Two recent incidents in San Diego highlight the biggest problem in domestic violence, according to Casey Gwinn of the Family Justice Alliance Center.
Both involved guns and domestic abuse.
On Monday, a Tierrasanta man shot himself in the face after police responded to a 911 call. The man allegedly tried to strangle his wife, an attack that experts say often leads to death of the victim eventually.
"We now know that if a man puts his hand around her neck once, the likelihood of him killing her, that woman, goes up 800 percent," said Casey Gwinn, former prosecutor, City Attorney.
Police shot a man in a Carmel Mountain Ranch movie theater on Saturday afternoon who was being sought by police for a domestic violence incident across the street.
Investigators say the suspect, identified as 20-year-old Escondido resident Tom Billodeaux had been waiting for his girlfriend in her vehicle and surprised her on her lunch break. Gwinn said this would be classified as stalking.
"Stalking occurs in four out of five domestic violence cases before a woman is killed," he said.
Police said witnesses to the incident between the Billodeaux and her girlfriend intervened and allowed her to run away briefly. Gwinn, who trains police officers how to deal with domestic violence situations said this was extremely dangerous, because they did not know the man was armed.
"The word we need to get out there is that when you see a domestic violence incident, call 911. Do not intervene. It's way too dangerous a situation and you don't know all the facts," said Gwinn. "In that case by the grace of God, they're still alive."
Investigators said the man threatened those trying to come to his girlfriend's aid before fleeing to the movie theater.
"The biggest challenge we have in domestic violence is we need to be getting the guns away from men who are violent, and from men who legally shouldn't have possession of a gun," said Gwinn.
He added that 50 percent of women killed in domestic violence are as a result of firearms, and believes many deaths could be prevented.
Gwinn said people are prohibited from possessing firearms if they have a restraining order against them and more reporting could could prevent severe violence.
"The sooner we can get a restraining order in place that says you are prohibited from possessing firearms the better," he said.
Yvonne Coiner is a victim of domestic abuse and recalls her experience that happened over a decade ago.
"He became increasingly angry and increasingly threatening and it came to a point where he eventually beat me up in front of his daughter," she said.
Coiner said she didn't report the man for fear of more violence. She also said she didn't want to ruin his career as an aspiring lawyer. But after 11 months of stalking her, her colleagues at work finally called police.
She regrets not speaking up for herself. She also wished neighbors who knew about the abuse would have helped her report the incidents to police.
"When friends hear about situations like this, they need to really encourage the person to report this type of thing," said Coiner. "Reporting draws that line and hopefully it will stop what's happening."
Coiner said she kept detailed notes and pictures of the abuse which strengthened her case against her ex-boyfriend. She now volunteers her time to help other victims.
The Center for Disease Control released the results of a survey last year showing that one in four women were victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in 2010.
Gwinn said victims should seek help from professionals or counselors in getting away from their abusers.
They can also be helped by Kathy's Law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown effective January 1st, 2013. Supporters of “Kathy’s Law” say it will strengthen restraining orders by allowing judges to order GPS monitoring devices for domestic violence suspects found to pose a threat to an alleged victim.
The law was named after Kathy Scharbarth who was found dead after going missing before Thanksgiving in 2011. Her ex-boyfriend Michael Robles was charged with her murder but committed suicide in prison. She had filed a restraining order against him.