Domestic and Dating Violence Often Precursors to Mass Shootings

The Santa Fe High School mass shooting should remind all K-12, higher ed and healthcare campuses of the importance of preventing and appropriately responding to sexual harassment, domestic and dating violence cases.

Domestic and Dating Violence Often Precursors to Mass Shootings

As the terrible details of Friday’s mass shooting – this time at Santa Fe High School in Texas – are coming to light, we’re discovering that, once again, dating violence and sexual harassment may have played a significant role.

One of the first victims of the May 18 tragedy was 16-year-old Shana Fisher who, according to several news sources, had rejected romantic advances by the gunman for months. According to her mother, the situation got so bad that only a week before the attack, Fisher stood up to him and “embarrassed him in class because she felt she had to.” Whether this move prompted the suspect to carry out his attack has yet to be determined, but at this point it certainly looks like it could be at least part of his motive.

This isn’t the first time dating violence, domestic violence or sexual harassment have played a significant role in a school shooting. In March, a Great Mills High School student in Maryland shot his ex-girlfriend and another student before turning the gun on himself after being confronted by the SRO on campus. The gunman’s ex-girlfriend died from her injuries.

The gunman responsible for last year’s shooting at North Park Elementary School had a long history of violence against the women in his life before he walked into to his wife’s classroom, shot her and two students and then took his own life.

College and healthcare campuses have also experienced their fair share of dating and domestic violence, sexual harassment and stalking. It’s a cultural issue that affects our nation as a whole. Depending on how you count U.S. mass shootings, as many as 50 percent have their roots in domestic violence.

Santa Fe, Great Mills and North Park are just three of the many examples of how relationship issues can escalate to murder, often killing or injuring not only the perpetrator’s prime targets, but others in their immediate vicinity.

If the claims in the Santa Fe case about Fisher spurning the advances of the suspect are true, it will once again highlight the importance of the sexual violence prevention and response portion of Title IX. Santa Fe may serve as another tragic reminder that dating violence and sexual harassment often turn deadly. If your campus doesn’t take these Title IX issues seriously, now is a good time to start.

And as the North Park tragedy shows, the focus on dating violence or domestic violence shouldn’t be limited to students. Teachers, nurses, administrators, doctors and other staff must also be protected. With 75 percent of domestic violence victims being targeted at work, there are some concrete steps that I outlined earlier this month for healthcare facilities that also apply to K-12 schools and higher education. You can check out those suggestions here.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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