INDIANAPOLIS — Across Indiana, domestic violence homicides are trending downward, but deaths by a firearm in these incidents are increasing.
“When we say numbers are down, what we look at is our peak during the lockdown and pandemic, so during 2020 to 2021, we had about a 180% increase in domestic violence homicides. We are down from those numbers, but we have still been higher than what our previous average was,” Caryn Burton said.
According to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV), while the number of fatalities due to intimate partner violence has decreased, firearm deaths in domestic violence related occurrences have risen by 23%.
ICADV says more than half of all domestic violence related homicides are committed with guns.
In the past week, there have been two women shot and killed by their former partners in Indianapolis.
On June 28, Kaylah Farmer was killed by her ex-husband at a Speedway gas station in Fishers. Court documents show there had been a history of abuse.
“Certainly, we were in shock like everyone else," Tami Wanninger, Executive Director of Prevail, said.
Prevail provides services to survivors and those affected by domestic violence in Hamilton County. Last year, they helped more than 3,100 people.
"I think we live in an affluent county where people don’t expect that to happen here," Wanninger said.
Four days ago, 35-year-old Fernande Chery was killed in a murder suicide at New Look Hair Salon in Indianapolis. According to police, Chery had previously been in a relationship with the man who shot her.
"Our domestic violence related fatalities that are committed with a firearm are always just terrifyingly high," Burton said.
Burton is the Homicide Reduction Strategies Coordinator at ICADV.
"My focus is on homicide reduction. My role exists because we realized that we needed to have someone that had all their energy and focus looking at how we reduce this skyrocketing rate of domestic violence homicides," Burton said.
When it comes to domestic violence fatalities, Indiana is well above the national average.
From 2021 to 2022, there were 72 domestic violence fatalities across the state. 89% of them were with a firearm.
Burton says solutions are focused around identifying red flags. She says separation from a partner is a very dangerous time for survivors. Burton says they don't recommend that survivor just pick up and leave during that time because it requires a safety plan.
Strangulation is the number one predictor that the situation can and likely will turn deadly, according to Burton.
Survivors of a non-fatal strangulation attack are at a 750% greater risk to be killed by their partner and particularly likely to be killed with a gun.
"Homicide reduction really becomes risk management. It’s identifying those risk factors that are present and providing the greatest access to resources, and doing all the things that you can to mitigate those risk factors," Burton said.
If you or anyone you know needs help, you can visit the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence website and look for resources in your county.
If you live in Hamilton County, you can visit Prevail's website, or call their 24/7 crisis hot-line at 317-776-3472.
The national domestic violence hot-line number is 800-799-7233.