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‘Missourians are Paying With Their Lives For Our State's Lack of Gun Laws’

Provided by Matthew Huffman

Matthew Huffman works at the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and we checked in – eight months into the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He spoke about how the lives of Missourians experiencing domestic violence are being further complicated by intersecting factors – housing insecurity, continued isolation, gun violence and more. 

Huffman mentioned a new report from The Violence Policy Centercalled “When Men Murder Women An Analysis of 2018 Homicide Data,” in which Missouri ranks 2nd for number of women killed by intimate partners.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Matthew Huffman: From January to June, the two most commonly requested services were emergency shelter and legal advocacy, and so in that same timeframe, here in Missouri, despite many domestic violence shelters having to kind of rearrange how they provide shelters – Missouri DV [domestic violence] shelters provided a safe shelter to more than 5,800 survivors and their families.

But consistently, we did see that there was a strong need for emergency shelter through the first half of the year, and that's what we're still hearing too. That many survivors are still struggling with feelings of isolation and that can increase the level or severity of violence.

And so, we are still really seeing that need for emergency shelter services, as well as ongoing things like legal advocacy, safety planning, and support. Counseling and support groups – many of those things have moved virtually, but you can't really move shelter into a virtual space, and so, that's still a very real necessity for folks in Missouri.

You know, I don't want to in any way downplay the severity of the virus, because you know, it is and will continue to be a major public health crisis in Missouri. That being said, I think the pandemic has put blinders on other public health crises that are happening.

And so, the Violence Policy Center recently released two new reports. One is on intimate partner homicide, and another is on black homicide victimization. So, in these two reports, Missouri is ranked second in the nation for the number of women killed by their male intimate partners, and Missouri is ranked first in the nation for the number of homicides against black individuals.

And the common denominator there are guns – most commonly handguns.

And so, the simple fact of that is Missourians are paying with their lives for our state's lack of gun laws, and this is not a number one and number two ranking that we should be proud of as a state. We shouldn't want to be the nation's leader in domestic violence homicides and black homicides.

So, we need to be having these conversations now. We need to make sure that folks understand the frequency and severity of how this violence is occurring in our state, and we need to have really coordinated efforts to prevent it from happening, and then to strengthen our policies around it, as well.

I think that, you know, something that the pandemic has done is really expose the various health inequalities that Missourians are facing.

So, we also have to look at these other intersecting factors: Do people have the opportunity to have stable and affordable housing? Do people have the ability to live in a place where they can have access to fresh and nutritious food?

You know, many Missourians were already working hard to make ends meet, and were living paycheck to paycheck, and part of what we see, in the pandemic, is that many more folks are now experiencing housing insecurity and food insecurity.

On top of, you know, we are still in the middle of the pandemic, and so, I think we really do need to be looking at how all of these things are intersecting and how that's impacting the most vulnerable Missourians.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
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