PRESS RELEASE: MASO Response to the Sandy Hook Tragedy in CT

Posted by MASO on December 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

By: MASOStaff, December 21, 2012

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a travesty and will go down in history as one of the worst massacres in this country’s history.  We will not belabor the tragic events of that day, but want to initiate an open dialogue about the after affects and how we can prevent another mass killing.

If you really want to prevent another incident like what occurred in Newtown, CT, then PLEASE listen up and post your comments and thoughts on our Facebook Fan Page or Blog once you have finished reading our statement and let’s have some dialogue.

As domestic abuse advocates, we work with men, women, and children who have been victimized by abuse and we conduct research into finding solutions to the growing epidemic of abuse.  We also collaborate with many other organizations on the same issues.

We have paused …. Watched and listened to the media …. Watched and listened to the politicians…. Watched and listened to law enforcement investigating this tragedy … and sadly watched and listened to these young children the media keeps insisting on interviewing.

We are VERY concerned that all the focus on gun laws, gun law reform, and gun bans is avoiding a much BIGGER picture that led up to this tragedy as well as to the tragedies at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the Batman Premiere recently.

Let’s be clear. Guns do not kill people. People kill people and what happened in Connecticut was committed with a stolen gun.

We wouldlike to see the statistics of how many of these cases are done with gunslegally purchased vs. with guns stolen or illegally obtained.  If  you continue to read below, the statistics on this issue is vague at best.  We are in no way endorsing guns or are we advocating for guns.  However, we feel the focus is band aid to BIGGER MORE concerning problems surrounding mental health resources, abuse, and violence in our society.

The following examples are the perceptions that parents, children, and victims of abuse commonly face every day.

What is a parent to do if he/she turns their child into police? ... Your problems go home.

What is a parent to do if he/she turns to child protective services for help? ... Well sorry for your problem but there is nothing we can do or we do not have the resources to handle such a problem or sorry your child will have to go into foster care.

What is a parent to do if he/she reports bullying to the school as apparently this mother did? ... Sorry there is nothing we can do, we talked with the student, or we do not have the resources.

What is a parent to do if he/she reports child abuse/child sex abuse to authorities?.... Well gee, that cannot be true so you must be lying and therefore, the courts are granting custody to abusers 70% of the time and 85% to child sexrapists.

What is a parent to do if he/she needs to get a mental health therapist? .... Sorry your insurance will not cover it and the cost to treat is so high you have to choose between food or therapy OR what will my family, coworkers, neighbors think? This is not to mention mental illness is the number one argument used in court against protective parents by batterers in custody disputes involving abuse.

Gun Ownership Statistics[1]

  1. 40-45% Households legally own  a gun
  2. 67% polled said they owned a gun for protection against crime
  3. 66% polled said they owned a gun for target practice
  4. 41% said they owned a gun for hunting

Gun Violence Statistics

  1. 16,272 murders committed in the United States in 2008. [2]
  2. Of these murders, 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms in 2008.[3]
  3. According to DOJ, there were 5,340,000 violent crimes committed in the United States in 2008.[4]  These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders.
  4. Of these violent crimes, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders armed with a gun.
  5. According to a 1994 CDC survey found that Americans use guns to frighten away intruders who are breaking into their homes about 498,000 times per year.[5]


Legal v illegal gun ownership

“One important consideration is that only 60-70% of firearms sales in the United States are transacted through federally licensed firearm dealers, with the remainder taking place in the "secondary market", in which previously owned firearms are transferred by non-dealers”. The “secondary markets” are a haven for criminals and create the possibilities of purchasing a gun that may have been implicatedin a homicide.[6]

According to the ATF, there are an estimated 500,000 guns stoleneach year, becoming available to prohibited users. [7] We feel this is the bigger problem, not legal gun purchases.  

To repeat, there are 500,000 guns stolen every year with 10,886 murders committed by guns every year. Let’s think about that statement.

Is the problem about new gun laws to limit types of purchases or is the problem about how to prevent gun thefts used to commit crimes?

Gun Laws ALREADY onthe books to protect against gun violence.

