Johnny Lee is the Founder of Peace@Work, an agency dedicated to the prevention of violence, in and through the workplace. Previously, he was the Workplace Violence Specialist for the State of North Carolina and the Victim Services Coordinator for the Asheville Police Department. He also provides the ePanicButton, the Threat Assessment Tool and the Rampage Report.
When nationally recognized tragedies strike such as the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., there is an upsurge in focus, resources and money devoted to security. An attitude that tragedies like these must be prevented may be well intended, but that attitude misses rational direction. While legislation is developed, systems are overhauled and entities and organizations such as schools and businesses scramble to run “Active Shooter Drills,” the reality of preventing the actions of the disgruntled employee or student assailant is remote at best.
The tragedy is that the much more prevalent threat of domestic violence does not receive the same amount of focus though the need is greater and resources can be better applied. First, far more people are killed due to domestic violence than from these random, rampage assaults. It is true that there may be more killed in a single incident, but when all the murders are combined there are an average of three to four people killed every day by an intimate partner. Hundreds of women, men and children are murdered by an ex-partner every year, and yet the perception is that the few dozen cases of workplace and school violence is a greater risk.
Second, domestic violence homicides are much easier to predict. As awful as the lethal threats and terror that the victims must endure are, they provide the obvious evidence of their danger. When nurse Lori Dupont was killed in Windsor, Canada by a doctor she was dating, there was long history of reported assaults, documented threats and direct warnings to administration. These glaring red flags were not available in the tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Aurora theater nor the Navy Yard tragedies.
Third, promising practices are being proven to be effective in stopping the assaults. While there is not an absolute guarantee, interventions can be put into place to mitigate the threat. The abuser’s behavior provides cause for incarceration, orders for protection can remove firearms, and GPS technology can keep them on house arrest or at least notify the victim of their proximity.
Everyone agrees that the violence needs to stop and that innocent lives need to be protected. The issue is that the real danger that is posed to millions of women and children every year is not fully appreciated. Therefore, funding for programs, attention for security directors and general awareness is sadly lacking where there is opportunity to really save lives.
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