Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Assessing Risk and Lethality in Intimate Partner Violence

Another topic addressed the the Annual Conference of the Utah Association for Domestic Violence Treatment held in Provo, Utah on September 10-12 was how to assess the risk and lethality of intimate partner violence.  David Boyer, who attended the conference, brings us the following:

As a parent’s attorney, I was appointed to represent the parent from whom custody of the children had been removed. Often, my client’s were women. Many, many of my clients were victims of domestic violence. For this reason the lecture given by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell held special interest for me. Below are my notes, taken from her presentation and from the website, www.dangerassessment.org.
In 1985, Dr. Campbell created the Danger Assessment, one of the first risk assessment instruments for battered women. The following is a synopsis of her recent presentation: Assessment of Dangerousness in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence: What Practitioners Need to Know, along with data from her study Assessment of Dangerousness: Brief Overview of Risk Assessment in General and Evaluation of the Danger Assessment Instrument.
Homicide in Battering Relationships
  • 40 to 58% of US women killed, are killed by their husband, boyfriend, or ex-husband or boyfriend. This is 9 times higher than women who are killed by strangers. This is in comparison of 5-8% of men who are killed by their wives, girlfriends or ex’s.
  • Homicide is the number two cause of death amount young African American woman and 3rd amount Asian or Native American women 15-34 years old.
  • At least 2/3 of women killed were battered before their murder. 
  • The number one risk factor of DV homicide is prior domestic violence against the female. 
  • Women are more at risk when they are in the process of leaving or have left. The first three months to year are the greatest risk . (Wilson & Daly, ’93; Campbell ’01; Websdale ’99). Although leaving a relationship is risky it is still better to leave than stay, the women will be safer.
  • There are between 2 to 4 million women abused each year in the United States.
  • At least in NYC, immigrant women are more at risk. (Frye, Wild ’10)
  • In 20060-06 there were 8,000 women killed as a result of domestic violence in the United States. By comparison there were 3,500 soldiers and 1,200 law enforcement killed in the line of duty during the same time period. Data provide by Brian Vallee, The War on Women (2007)
  • Women are far more likely to become victims of homicide-suicide (29%+ vs .1% male) (NVDRS 2014).
  • Most DV homicides following separation occur at the work place. That is where the perpetrator know he/she can find them.
  • DV homicides are decreasing in cities and are increasing in rural communities.
  • homicide is now the leading cause of maternal death (woman killed while pregnant or within 1 year of giving birth).
  • In approximately 8-19% of “intimate partner” IP homicides children were also killed (Websdale ’99; Smith et al NVDRS’14).
  • For every completed femicide, there are 8-9 attempted femicides
  • In approximately 79% of cases where a woman is killed by DV, the children are present. In these cases the child either witnesses femicide or is the first to find the body. Less than 60% of these children received any counseling and many only one time.
  • When a woman is killed by children’s father a custody battle most often occurs over the surviving children. The children are most often split up: 40% go to the mother’s kin/ 12% to the father’s (killer) kin; 5% split between mother’s and father’s kin; 14% are placed with non-kin.
  • “He killed mommy” Lewandowski, Campbell et. Al., J of Family Violence ’04; Hardesty, Campbell et al ’08. J of Family Issues ‘08
  • In 8% of cases where a female with children is killed by DV, there was prior reported child abuse.


  • Get the guns out of the house and away from batterers. Judges need to be educated so that they issue search warrants specifying each gun he has access to, and police need education as to the importance of the guns. Alternately, if she is still with him, he has not been convicted of a domestic violence crime, and she does not have a Protective Order, give her a gun storage safety. Risk and Lethality Assessment in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence Page 9 pamphlet (available from health departments) to take home and talk to him about keeping the guns locked up to keep the kids safer.
  • If she plans to leave him, work hard to get her to agree NOT to tell him in person, especially if she has another partner. She can leave a note, or leave and call him from a safe place.
  • Try to get women in severe danger to shelters. Use the Danger Assessment to help persuade her of her risk.
  • If she left him to get him to go to batterers’ treatment, suggest to her that she stay separated from him until he completes and then work with the system to monitor his completion.
  • Use stalking laws to get him arrested if possible, or use protective orders against stalking.
  • If she is minimizing her risk, mention her children. Most battered women are good mothers and very concerned about their children. Use language like “Let’s talk about things you can do to help keep you and the children safe.”
  • Help her engage her support systems.
  • Encourage her to start putting money aside, even if only a little bit.
  • Be alert for the depressed batterer. If it sounds like he is depressed and desperate and suicidal, she may be able to get him mandated for a suicide assessment and mental health hospitalization. Risk and Lethality Assessment in the Field of Intimate Partner Violence Page 10.
Below is a copy of the Danger Assessment developed be Dr. Campbell.  She has allowed us to share the Danger Assessment with you and more information can be found at www.dangerassessment.com.  Click on the picture to download a copy.

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