  1.  GunControl Act of 1968 - after the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. which among other thingsincluded the prohibited sale of firearms to felons, those under indictment, fugitives, illegal aliens, drug users, those dishonorablydischargedfrom the military, and those in mentalinstitutions[8]
  2. TheBrady Handgun Violence Prevention Act  (1993) imposed a waiting period before thepurchase of a handgun.[9]
  3. TheDomestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, (1996),prohibited anyone previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domesticviolencefrom shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition.[10]



There are a multitude of national travesties that document the role of retaliatory bullying. The most memorable was the Columbine shooting in1999. The mass killing by two teens was a result in retaliation who had been bullied, harassed and ostracized by other students.

In one of the studies linking bullying and violence showed “that violence-related behaviors were more common in boys (ranging from 13%-27% among those who reported each behavior) than girls (ranging from 4%-11%)”[11]  However, the study also showed that violence-related behaviors were strongly linked to bullying that takes place out of school.

Most of the research on the issues surrounding school violence and/or bullying, suggests the violence is a learned behavior that may have been learned as a result of repeating the violent behavior of adults.

In one study, 71% of public elementary and secondary schools experienced at least one violent incident during the 1999-2000 school years, according to school principals.[12]


Mental Health Stats

  1. 19.9% or 45.1 million adults in the US with any mental illness with an additional 547,800 mentally ill people on probation in the community (2009) [13]
  2. 13.3% or 30.2 million adults received treatment for a mental health problem in the past year (2009).[14]
  3. 8.1%or 2 million youths ages 12 to 17 had major depressive episode (MDE) during the past year.[15]
  4. 50.6% of children with mental disorders had received treatment for their disorder within the past year[16]
  5. 10%  of Medicaid funding pays for mental healthcare, and about 20% of state and local health programs pay for mental healthcare (2003)[17]
  6. 23%of the mental health care expenditures went to pay for retail prescription medications[18]
  7. 22%of the mental health care expenditures went to pay for mental health professionals.[19]
  8. From1996 and 2006, the number of Americans paying for mental health services increased 87.6%.[20]  In 2006, more people paid expenses for care related to mental disorders than any other medical condition except for asthma.[21]
  9. “In 2006, total direct expenditures for mental health care services totaled $57.5billion. This places mental health care expenditures as the third most costly medical condition, behind heart conditions and trauma and tied with cancer.”[22]  (As a side note: all three conditions have been studied and have been linked to some form of abuse history whether domestic abuse, child abuse, or sex abuse)
  10. Number of ambulatory care visits (to physician offices, hospitaloutpatient and emergency departments) with mental disorders as primarydiagnosis: 67.4 million (average annual 2006-2007)[23]
  11. Almost 35,000 suicides, nearly twice the rate of homicides (2007). Suicide is the most common form of violence associated with mental illness.[24]

According the National Institute of Mental Health, those who have mental illness are highly unlikely to commit violence against others and therefore, contribute very little to the overall rate of violence in the community, contrary to popular belief.   “Most people with SMI are not violent, and most violent acts are not committed by people with SMI. In fact, people with SMI are actually at higher risk of being victims of violence than perpetrators.”[25]  In regards to victims of domestic violence, as much as 60-80% develops a mental illness as a result of the abuse.


Research also shows those with mental illness who do commit violent crimes, were more likely to have been homeless, to be substance abusers, and to be living in a violent environment. “A 1988 Department of Justice study reported that individuals with a history of mental illness (not including drug or alcohol abuse) were responsible for 4.3percent of the homicides in the United States.”[26]


The stigma associated with mental illness is the number one reason why people who have some sort of mental illness do not seek treatment when it isneeded due to the fear of discrimination. Stigma also leads to other fears,mistrust, and violence.  Stigma leads to discrimination in many other areas including employment.  As advocates for victims of abuse, we especially see this to be true in abuse prevention and custody disputes. Stigma surrounding mental illness is a barrier that causes harm to society and creates many injustices.


As a society, by being ignorant to the epidemic of abuse in this country as well as the broken family courts system regarding custody and abuse, we are contributing to the growing cost of the health care crisis – both financially and literally. As a society, we can no longer afford to NOT to act anymore.


It must start with changing the way family courts are discriminating against victims of abuse  as well as ensuring proper mental health treatments are accessible.


