Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Information for Professionals

Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an intimate partner homicide?

An intimate partner homicide is a killing in which the victim and the perpetrator are, or have been, in a close personal relationship. The CDC defines a personal relationship as having one or more of the following characteristics: emotional connectedness, regular contact, ongoing physical contact and/or sexual behavior, identity as a couple, and familiarity and knowledge about each other’s lives.1

How common is intimate partner homicide?
  • New York State averages 76 intimate partner homicides a year.
  • In 2015, domestic homicides (which includes other family members and intimate partners) were 18.6% of all homicides in New York.
  • Intimate partner homicide remains a stubbornly high proportion of overall homicides2. 1 in 3 female homicide victims are killed by a male intimate partner. For male homicide victims, only 2.5% are killed by a female intimate partner3.
  • The most recent national data available shows that between the years 1980-2008, 22% of homicide victims were killed by a spouse or other family member. If non-married partners are included, this percent jumps to about 28%.4
  • Intimate partners are not the only victims of domestic violence homicides- 20% of victims in these cases “were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.”5

 

What increases the risk for an intimate partner homicide?
  • Although each domestic violence case is different, law enforcement and domestic violence service providers regularly see similar signs that indicate a higher level of danger. These signs are referred to as “identifiable indicators” of lethality.
  • Known lethality indicators include, but are not limited to:
    • recent separation, divorce, or victim fleeing
    • violent or constant jealousy
    • escalation of abuse
    • use of illegal drugs
    • unemployment
    • suicide threats
    • prior threats to kill
    • use of, or threat to use weapon (especially a gun)
    • availability of a gun
    • stalking
    • substance abuse
    • history of forced or pressured sex
    • violation of protective orders
    • strangulation
    • victim’s belief that the abuser is capable of killing.6
  • The factors that indicate the highest risk of homicide include:
    • threat or use of a weapon (increases the risk of homicide by 20.2 times)
    • prior threat to kill (14.9x increase)
    • attempted strangulation (9.9x increase)
    • violent and constant jealousy (9.2x increase)

 

Can intimate partner homicide happen without any indicators present?
  • Intimate partner homicide can happen even without any of these signs. No type of assessment tool can predict the behavior of an abusive person. They can only serve as guides for comparing one case to others that have also scored high.

 

Is the threat of homicide a tactic of abuse?
  • A perceived threat of murder is an extreme form of coercive control. Even if domestic violence does not end in homicide, fear that a partner can or may kill is an extremely effective method abusers may use to maintain power and control.

 

How common is homicide in domestic/ intimate partner violence situations?
  • 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime,7 but it is rare for the abuse of one’s intimate partner to end in homicide. Intimate partner homicide still remains a critical issue, and has far reaching negative consequences.

 

What is a coordinated community response?
  • A Coordinated Community Response (CCR) is a general term used to describe the coordination of community professionals and organizations to increase communication and information sharing.
  • These community professionals and organizations may include, but are not limited to: domestic violence programs, law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, probation, courts, hospitals, social service agencies, etc.

 

How can a coordinated community response reduce intimate partner homicide?
  • When there is better communication, each organization can use this information to improve their own response to intimate partner violence. In this way, a victim or offender is less likely to slip through the cracks.

 

What is the Danger Assessment?
  • Dr. Jacqueline Campbell developed the original Danger Assessment (DA) tool in 1986 to help determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner. The DA involves a 20 question tool that is scored, and a calendar tool to track escalation of violence.
  • Domestic violence victim advocates can be certified to administer the tool and then determine the likelihood of homicide in a particular case. After scoring the assessment, trained advocates assign it to one of the following categories: variable danger, increased danger, severe danger, or extreme danger.
  • This tool is often used in existing homicide reduction models in order to screen cases for dangerousness.
  • In order to help victims make the most informed decisions, it is important for every system to have as much information as possible. Assessments provide an important part of the big picture and assist the team in increasing victim safety and perpetrator accountability.

 

What is the Lethality Screen?
  • The Lethality Screen is an eleven question lethality assessment tool created by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell and The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
  • It is a shortened version of Dr. Campbell’s full Danger Assessment meant for use by law enforcement to assess a victim’s danger level.
  • The Lethality Screen allows responding officers to look beyond the current incident and into the context and history of the perpetrator’s behavior. This allows for more comprehensive communication across the many disciplines/agencies who will, or who already have, engaged with that specific victim and/or perpetrator.
  • The Screen is generally used by law enforcement partners in high risk team models, and is central to the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP).

