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Two survivors of domestic violence discuss their stories, the role of restraining orders

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(NEW YORK) — Kate Ranta was in the process of divorcing her husband, U.S. Air Force Major Thomas Maffei, when he came to her home on November 2, 2012. The couple’s son, William, who was 4 years old at the time, watched as his father pointed a gun at Ranta, according to police records.

“All of a sudden Will screamed out and again, he had just turned 4,” Ranta said in an interview with ABC News. “He screamed out, ‘don’t do it, daddy. Don’t shoot mommy!’”

Maffei shot Ranta twice, once in the breast and once in the hand. He was later found guilty and convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, burglary of a dwelling, aggravated assault with a firearm and shooting into an occupied dwelling. He is now serving a 60-year prison sentence.

A case pending before the United States Supreme Court, U.S. v, Rahimi, will decide whether people with domestic violence restraining orders against them will be allowed to own guns. The court will decide whether the current law violates the Second Amendment, which states that American citizens have the individual right to “keep and bear arms.”

MORE: Shot 5 times, domestic abuse survivor implores Supreme Court to uphold gun ban
Two months before she was shot, Ranta says she stopped pursuing a restraining order against Maffei. She told ABC News that she had a temporary restraining order for about eight months and went back to court several times to try to get a permanent order, but the judge kept extending the temporary one. The police collected all the firearms that Ranta knew Maffei had in the house. She told ABC News she was still worried for her and her family’s safety.

Then, according to Ranta she briefly reconciled with Maffei, and that’s when she allowed the restraining order to expire.

According to police reports, on the day of the shooting Ranta and her father were leaning against the front door to keep Maffei out when he shot through the door, injuring both of them. In her 911 call, obtained by ABC News, between long bouts of screaming, Ranta can be heard telling the operator that she was dying.

“It wasn’t like in the movies and on TV. The police didn’t come kick the door in and shoot and kill the bad guy,” Ranta said. “Nobody was coming in to save us. Nothing. We were just in there.”

Bleeding profusely on the ground, Ranta and her father were taken to a nearby hospital in serious condition. Still, they both made it out alive. William was not injured in the shooting.

Angela Gabriel, a mother of four in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has a similar story. On February 22, 2017, Carl Thompson, the father of two of her children, was supposed to be watching their youngest son, Grayson.

Thompson left then-1-year-old Grayson, who has autism and Down syndrome, alone downstairs while he went upstairs and shot Gabriel nine times while she was in the bathtub, according to court documents.

“One of the last things I remember him saying is, ‘I wish you would just shut up sometimes,’” Gabriel said in an interview with ABC News’ Linsey Davis. “Next thing I know he’s standing in the bathroom door and I see the last two gunshots.”

As a result of her injuries, Gabriel is now partially paralyzed and must rely on use of a wheelchair. Two bullets are still lodged in her body, and she still has shrapnel in her back.

She knew that Thompson kept a gun in their home and, despite his history of violence toward her, she was never afraid that he would use it.

Gabriel told ABC News about an instance when she says Thompson grabbed her by the hoodie and threw her out the back door, proceeding to choke her. At the time, she didn’t think it was domestic violence, so she never reported it.

According to Gabriel, a few months before the shooting, Thompson called to threaten her while she was in Florida, telling her he would “empty [his] clip in [her] face.” Gabriel never believed he would do it.

In 2018, Thompson was convicted of second-degree attempted murder and is now serving 45 years in prison.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) affects women across all racial and ethnic groups. According to the CDC, historically marginalized women are at a greater risk: 56.6% of multiracial women, 45.1% of Black women, 47.5% of Native women, and 54% of disabled women experience this type of violence in their lifetimes.

More than half of female homicide victims are also victims of IPV, killed by either a former or current male intimate partner. These types of cases are officially counted as femicides in many countries. In more than half of these cases, the weapon used is a firearm, according to research by the Epidemiological Review.

Rosalind Page, a nurse in Little Rock, Arkansas, is the founder of Black Femicide US, an organization dedicated to shining light on the murders of Black women and girls. Page wants to raise awareness about the stigma and silence that often surrounds domestic violence and its high death toll, especially in the African American community.

“I noticed that many of my patients, in particular Black women and girls, when they would come in, we do certain screening, screening questions. And some of those questions involve abuse, whether it’s sexual, physical, emotional,” Page said. “I noticed a great deal of my patients, they either knew someone or were victims of abuse themselves.”

For victims of domestic abuse, the likelihood of lethal violence and the fear of their partner intensifies when an abusive partner has access to a gun.

“If your abuser has a firearm, there’s really, there’s almost nothing you can do,” said Chitra Raghavan, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice whose expertise is in intimate partner violence. “So it really increases realistically the fear, but also the lethality. Women often stay because they’re too afraid to leave the abuser.”

Federal laws prohibit those with restraining orders against them from possessing a gun, but sometimes fear outweighs the idea of protection. This was the case for Gabriel, who told ABC News that she didn’t file a restraining order against Thompson, not because she was afraid of him, but because she was afraid of how others would look at her.

Looking back, she says she regrets her decision.

“I regret it. I regret it because there was really no fear of him. I just wanted to be free. I didn’t know how to be free.” Gabriel said. “I didn’t want to bring in other people because I didn’t want to be judged. And the type of work that I do, people look up to me. And they expect to see like a strong Angela. And I didn’t want anybody to know that there was another her.”

On a global scale, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. Years after surviving their shootings, Gabriel and Ranta have become advocates for victims of domestic violence.

Ranta has written a book about her experiences and spoken on the steps of the Supreme Court multiple times about gun legislation. Gabriel regularly speaks at local events and sits on panels about domestic violence in Baton Rouge and recently held a blood drive in honor of the first responders who saved her life. They both share their stories in hopes that others will feel less alone.

ABC News’ Davi Merchan, Emily Lippiello and Jessica Velmans contributed to this report.
 

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