Violence and Mental Health Issues and Relationship to Domestic Abuse, and Custody


Research indicates that parents with mental illness lose custody at a rate of 70-80% [27] and as much as 81% of women who have been treated for mental health issue also report history of abuse.[28]


Many experts believe that 60 -90% of women who have been abused have significant mental health issues.[29] However,society’s stigmas and prejudices regarding mental health conditions are at the “heart of courts’ denial of custody to these mothers.”[30]  Yet research documents that those with severe mental illness are actually eleven times more likely to be victims of  violent crime than the general population.


Many other problems exist in the mental health communities. These include inadequate training of some mental health professionals in understanding and treating domestic abuse victims. In many cases, we have found victim blaming by therapists and over reliance of the use of prescription medications which is usually frowned upon by family court judges. This is not to mention the compounding problems of the batterer’s control of the victim’s insurance coverage and privacy challenges in many cases.


The most common forms of mental health issues women who have been abused are diagnosed with include: anxiety,depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. “Trauma theory is a recent construct particularly useful in analyzing the relationship between menta lillness and domestic violence in a case and can help the lawyer develop atheory of the case that will insulate the client from negative inferences regarding mental illness on the part of the judge, the attorney for the child,evaluators, and other decision makers in the litigation. A basic premise of trauma theory is that the symptoms of mental illness that a battered woman manifests can be understood as survival strategies, developed as a reaction to her experience.”[31]


The key is for the courts, advocates, and lawyers who represent victims of abuse to understand the relationship between mental health issues and domestic violence and confront the stigmas and prejudices victims face especially in custody cases. The need is great especially in light that batterers are awarded custody in 70% of contested custody cases involving abuse.[32]


Now, there is much research that indicates children who bully or display violent behavior at school frequently have been exposed to abuse themselves. BY awarding custody to abusers at the current rates and denying protective parents custody due to either mental illness as a direct result of the abuse or unfounded accusations of mental illness by an abuser, only exacerbates the compounding abuse epidemic. This can lead to more school violence and more mass attacks if intervention and stigmas are not addressed. There are numerous studies citing the ill effects of children witnessing domestic abuse including aggressive behaviors, depression, and cognitive issues not to mention the numerous physical health complications such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes currently being studied by the CDC through the ongoing ACE Study.


So if research tells us that those with mental illness are likely to be victims of crime, bullying, abuse, stigma, and discrimination, then why are we as a society not doing something about it? Why are we as a society not doing something about family court judges rendering custody decisions placing all our children’s lives at risk for more violence as well as long term mental and physical health problems? Is it a coincidence that the prejudices and stigmas of whatvictims of abuse face both in family court and society as well as the unprecedented increases of mental health crisis and health care crisis have grown into epidemic levels?



Many lawmakers and health advocates have called for Congress to start a conversation about mental health issues in the wake of last week's violent shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “with one goal of ensuring adequate funding for services for those who need treatment. Although much of the discussion since last week's shooting has focused on gun policy, several members are also emphasizing the role that mental illness has played in many national tragedies.”[33][34]

“What I think is absolutely essential is Congress has to have an honest dialogue to look at the issues of mental illness,” said Pennsylvania Republican Tim Murphy, a child psychologist and co-chairman of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. “We need to put a full-scale effort into reviewing this and understanding it better.”[35]

The shooting that took place in Connecticut eluded that the shooter had some form of autism.  The reality is those who are diagnosed with autism disorders are not likely to become violent. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true.  “Individuals with autism spectrum disorders,who are often bullied in school and in the workplace, frequently do suffer from depression,anxiety and suicidal thoughts … But experts say there is no evidence that they are more likely than any other group to commit violent crimes (Harmon, 12/18).”[36]



What we have learned is it takes a community to create change. It takes a community to communicate with our local leadership and tell them what we think and how we feel. It takes the constituents to remind our leaders that they work for the people and especially our children who rarely have a voice. 

We implore you to please contact your local politicians and congressmen and tell them to focus on the REAL issues at hand including the lack of resources,funding, and services for the mentally ill with special safeguards to protect victimsof abuse who experience high rates of mental health issues as a direct result of the abuse they suffered and stigmas attached as a result including loss of custody.

