When Tragedy Comes Close to Home: Centering Solutions and Calling for Community Healing
- Megan Tanahashi, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org | (916) 800-4856
- Jessica Merrill, Communications Manager: email@example.com | (916) 444-7163 x118
Trigger Warning: Gun Violence, Child Loss
SACRAMENTO – Monday night, the lives of three children, Samantha Mora Gutierrez (10yo) Samarah Mora Gutierrez (9yo) Samia Mora Gutierrez (13yo), and their chaperone, Nathaniel Kong, were tragically lost in a murder-suicide — an act of domestic violence here in Sacramento*. Officials say the father and gunman committed this act of terror toward the four others before turning the weapon on himself. The shooting happened during a court-ordered supervised visitation in a church parking lot in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood.
We cannot begin to understand the immense shock and grief of the mother who lost her children at the hands of their father. We would also like to acknowledge the pain felt by the community of The Church in Sacramento, the location at which this incident occurred, as well as the heartbreak felt by many of our staff, partners, and members at local programs who call Sacramento home. This tragedy has occurred in our own backyard, creating ripple effects through our organization and throughout our Beloved Community — especially those who have been personally impacted by domestic violence. For all survivors and community members who need extra support, local domestic violence programs have resources for you:
- WEAVE – 916-920-2952
- My Sister’s House- 916-428-3271
- Empower Yolo – 530-662-1133
- Searchable map of domestic violence organizations in California
The Link Between Domestic Violence & Guns
This recent tragedy was the most devastating escalation of an ongoing pattern of violence and abuse. This man was not legally allowed to possess and should never have had access to a firearm, had these conditions been properly enforced. It is dangerous to treat restraining orders as simply documentation, when we know that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely for a woman experiencing violence to be killed. Survivors can do everything in their power to try to keep themselves and their children safe, but tragedies like this will continue to occur without the proper systems of support. This incident shows us that society continues to expect survivors to assume responsibility for their safety and the safety of their children, instead of the institutions meant to protect them. Domestic violence is not a personal issue, but a pervasive systemic problem.
Domestic violence organizations throughout the state consistently call for their communities to mobilize toward solutions that support survivors in crisis and in the long-term — as well as prevent violence from ever occurring. We invite media, law enforcement, and policy makers to be a part of the solution, to be informed by the expertise of survivors and needs of domestic violence organizations, and to help join efforts to create collective systemic and cultural transformation to end domestic violence. Centering the voices of survivors must be at the forefront and guiding all our work.
Prior to the shooting, the courts issued a 5-year domestic violence restraining order between the survivor and shooter — the highest limit the courts could issue. Additionally, the court ordered anger management courses and required supervised visitation — a consequence that was in contradiction to the severity of this situation. When our courts are making custody visitation decisions, it’s incredibly important that they give serious consideration to Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and survivors’ experiences.
Law enforcement and policy makers especially have a responsibility to enact legislation and implement policies to support survivors and help mitigate violence from escalating, especially when survivors must continue to interact with those who have caused them harm. Currently, law enforcement is not doing enough to enforce restraining orders, take violations of restraining orders seriously, or ensure that firearms are surrendered or seized when a Domestic Violence Restraining Order has been issued by the court.
When someone reaches out to a domestic violence organization, advocates are trained to assess the danger of the situation and the presence of a gun is one of the key indicators that a situation is highly lethal. The connection between a majority of violent shootings and domestic violence is undeniable to those who work with survivors. Early media coverage and commentary from leaders like Governor Newsom and Mayor Steinberg failed to mention that this tragedy is domestic violence. Decision makers neglecting to identify this connection right away disregards the true cause of this violence and disrespects the survivors who have experienced this horror first-hand. While this situation did end in gun violence, let us be clear: this incident is a part of an escalating pattern of controlling behavior that we see in domestic violence, and could have been prevented.
During violent tragedies like this, media coverage must be accurate and bring attention to the ways we are able to end violence. We thank local reporters for highlighting solutions and invite other journalists to also feature the many innovative programs local organizations have developed to end domestic violence. We can change the narrative around domestic violence by offering people resources and solutions instead of only giving this issue attention during the next breaking story.
We also encourage the public to take action — we need a network of changemakers to transform the systems that allow violence to continue. Learn about your local domestic violence program, what resources are available to survivors, how to be a supportive and safe person for survivors in your life and help to educate and engage your community. Support legislation that helps support survivors and prevent future violence.
Prevention is Key
Furthermore, the justice system cannot hold all the answers. We know that survivors have limited options when it comes to pursuing justice and healing from violence while those who cause harm have a lack of resources to support them in changing their behaviors. We cannot continue to use a one-size-fits-all approach when there are survivors who do not feel safe interacting with law enforcement, survivors who want the violence to end and their families to stay together, or survivors somewhere else on this spectrum of needs. As it stands, our current incarceration system emphasizes punishment instead of accountability to survivors and healing. Restorative justice practices, alternative programs to the criminal legal system, and culturally specific practices can be a part of the accountability and healing process in the aftermath of violence.
Ultimately, our goal is to strive toward collective liberation and end violence. As we look toward the future, it is imperative for elected officials to support violence prevention programs that stop this from ever occurring. Prevention programs build community support and help to shift society and culture to address the root causes of violence — oppression. Racism, sexism, economic injustice, and more cause extreme violence. By dismantling systems of oppression, we disrupt the cycle of violence from continuing. While these inequities are violence in and of themselves, they are never an excuse for perpetuating this cycle—but we must understand that this event did not happen in a vacuum.
This act of violence, and all others, exists in a society that:
- does not value and model safe and empowering relationships — free of violence or control;
- does not teach people how to express their emotions in a healthy way;
- normalizes violence against women and gender non-conforming people and upholds misogyny;
- reinforces toxic masculinity and white supremacy;
- is designed to benefit a few privileged people with power while oppressing many;
- And at the end of the day did not stop these preventable deaths.
However, this does not have to be our reality. Each one of us has the power to educate, expand access to needed resources, advocate for policies, transform systems, and to ultimately prevent future tragedies like this one. As our Beloved Community grapples with this loss, we hold you all close to our hearts and promise not to forget Samia, Samantha, and Samarah Mora Gutierrez as well as Nathaniel Kong as we move toward creating a violence-free future.
Please consider contributing to the GoFundMe campaign, set up by the survivor’s sister.
*The Partnership recognizes that what is now recognized as Sacramento is the traditional homelands of the Miwok and Nisenan people. We also recognize that the violence that has taken place here and throughout the nation is a direct result of colonization and white supremacy. By acknowledging the land and the historical context of violence, we offer our solidarity to the Native people whose land we occupy and reaffirm our commitment to ending violence toward them and all people.
About the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence:
The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (the Partnership) is California’s recognized domestic violence coalition, representing over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations and allied individuals across the state. Working at the local, state, and national levels for nearly 40 years, the Partnership has a long track record of successfully passing over 200 pieces of legislation on behalf of domestic violence victims and their children. The Partnership believes that by collectively working with our diverse membership, advocates, and state policy makers, we can deepen the process of healing and restoration by identifying and addressing the underlying and contributing factors. It is through our shared expertise in creating system-wide change by way of our public policy, prevention, communications, and capacity building programs that we are able to support and invest in survivors and families and endeavor to end domestic violence. Every day we inspire, inform and connect all those concerned with this issue, because we believe that together, we’re stronger. With offices in Sacramento, the Partnership’s member programs span the entire state. For more information, visit cpedv.org.