaign County Sherriff and the Illinois State Police to help me remove his rather expansive collection of firearms.

 

No one came . . . .

 

My cries were dismissed as an overreaction to a marital spat . . . . perhaps a precursor to what would probably end in nothing more than messy divorce.

 

On February 27, 2009, our story ultimately ended with an attempted murder / suicide in that he shot me three times with a .45 caliber hand gun and then turned the gun on himself.

 

Three of our four children were in the home at the time and only by the Grace of God were they spared. It was our youngest child, my daughter who was then six years old that came running when she heard my cries for help. The memory of her father’s face with blood pooling out of his mouth is emblazoned in her precious little mind forever.

 

I was asked to speak about “How my story might have been different had guns not been a part of the equation?

1.  My first response is simply that the presence of guns robbed us of the hope that we could have gotten my husband the help that he so desperately needed.

Collectively as a family (and by family I also include his mother, brothers and close friends), we could have had more time to seek alternative treatments and search new avenues. We were actively and aggressively working on this and to this day, I believe that his illness could have been effectively treated and better managed.

2.  My next thought is it would have been more difficult for him to hurt me. And in all truthfulness, I don’t think he would have harmed me had guns not be present.

An impulse, a whim, and a split-second was all it took to pull the trigger.

The result of that emotionally charged action was that I lost over a year of my life recovering physically and I still struggle with the numerous issues mentally.

To think that the man, I shared a bed with; a man with whom I had four amazing children with; a man who I chose to share my life with, tried to murder me. This is a very heavy thing to weigh on one’s mind.

My injuries were nearly fatal and whereas I’m thankful every single day that I survived, the price for him to be in possession of guns was far too great for the rest of us.

3.  The presence of guns facilitated a very violent and traumatic event that my children will always have to manage. And who knows what the long-term consequences of this will be with respect to my children’s ability to function as grounded and well-adjusted adults in society?

They / we face bouts with post-traumatic stress disorder and often times there are unpredictable triggers that invoke and unpredictable emotional response. Activities that many take for granted such as going to the movies, sometimes prove challenging for us.

For example when watching something as innocent as Spider-Man, my daughter had a full blown breakdown. In the movie, Peter Parker’s uncle is shot by a villainous character and to most children, this would be just part of a super-hero’s storyline. Not so for our family. We instead, are constantly on alert that there might be something that could summon a horrific memory.

Today, before I came to this event, I went to visit my 15 year old son at Texas Presbyterian. Last night it was recommended that be admitted to the inpatient treatment center to seek counseling as he tries to make sense of what happened to our family, to try to figure out how to battle the demons that he will always be faced with.

In fact in the last three years, I have had a child hospitalized in an effort to learn the skill set with which to deal with the tragedy that is a part of their history.

My children’s (Gabe, Jason, Hunter and Katherine’s) innocence was lost forever. But it started way before the day of the shooting . . . They / we lived in fear. They knew their father was sick, that he was prone to erratic behavior and that he could be easily angered. The presence of guns definitely added another layer of stress to an increasingly dysfunctional situation.

 

Would he have ultimately committed suicide?  Perhaps . . . but the guns made it easier and gave him the ability to act on impulse and with spontaneity. It also gave him a means with which to harm another . . . a means to act on a whim simply because he was having a mentally off day.

 

We tend to view this societal problem from a macro level – the 10,000 feet high level . . . believing that these things don’t and wouldn’t happen to us. I too, was that person. But it did happen to me . . . and I never thought that I would be a victim of domestic violence and a gunshot survivor – a 3-bullet survivor no less.

 

Every tragedy has a residual domino effect on the children and within one’s community. This is a societal problem and I hope that my story provides you with some insight on what happens on a micro level . . . in the aftermath.

 

So the next time you turn on the nightly news and hear the story of a domestic situation that ultimately escalated into somebody being shot and most likely killed, I hope you will think of me . . . Because when the headlines are over, there still remains a tremendous amount of brokenness that can never totally be repaired.

 

 

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