We as a society need to band together … respect one another … unite as one voice …and do something that will make real change for the sake of all our children’sfuture. The nature of violence and secrecy begins at home. However, at the same time, the voice ends where the family court judges have too much discretion in rendering the futures of children impacted by abuse.


If we are to prevent another tragedy as we saw in Connecticut … if we want to end violence … if we want to fix this fiscal crisis … if we want to find solutions to the health care crisis … then we MUST look at finding solutions to those in power rendering very harmful decisions with long term consequences.


Guns are not the problem. The problems with guns are primarily those who obtain these weapons illegally. BUT, the bigger problem is those who desire to commit such violence are brought up in it in some form or another. Whether it be a judge ordering a child to live with a parent sexually abusing them or a school system turning a blind eye to a child being beaten up and bullied or electing officials who have criminal pasts. What are we telling our children when our actions do not match our words?


As our motto states:  “Alone we are weak …Together we are strong.” In order to create change, it takes a community to band together for the future of all our children. Please take action before another tragedy occurs. Your action or inaction can mean life or death.





For More Information:

Massachusetts Survivors Outreach (MASO)

Advocacy~ Research ~ Holistic Healing For Victims of Abuse

Motto:Alone we are weak … Together we arestrong.”

Phone: 617-890-1040

Twitter: @M_A_S_O




[2] Report: "2008 Crime in the United States,Expanded Homicide Data – Table 9." Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S.Department of Justice, September 2009.

[3] Report: "2008 Crime in the United States,Expanded Homicide Data – Table 9." Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S.Department of Justice, September 2009.

[4]Bulletin: "National CrimeVictimization Survey: Criminal Victimization, 2008." By Michael R. Rand.Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, September 2009.

Page 1: "Violent crimes" include"rape/sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault."

Page 1, Table 1 shows 4,856,510 violentcriminal victimizations, of which 551,830 are robberies.


[5] Paper: "Estimating intruder-related firearmretrievals in U.S. households, 1994." By Robin M. Ikeda and others.Violenceand Victims, Winter 1997.

[6] Firearms Market;

[7]Committee on Law and Justice(2004)."Chapter 4".Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review. NationalAcademy of Science.ISBN0-309-09124-1.

[8]Cook, Philip J., Jens Ludwig(2000). "Chapter 3".Gun Violence: The Real Costs. Oxford UniversityPress.ISBN0-19-513793-0

[9]The background checkprovision has been challenged on grounds that it violates the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. In the 1997 case, Printz v.United States, the Supreme Court voided that part of the Brady Act. (Rushefsky, 2002)

[10]DomesticViolence Offender Gun Ban Fact Sheet" (asp).National Center for Women &Policing. Retrieved 2007-02-05.

[11]Bullying andViolence; DianaZuckerman, PhD, Sarah Bushman, MPP and Sarah Pedersen, BA; National ResearchCenter for Women & Families;

[12] Violence in U.S. Public Schools: 2000 School Survey on Crimeand Safety, October 2003

[13]Substance Abuse and Mental Health ServicesAdministration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use andHealth: Mental Health Findings (Office of Applied Studies

[14]Substance Abuse and Mental Health ServicesAdministration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use andHealth: Mental Health Findings (Office of Applied Studies

[15]Substance Abuse and Mental Health ServicesAdministration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use andHealth: Mental Health Findings (Office of Applied Studies

[16]Use of Mental Health Services and Treatment AmongChildren; Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES);

[17]Use of Mental Health Services and Treatment AmongChildren; Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES);

[18]Distribution of Mental Health Expenditures by Service(2003) Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES);

[19]Distribution of Mental Health Expenditures by Service(2003) Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES);

[20]MentalHealthcare Costs for All Americans (1996-2006); ;Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's NationalHealth and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES);

[21]Number of People with Expenses for the Five Most CostlyMedical Conditions (1996 vs. 2006) ; Data from the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey(NHANES);

[22]Total Expenditures for the Five Most Costly MedicalConditions (1996 vs. 2006) ; Data from the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey(NHANES);

[23]HealthCare Use; Ambulatory care; Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention;  Fast Stats;

[24] Understanding Severe Mental Illness; By Thomas Insel on January 11, 2011; The National Institute of MentalHealth (NIMH);

