Not All Survivors Are the Same: Qualitative Assessment of Prior Violence, Risks, Recovery and Perceptions of Firearms and Violence Among Victims of Firearm Injury

J Interpers Violence. 2022 Aug;37(15-16):NP14368-NP14396. doi: 10.1177/08862605211005157. Epub 2021 Apr 22.


Qualitative exploration into the risk, experiences, and outcomes of victims of firearm injury is imperative to informing not only further research, but prevention and intervention strategies. The purpose of this study was to explore prior violent exposures, risks, recovery, supportive services, outcomes, and views of firearms and violence among survivors of firearm assaults and unintentional injuries. Adults treated at a level 1 trauma center in Seattle, WA, for assault and unintentional firearm injuries were interviewed utilizing a semistructured instrument. Interview responses were coded to identify common themes and representative quotes are reported. Sixteen participants were interviewed. Notable themes included the following: (a) prior violent exposures were experienced by half of survivors, mostly through community violence; (b) risk for firearm injury was felt to be related to general societal violence, unsafe communities, and firearm practices; (c) important aspects of recovery included family/social support, mental health care and financial support services; (d) notable outcomes included psychological problems such as PTSD and anxiety, changes in relationships, and developing a new sense of purpose or mission in life; (e) generally negative views toward firearms, supporting restricted access and firearm safety practices; (f) acknowledgement of the complexity of firearm violence in society with prevention geared toward equitable education, economic opportunities and safety net programs to reduce community violence; and (g) disappointment in the criminal justice system. These findings demonstrate the varied experiences, needs, and outcomes after injury, but highlight the significance of community and societal violence, and need for improved mental health services. Integration of mental health services and victim assistance programs into trauma centers and hospital-based violence intervention programs is imperative for all survivors. Encouraging survivors to engage in new aspirations after injury can be empowering, and there is an unmet need for victim support and advocacy within the criminal justice system.

Keywords: community violence; firearm injury; hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs); qualitative research; trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime Victims*
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Survivors
  • Violence
  • Wounds, Gunshot* / psychology