Executive Director, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
Recently, I attended a domestic violence Summit to launch the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense with Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I was honored to join leaders from across the nation to address the intersection of guns and domestic violence. I was asked to share my personal story as a survivor of domestic and gun violence. Though I have told my story many times, this time felt different. To be on the same stage with other survivors was more than moving, it was empowering. I know that what happened to me helps me to empathize with other survivors and emboldens me to advocate to end the dangerous mix of domestic violence and guns.
Many years ago, my then-husband kept many guns. He was a gun “possessor”, and over the many years we were married, he consistently used guns to terrorize and to control. Most of the time, he had no need to “brandish” the weapon to inflict fear. For instance, during the early part of our 13-year marriage, he kept the gun on the refrigerator. It was a constant reminder of who was in control.
After many years of abuse, I resolved to leave. It took two years to work up the courage and plan my son’s and my escape, because I was fully aware that the lethality risk would escalate, and he would continue to use the gun to control, or worse, kill me. When I left, I knew I was risking my son’s life and my own.
For the next few months, he harassed and stalked my son and me. We moved, we went to a shelter; we stopped our lives and focused on surviving.
Six months after we left, he kidnapped me at gunpoint. During this time, he used the gun to threaten me, to threaten to take his own life, and to threaten to kill my son, family and friends. He released me after four long hours and was apprehended, arrested and charged with felony kidnapping. Of course, law enforcement confiscated the gun, and I remember feeling relieved at the time. At least he no longer had his gun.
But, within a few weeks, he obtained another gun. And me? I had a protection order, and my son and I were in hiding with only a piece of paper to protect us.
He found me again one evening, two months after the kidnapping. He followed me, forced my car over, pulled a gun and shot me three times, twice in the head. Remarkably, I survived, and I had no lasting physical injuries.
Four months later, he used that same gun to take his own life.
I feel fortunate to have survived two gun-enabled attempts on my life. Countless thousands are not alive to share their stories. I am certain that sensible gun laws would have prevented him from obtaining or, at minimum, would have made it more difficult for him to obtain the gun he used to shoot me and leave me for dead.
I believe very strongly that we as a nation have a responsibility to protect victims of domestic violence. We have a responsibility to reassure domestic and dating violence victims we are doing all we can to ensure that abusers have limited access to guns and that systems will enforce accountability. We must recognize domestic violence and stalking are precursors to homicide, and we must understand dating violence is a thing – a real thing – in which far too many perpetrators are not held accountable.
Far too many are still suffering and trying to break free from the violence in their lives. We must act to reduce the risks and chances that guns are a part of that equation. As a nation, knowing domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed by their abusers if the perpetrators have access to guns, how, in good conscience, can we do anything but act – ask – demand that our nation do something to end domestic violence deaths from guns? I plan to act, personally and professionally and ask you to join all who are working to advocate for sensible gun violence prevention measures.
I ask to you to speak for those victims and survivors who cannot speak for themselves and for those who have had their voices silenced forever.
We need your voices and we need your help! Let’s do this!
Ms. Ruth M. Glenn is currently the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Previously Ms. Glenn was employed by the Colorado Department of Human Services for 28 years and served as the Director of the Domestic Violence Program (DVP) for the last nine of those years. Ruth has worked and volunteered in the domestic violence field for 20 years and holds a Masters’ in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Colorado Denver, Program on Domestic Violence, as well as a degree in Communications. Ruth is a survivor of domestic violence and shares her experiences to educate about domestic violence.
YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit www.ywca.org/wwv and join the conversation with #EndDVNow.