Women and Gun Violence event discusses helping victims of domestic violence

The student organization UConn Against Gun Violence held a presentation about active shooter survival on April 20. The photo is from the last event in September and is of Elizabeth Charash who is the President of UConn Against Gun Violence and also a staff writer for the DC. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The student organization UConn Against Gun Violence held a presentation about active shooter survival on April 20. The photo is from the last event in September and is of Elizabeth Charash who is the President of UConn Against Gun Violence and also a staff writer for the DC. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

With the issue of gun violence on the rise in contemporary politics, it is becoming increasingly important to discuss how gun policies affect those in domestic disputes. This prompted UConn Against Gun Violence to partner with the University of Connecticut Police Department (UCPD) and the UConn School of Public Policy in order to host Women and Gun Violence this past Wednesday.

The talk began with Officer Matthew Zadrowski and Sergeant Justin Gilbert of the UCPD describing how they go about handling domestic violence cases on campus. As police officers on a college campus, it is of the utmost importance that they understand the laws regarding domestic disputes, prompting both Gilbert and Zadrowski to describe the necessary domestic violence training required to be on UCPD. According to Zadrowski, domestic violence disputes are a mandated arrest, meaning that officers have to arrest the perpetrator regardless of whether or not the victim wants to press charges.

After the perpetrator is arrested, UCPD officers screen high risk victims using the Lethality Assessment Program. This screening measures the risk level of homicide for these victims. If certain criteria are met, UCPD officers will offer assistance and resources to the victim. Zadrowski and Gilbert also discussed what they do to ensure the safety of victims after a domestic violence dispute. Officers work with the victim to create a safety plan, and also can obtain a risk warrant to cease weapons in the house in order to stop further violence.

Dr. Kerri Raissian, a professor in the Department of Public Policy, was the next panelist in the discussion. Dr. Raissian began by describing her own personal experiences with domestic violence, and how these experiences prompted her to study public policy and work in domestic violence prevention. For many years before attending graduate school, Dr. Raissian was involved in a wide array of domestic violence intervention, working in the criminal justice system and in a victim’s shelter.

Staying true to the title of the event, Dr. Raissian also discussed the Gun Control Act and its effect on domestic violence homicides in the United States. A part of this act, passed in 1996, disallows those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning a gun, prompting Dr. Raissian to ask “the question is, does that save lives?” According to the research cited by Dr. Raissian, the answer to that question is yes, as gun homicides for women in intimate relationships and sons in familial relationships have seen a significant decline since the implementation of the law.

Dr. Raissian finished up her portion of the panel by discussing the complexity of domestic violence situations. There are people who are reluctant to receive police or volunteer intervention, some of these people may even get upset at those who are trying to assist them. Dr. Raissian stressed the importance of understanding that domestic violence is complex, and the situation is different from person to person. While some victims willingly accept intervention and assistance, others may lose a source of income or have a strain put on their relationships- prompting some victims to refuse any sort of assistance or intervention. Dr. Raissian made it clear that in order to be an ally to victims of domestic violence, it is of the utmost importance that you try to be empathic and understanding of the victims’ situation, and accepting the possible unwillingness that may come along with that.

The floor was then opened for an informative question and answer session, where attendees asked the panelists questions regarding the limitations on making programs readily available for victims, what the root cause of domestic violence was and how we, as students, can work to eliminate the issue of domestic violence. The panelists suggested that the way to prevent domestic violence was for students, UCPD and other school officials to work together in order to ensure that people are educated on what domestic violence is, and how to help victims.

Eighth-semester physiology and neurobiology student Tim Nolan stressed the importance of participating in events that discuss domestic violence, stating “If we could publicize events that are promoting public safety, promoting better relationships with our police officers here, that could really just make the campus a much happier, safer place for us.”


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.