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Response to United States vs. Rahimi

By Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter, Safe Havens' Co-Director

The content of this blog post includes references to sexual and domestic violence and elder abuse. These topics can be spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually challenging. We hope that you will take care of yourself and engage at the level that is best for you as we consider these important topics that call for bravery, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

For decades we focused on physical injuries when we thought about intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence). More recently we've learned that intimate partner violence is not just a single violent action, but rather a comprehensive system of coercive control. Survivors of intimate partner violence are in a relationship with someone who wants to control their every move, their every moment, their every breath, and sometimes even their death.

When it comes to totally controlling another human being, a gun is a really effective weapon. It is terrifying to be connected with someone who is sexually,​ physically,​ financially, verbally, emotionally, and/or spiritually abusive, dangerous, and threatening AND who has a gun. Perhaps the abuser has (as one survivor reported to me) taken the survivor’s cell phone and ripped the home phone out of the wall. Or (as another survivor reported to me), perhaps the abuser sleeps with a gun under their pillow. Perhaps the abuser plays “Russian Roulette” with their gun to the survivor’s head. Perhaps the children are witnesses.

It is because I have heard these experiences from survivors of intimate partner violence, because I have heard the edge of terror in their voices, that I strongly condemn and protest the decision of a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (United States v. Rahimi), which strikes down the federal law that allows police to remove guns from a home where there is an active restraining order. This decision endangers victims of domestic violence and their family members. When both guns and domestic violence are present, the person experiencing abuse is 5 times more likely to be murdered. Every single month in the U.S., 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.

As a Christian faith leader, my mind turns to John 10:10b: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” This scripture speaks of God’s wish for all of us to have a life filled with physical, emotional, and spiritual joy and wellbeing.

The often overlooked but necessary foundation of abundant life is safety. This tragic and unsafe court decision will increase the trauma, fear, and death that survivors of abuse and their families experience.

We can do better. This decision should be overturned.


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