The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center held the second and final part of our dinner series on the evening of Wednesday June 15, to further discuss the intersections between domestic violence and community gun violence. Similar to the first dinner, individuals from a diverse set of professional backgrounds who usually work in silos were brought together to brainstorm ways in which all involved can work together to positively impact those affected over dinner.

Because of recent events, bringing people together to discuss these issues is very timely. The evening’s facilitator, Marlon Peterson, opened the discussion with the Orlando Massacre that occurred on June 12, 2016. On that day, 29-year old Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack that took place inside of Pulse, a gay nightclub. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in the United States.  

Peterson then distributed to the group Soraya Chemaly’s Rolling Stone article In Orlando, as Usual, Domestic Violence Was Ignored Red Flag. In this articles she speaks at length about the intersections between domestic violence and gun violence as well as the role of masculinity and male entitlement to fuel our discourse. She stated that Mateen had an extensive history of intimate partner violence. Mateen reportedly beat his ex-wife, Sitora Yusifiy, and even held her hostage once. Because of his abuse towards her, Yusifiy divorced him after only four months of marriage. To show the intersections of gun violence and domestic violence, Chemaly’s article also stated “according to a conservative estimate by the FBI, 57 percent of the mass shootings (involving more than four victims) between January 2009 and June 2014 involved a perpetrator killing an intimate partner or other family member. In other words, men killing women intimates and their children and relatives are the country’s prototypical mass shooters.”

Some of the conversations at this dinner involved speaking about unhealthy norms that surround masculinity and how masculinity and gun violence are mutually inclusive. “Masculinity promotes a culture of violence”, stated one dinner participant. The group discussed what solutions agencies and organizations in our neighborhood can offer us in dealing with the issues of domestic violence and gun violence. Dinner participants responded to this by saying that before these agencies can offer us solutions, they need to offer visible resolutions, they must make their language accessible to the communities they serve, and agencies must begin speaking to one another to stop the duplication of services being offered to the community, and “heal our violent law enforcement”. Tying this all in with the issue of domestic violence, the group reached the consensus that there is “a disconnect in the work being done between gun violence and domestic violence, but these issues are really connected.”

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is happy to have brought together two groups of professionals to discuss the connections between gun-violence and domestic violence.  We understand how multi-layered the issues are and that they are often times mutually inclusive. The results acquired from these dinners will help the Mediation Center develop their new program “The Bedford Stuyvesant Anti-Violence Project” that will work to tackle these issues. The new project is made possible through the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program grant that empowers communities to create comprehensive strategies to address crime problems tailored to their needs. In neighborhoods across the country, projects under this federal grant work to reduce crime and improve community safety as part of a comprehensive strategy to advance neighborhood revitalization goals through targeting neighborhoods considered as being hot-spots and  employ data-driven, cross-sector strategies to reduce crime and violence.

The thoughts and answers to these questions were captured by Crystal Bruno through graphic facilitation to give us illustrations of the findings of our dinner discussion. Crystal Bruno is an illustrator, muralist, and teaching artist born, raised, and based in New York City.