Exploring Control, Threats, Violence and Help-Seeking among Women Held at Gunpoint by Abusive Partners

Tk Logan, Kellie Lynch, Robert Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Firearms are used in over half of partner violence victim homicides, and many victims experience firearm-related threats from their abusive partners. It is unclear whether, and to what extent, abusers who make firearm-related threats also engage in other forms of control and violence. An online community-based sample of women whose abusive partners caused them to experience fear because of their access to guns or threats to use them were recruited for the study. This study examined coercive control, threats, violence, and help-seeking for women whose partner held them at gunpoint (n = 112) compared to women whose partners did not hold them at gunpoint (n = 125). Women whose partners held them at gunpoint experienced more severe and frequent firearm and non-firearm related threats and physical/sexual violence. Additionally, abusers used a variety of strategies to control victims including tactics to increase dependency, debility, and dread—all of which were more frequent and severe among women held at gunpoint by the abuser. Only about half of the women held at gunpoint, and 30% of those not held at gunpoint, talked to police or sought a civil protective order. Among those that sought help through the justice system, only about 70% told police or the court about the firearm threats. Current legal remedies that restrict firearms may reduce some lethality risk, but safety is far from guaranteed by solely restricting gun ownership underscoring the importance of assessment and safety planning for partner violence victims who experience firearm-related threats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank those who participated in the study and shared their experiences and also acknowledge the University of Kentucky Department of Behavioral Science for funding this research as well as Jeb Messer for help with the data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Coercive Control
  • Dating Violence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Firearms
  • Threats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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