As I sat down to write this week’s blog, I reflected on the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas last week. I am asking all of my readers to remember to pray for everyone involved in that incident. From the students and teachers that were attacked, the family members of those attacked, the police, firefighters, and EMS personnel, and yes, the shooter too. We also need to pray that potential future events might stopped before they occur so that there is not another senseless loss of life. Details are still coming in, and the underlying factors to this horrible event are still emerging. No matter what the underlying factors are, I believe that we all can agree that this was a horrible and irrational shooting incident.
Part of preventing an incident is knowing the signs before an incident occurs. By knowing the underlying motivations and the warning signs, we are better prepared to stop it before it occurs. My research has identified five different types of mass shooters. They are:
- Terrorist shooter
- PTSD Shooter
- Domestic spillover shooter
- Mental health shooter
- Fame and recognition shooter
While I could go in the order they are posted, I feel it would be better to start with the most prevalent. That means I will start with the Domestic Spillover Shooter. Anyone that has ever had their heart broken by a domestic partner will know that domestic issues can be devastating. Relationship problems can cause grief, anger, disappointment, shock, denial, fear, and many other feelings. To list all of the feelings that an individual could go through would be nearly impossible, but these emotions are real to the person who is suffering from a break-up. Sometimes these emotions overcome individuals to the point that they do irrational things. Whether a lapse in judgement, an uncontrolled temper, or a mental health issue, the actions that some take are frightening, and can even deadly. Watching and knowing key signs may assist the church in pre-identifying those that may act out.
It is important to note that according to statistics by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (n.d.), 24% of women and 14% of men (over the age 18) in the United States will suffer severe physical violence in their lifetime. Domestic violence affects over 12 million people per year. More frightening is that 48% of all women and men have suffered psychological abuse from their domestic partner. Additionally, 16% of women and 5% of men will be the victim of stalking in their lifetime (National Domestic Violence Hotline, n.d.).
One method of identifying whether past or current domestic abuse occurred, is to look for specific warning signs in the person who you suspect is being abused. Those signs can include physical signs of injury (such as bruising and welts), low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. You may also notice that they tend to stay isolated from family, friends, and their church family. If their abuser is present, they will tend to stay close by, so not to anger them. They may not take pride in themselves or their children, including their (or their children) physical appearance being unkempt. You may even suspect drug or alcohol abuse.
If you are looking for signs in the potential abuser, those signs can be controlling or unpredictable behavior, extreme jealousy, unrealistic expectations, or they may be verbally abusive to the victim or their children. This abuser will usually isolate their victims from others and/or make sure they are present any time the victims is near someone else. They may suffer sudden mood swings, and they may be cruel to children and/or animals. Many times, they will threaten violence to solve any problems they have, or they may blame others for their problems. In some instances, you may feel that they are a ticking time bomb, ready to go off.
When there is a break-up, or sometimes even a proposed break-up, the domestic aggressor may act out. Their targets might be those they believe led to the break-up, the victim, or the victims’ children, family, and/or friends may be their target. They may act out of anger, impulse, revenge, or from a mental breakdown. Sometimes, these individuals have the mentality “If I can’t have them, then nobody will have them”. Other times, they blame others for splitting the couple up or their domestic problems. If they mentally work themselves up, they might act out and become a mass shooter.
The common weapons used by these individuals are guns and knives. In most instances, they want to see the damage being done. This is why they will usually inflict the damage themselves. While the aggressor can be male or female, men are typically the perpetrator of mass shootings, while women typically harm or kill the individual they have an issue with. This is not to say that a woman could not, or would not, perpetrate a mass shooting, but statistically speaking they are less likely than men to commit a mass shooting.
If you see the signs of domestic abuse, or you have been told by an individual that they are being abused, you should immediately involve law enforcement. A mass shooting could occur even if they are not splitting up! The aggressor may be upset because the abused person is attending church, or even talking to someone about the couple’s problems. If you are aware of or suspect abuse and there is a split-up, then the church should be hypervigilant in watching for the abuser. It does not even matter if the abused is in hiding, the abuser may associate, even if untrue, that the church or someone in the church is responsible for the break-up.
Next week, I will discuss the Mental Health Shooter, and things to watch for with them. Until next week, be vigilant and maintain a strong situational awareness, … Mark
National Domestic Violence Hotline (n.d.). Get the facts & figures. Retrieved on May 23, 2018 from: http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/