[25] UnderstandingSevere Mental Illness; By Thomas Insel on January 11, 2011; The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); [26] Violence and people withmental illness; Edited byDr. E. Fuller Torrey; Mental Illness Org.;[27] When a Parent Has a Mental Illness: Child Custody Issues;Mental Health America;[28]MentalIllness and Domestic Violence: Implications for Family Law Litigation;By D. Wolf Markham; CLEARINGHOUSE REVIEW; MAY–JUNE 2003

[29] Mental Illness and Domestic Violence: Implications forFamily Law Litigation;ByD. Wolf Markham; LEARINGHOUSEREVIEW ; MAY–JUNE 2003

[30] Mental Illnessand Domestic Violence: Implications for Family Law Litigation; ByD. Wolf Markham; LEARINGHOUSEREVIEW ; MAY–JUNE 2003

[31] Mental Illnessand Domestic Violence: Implications for Family Law Litigation; ByD. Wolf Markham; LEARINGHOUSEREVIEW ; MAY–JUNE 2003

[32] American Judges Foundation; Domestic Violence and the Court House: Understanding the Problem …Knowing the Victim;

[33]Conn. shootings spur questions aboutadequacy of mental health services;News Medical; Published on December 19, 2012

[34]After Shooting, Congress Ponders Mental Health Role; By Melissa Attias, Roll Call; Dec 17, 2012,

[35]After Shooting, Congress Ponders Mental Health Role; By Melissa Attias, Roll Call; Dec 17, 2012,

[36]Conn. shootings spur questions aboutadequacy of mental health services;News Medical; Published on December 19, 2012


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Posted by MASO on September 25, 2012 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

By: MASO Staff

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month , which wasstarted by a courageous group of advocates who came together for a Day of Unityin 1981.  From there, the first DomesticViolence Awareness Month was observed in October 1987. These courageousindividuals are now recognized as The National Coalition Against DomesticViolence. 


On Sept. 13, 1994, the passage of the landmark bill, theViolence Against Women Act (VAWA) was born. As a result domestic violence wasno longer a dirty family secret.  Sincethis bill was passed, there have been many significant changes in our society’sunderstanding of and response to violence against women.  As a result hundreds of thousands of victimshave had their lives forever changed.


Statistically, one in every four women fall victim to abuse.Take a moment and think … how many women do you know personally? Statistically,that is how many of the people YOU know who may have been victimized. As asociety we have an enormous responsibility to continue our efforts to endviolence against women, children and men.  We can no longer afford to turna blind eye to abuse because it did not happen to you or it did not happen toyour child. This affects ALL our children and the CO$T by ignoring the problemis all too great.


Sadly too many continue to be victimized.  With all the strides we have made since thepassage of the VAWA, more still needs to be done. Domestic Violence is still atepidemic levels in this country and takes on all shapes and forms and caninclude physical abuse, child abuse, sex abuse, gaslighting, emotional abuse,psychological abuse, stalking, bullying, and economic abuse.


Child abuse alone has doubled in the state of Massachusettsin the last 10 years while utilizing a reduced amount of resources availablethan before.

From President Obama’s proclamation in October 2011, he states the effects of domestic violence, especially onyoung people and children:

… The ramifications of domestic violence are staggering. Young women areamong the most vulnerable, suffering the highest rates of intimate partnerviolence. Exposure to domestic violence puts our young men and women in dangerof long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Children whoexperience domestic violence are at a higher risk for failure in school, emotionaldisorders, and substance abuse, and are more likely to perpetuate the cycle ofviolence themselves later in life.

For more information from the White House, please visit thislink:


YOU can make adifference.  We are asking for your helpto combat this problem.

In October, help spread the awareness, by hosting an eventto raise awareness. You can also host a yard sale in support of this cause.Choose a domestic violence organization you wish any of the proceeds to bedonated and ask the supporting organizations to send you information todistribute at your events. Alone we can not end abuse, but together we arestrong. Together we are a united voice. Together we CAN end abuse.


This is also a great way to engage your children in adiscussion about abuse.  Include yourchildren by having them do an age tailored art project to be displayed at theyard sale or event. Help us break the cycles for the future of all ourchildren.


If you would like to be involved, email us [email protected] com.