Gun violence is not a new phenomenon in the U.S. In fact, it is so common, much has been made over how many have seemingly become desensitized to coverage of such deaths.
But when the news that an entire family has been killed from within, even the most desensitized audiences take notice. In the U.S., this happens every five days.
Among researchers, it’s called “family annihilation” and refers to instances where one person kills at least 2 close family members, often including their spouse or dating partner, parents, or children.
That’s according to a study conducted by the Indianapolis Star and analyzed by the Austin American-Statesman. In their analysis, the Statesman found that 12% of the victims in these cases were Texans, making it the nation’s leader.
Mikisha Hooper is the coordinated community response manager for the Texas Council on Family Violence. She compiles their annual domestic violence homicide research and spoke to the Texas Standard about the Indianapolis Star study.
The study’s findings didn’t surprise her.
“I think that if I reconciled our findings with the findings that they had in their investigation, we might find that the number is even higher,” she said.
And that’s likely because of the high access to guns in Texas.
“In Texas we have over 200 domestic violence homicides every year,” Hooper said. “A leading driver of domestic violence homicides in Texas and in this investigation is firearm access and we see that over 75% of domestic violence homicides in Texas are perpetrated with a firearm.”
The data was focused on the two and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic. For Hooper, this made sense since overall domestic violence and related homicides spiked around this time.
“A lot of the stressors of the COVID pandemic exacerbated the issues around domestic violence and mental health. So that isolation, the financial pressure, and those types of things are exacerbating the increase in the number of homicides that we’re seeing,” she said.
But as far as prevention goes, Hooper worries that there is not enough being done.
“What we know is that we need many layers of prevention to interrupt these really tragic outcomes,” Hooper said.
She said there are three main layers that would be helpful: educating young people about what healthy relationships look like, risk factor screening for law enforcement so they can decide how best to proceed in domestic violence situations, and long-term support for victims of domestic violence and family annihilation tragedies.
But there are a lot of resources that do exist in Texas for both victims and perpetrators.
“We have services for people who harm their partners that are outside of incarceration. For example, some psycho-educational services called battering intervention and prevention,” Hooper said. “And then we have models for law enforcement, for health care providers to use screening and intervention with everyone that they’re seeing.”
And for those who are in a critical situation, Hooper said the best resource is always to call 9-1-1. But if you don’t feel like that’s an option, or you’re wary of involving the police, there’s a national hotline that can help walk you through your options.
“They provide anonymous support, safety planning and connection to your local services,” Hooper said. “And they’ll help you get connected to a program in your community that can help navigate the more complex issues that you’re facing regarding safety and dealing with the abuse that you’re experiencing.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 800-799-7233. They offer 24/7 call support, live chat, and text support. They also have resources to plan for safety, identify abuse and support loved ones.