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This project represents one of the first large scale assessments of survivors of public mass shootings. There are two overarching goals that underlie the conducting of this research. First, a primary goal is to understand the needs of survivors following mass shootings from their unique perspectives and lived experiences. In doing so, this project seeks to answer the following research questions:
- Are there distinct patterns of support utilization by survivors in the aftermath of a mass shooting?
- How does support utilization differ across the different phases of a given disaster?
- How does support utilization differ based on the way in which the survivor was affected or connected to the shooting?
- Which factors facilitate access to support services? Which are barriers to these services?
- Which types of supports did survivors find to be the most helpful? Which did they find to be the least helpful?
- Was there any variation in support utilization based on whether the perpetrator survived or died in the attack? Was there any variation in availability of services?
- How does support utilization differ, if at all, based on demographic factors of the survivors?
Additionally, while the project will consider the experiences of all survivor participants, it also will explore how other factors, such as the community in which the shooting occurred or the amount of time that has passed since the event, may shape such perceptions. We recognize that each survivor’s experience is unique but also believe there will be important commonalities identified that can provide greater insight into how support can be effectively provided in the immediate, intermediate, and long-term aftermath of the event.
The second goal of the project is to then leverage the results of the survey to provide recommendations for vested stakeholders (e.g., governments, agencies, support providers) about how best to provide such support. The perspectives of survivors can provide unique insight that may help communities and policymakers respond to these tragedies in a more focused and nuanced manner, leveraging limited resources more effectively toward the services and opportunities found to be most helpful by survivors.
To achieve these goals and answer the above questions, this project seeks to survey an estimated 1,500 survivors of public mass shootings from across the United States. Participants will be asked to complete an anonymous survey about their tragedy and the time that has passed since its occurrence. Specific attention is given to resource utilization, including publicly and privately available services, coping mechanisms, and formal and informal proceedings, as well as perspectives about different types of supports. Consideration also will be given to the impact of the event, social acknowledgement, and posttraumatic growth.
All surveys are administered online through the SurveyMonkey platform and the data will be collected anonymously (no identifying information will be asked). Once data collection has completed, the information collected will be analyzed as both an aggregate group of mass shooting survivors and disaggregated based on community and type of impact, pending the number of respondents in each category, to identify more nuanced and unique experiences.
Findings from this survey will be disseminated in several key ways to reach the broad audience of relevant stakeholders, including practitioners (e.g., victim advocates, mental health professionals, and social workers), policymakers, academics, and even the survivors themselves. The project’s multifaceted dissemination strategy includes the following planned outputs:
- Research- and policy-focused briefs to highlight key findings and pair them with actionable recommendations
- Scholarly articles and research notes
- Webinars for stakeholders and survivors
- Fact sheets and infographics
To ensure the broadest and most widespread dissemination of the findings as possible, the project staff also will leverage existing resources, including the project website and social media. The Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium and the Rockefeller Institute of Government also will help to promote the findings through social media, email campaigns, and other outlets.