 

What are some of the models aimed at reducing intimate partner homicide?
  • Jeanne Geiger Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT) is a nationally recognized model framework that focuses on three primary strategies: “early identification of high-risk cases, engagement of a multi-disciplinary team, and individualized intervention plans that incorporate the entire domestic violence response system with the goals of increasing victim safety and holding offenders accountable.”
  • Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiativeis a law enforcement based model out of High Point, North Carolina that focuses on offender deterrence and aims to address the problem of domestic violence before the violence escalates. The approach came out of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Law enforcement strives to hold offenders accountable for abusive behavior by establishing timely, predictable consequences, and focusing efforts from the victim to the abuser.
  • Duluth Model is an “ever evolving way of thinking about how a community works together to end domestic violence.” The model aims to use a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to shift the responsibility for victim safety from the victim, to the professionals, organizations and agencies charged with assisting them.
  • The Lethality Assessment Program – Maryland Model (LAP) is a partnership between law enforcement and domestic violence service providers that uses the Lethality Screen. The LAP was created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. The officer completes the eleven question tool with the victim, and based on responses and concern for the victim’s safety, calls the local domestic violence service program. It is always up to the victim if they chose to speak to a domestic violence advocate. The officer or the victim then has a short safety planning conversation with the advocate. Whether or not the screen shows an increased level of risk, the officer will provide the victim with referral information for the domestic violence service program. The LAP is often used in conjunction with High Risk Team models.

 

What are examples of ways that organizations can intervene in cases that they believe to be high risk?

(*Please note: these are meant to be examples. Not every intervention is appropriate for every domestic violence case. Special attention must be paid to the context and pattern of the abuse in each case. Intervention plans should remain victim-centered and change with circumstances.)

  • Examples of law enforcement interventions include but are not limited to:
      • drive victims to a shelter or court,
      • assist in filing an emergency order of protection,
      • assist with finding a safe place,
      • provide information about orders of protection, child support, custody, or visitation,
      • help the victim or the victim’s family get medical care for any injuries,
      • assist in retrieving necessary belongings from the victim’s home,
      • provide the victim with copies of police reports about the violence,
      • help file a complaint in criminal court,
      • make home visits to check on the victim, etc.
  • Examples of probation interventions include but are not limited to:
      • Create terms and conditions that are appropriate for each offender and their different levels of potential danger,
      • use a series of appropriate violations for non-compliance with those terms and conditions,
      • use probation’s unique position to support collaborative relationships between the multiple agencies charged to assist with responses to all domestic violence offenders
  • Examples of prosecution/District Attorney interventions include but are not limited to:
      • request a high bail based on domestic violence factors, 
      • instruct the victim that the defendant will be arrested if any provision of the order of protection is violated,
      • when a report of a violation is made, follow through by holding the defendant accountable for their actions,
      • proceed with evidence-based prosecutions if a victim does not want to participate in the criminal justice system
  • Examples of  court/judge interventions include but are not limited to:
      • consider domestic violence factors when determining bail or other conditions of release,
      • provide information to court users about community-based resources including legal assistance,
      • help litigants to get information about court processes and provide assistance completing and filing petitions,
      • provide for address confidentiality and assess procedures for safeguarding information contained in court files,
      • appoint counsel where the victim may be unrepresented in civil cases,
      • recognize and minimize the impact of economic abuse by: awarding restitution, medical expenses or health insurance coverage, child or spousal support, maintenance, attorney’s fees, equitable distribution, or other relief as appropriate,
      • minimize the harm and danger to the victim and the children through clear and concise orders of protection, custody orders, safe exchange strategies, supervised/limited visitation, and other safety strategies when visitation with the abusive parent is deemed appropriate,
      • For more information, please see the Guiding Principles for Community Domestic Violence Policy.
  • Examples of domestic violence service provider interventions include but are not limited to:
      • safety plan according the victim’s unique situation,
      • provide legal assistance with obtaining an order of protection,
      • provide the victim with a court advocate,
      • inform victims of their right to free confidential health screening and counseling,
      • assist victims and their families with finding a safe place to live, etc.
What kind of policies or legislation helps to reduce intimate partner homicides?
  • Any policy or legislation aimed at enhancing victim safety, providing options and resources for victims, or aimed at providing more accountability for domestic violence offenders, is likely to help reduce domestic violence homicides. Some policies and legislation may be more directly focused on preventing homicides, such as laws requiring firearms surrender when a person is subject to an order of protection. On the Law section of OPDV’s webpage, you can find summaries of relevant legislation on subjects such as orders of protection, court and law enforcement response to domestic violence, and firearms. 

 

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. Intimate Partner Violence: Definitions. July 20, 2016.  

2 Cooper, Alexia and Smith, Erica L. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Homicide Trends in the United States 1980-2008 (NCJ 236018).

3 Gerney, Arkadi and Parsons, Chelsea. Women Under the Gun: How Gun Violence Affects Women and 4 Policy Solutions to Better Protect Them. Center for American Progress.

4 Cooper, Alexia and Smith, Erica L. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Homicide Trends in the United States 1980-2008 (NCJ 236018).

5 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Statistics: National Statistics.

6 Roehl, Janice, Ph.D.; O’Sullivan Chris, Ph.D.; Webster, Daniel, ScD; and Campbell, Jacquelyn, Ph.D. Intimate Partner Violence Risk Assessment Validation Study, Final Report (2005). (NIJ 2000WTVX0011)

7 Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.