Developing Tools to Assess Domestic Violence Lethality and Danger
Lynn Fairweather  -  2010/10/13
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
What is your opinion about written screening tools used by first responders or advocates, and their potential ramifications for victims as evidence in family or criminal court trials.
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Although the legal issues can be quite complicated, rules of evidence will generally prohibit use of the tools in criminal trials, but allow them (at the judges discretion) in civil proceedings such as divorce, restraining order, or custody hearings. Some exceptions may be found depending on what part of the tool is being submitted and what the purpose is for its entrance. An excellent article by Amanda Hitt and Lynn McLain regarding the admissibility of lethality assessments can be found in the Fall 2009 edition of The Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society (Volume 24, Number 2)
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The major potential problems in using risk assessment tools lie in false positives and false negatives, meaning that they can either under-predict or more likely over-predict lethal outcomes. Some advocates express concern that victims may not be offered services because they scored too low. Practitioners should always keep in mind that these tools are only one part of our efforts, and should not be relied on as a stand-alone resource. In depth, sensitive, and compassionate interviewing of victims will always produce a more complete picture of risk and needs than a 5 or 20 question inventory. Overall, the use of these tools in screening cases, and their application in court decisions can increase both victim safety and perpetrator accountability.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Typical domestic violence screening tools assess a victims level of risk for re-assault andor lethality, or an offenders chances of recidivating. They can be an excellent way for law enforcement, medical personnel, advocates, attorneys and judges to determine which risk category a victim falls into and what services should be offered or legal remedies applied. They can also provide victims with another way of telling their story, and allow them to see their experiences through the lens of empirically based research. However, victims and the practitioners they work with should be aware that by introducing an assessment into a courtroom they may be telling the abuser what the victim has shared with professionals, thus potentially increasing her risk.
 
 
I dont have a specific question per se, But I am wondering if there can be discussion around Lethality Indicators when there has been NO previous physical violence?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 This means that because we cannot rely on the abuser committing a violent act that will qualify him for intervention from law enforcement, we must concentrate instead on reducing the victims accessibility and vulnerability to the perpetrator. This can include a constellation of actions ranging from safety planning focused on home and worksite based security to long-distance relocation of the victim. Lastly, victims and practitioners should never ignore their instincts even if the abuser hasnt shown a violent side in the past, symbolic and suggested behaviors can be brought from idea to action over a simple shift in circumstance. A sense of heightened awareness can be our best predictive tool when obvious clues to lethality are lacking.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Other triggers include court decisions involving divorce, division of property or particularly child custody, and the abusers discovery of victims new relationship. In cases of familicide (the killing of entire families, often including the perpetrators suicide) we see patterns of depression, suicidality, and a downward spiral of financial problems. In cases where physical violence is not present, victims and the practitioners seeking to help them must become more aware of possible future changes in the situation as opposed to the abusers past behavior. Because they have not been physically attacked (yet) victims may also be less conscious of their risk level. It is always best to err on the side of caution, applying what threat assessors refer to target-hardening measures.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Various studies show that the most important factors to look for (beyond physical abuse) are jealous and controlling behavior, threats with a weapon (even the simple presence of a firearm in the home increases homicide risk by 6 times), threats to kill, substance abuse (particularly alcohol), and stalking behaviors. I would like to add that many cases I have studied have also involved some element of deception ranging from infidelity to hidden debts and addictions. Although the victims planned or completed exit from the relationship is the most common trigger for fatal violence, the discovery of a lie (or threat of impending discovery) may also appear as a situational factor that moves the abuser toward deadly action.
 
4.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Im glad you brought up this subject Nancy. One of the most requested workshops I facilitate is called Detecting Lethality in the Absence of Reported Abuse, reflecting the interest that many practitioners have in this very issue. Victims of non-physical abuse also report a great level of concern because often their abuser is not doing the obvious things that might draw the attention of police and courts, therefore disqualifying them from the level of protection they feel is warranted. Dr. Jacqueline Campbells research tells us that up to a third of all IPH cases do not have a history of physical violence. Therefore it is vital that we learn about indicators that are particular to this situation.
 
5.  DVHONJ
 I would look at the coercive-controlling behaviors. I find in my cases those are most indicative of the potential for homicidal behavior. For example, controlling victim's access to money (no ATM card, no credit cards, not allowed to work or makes it impossible for victim to work), tracking devices in vehicles, time limits for trips to supermarketmallother chores, etc., the disabling of victim's vehicle on a regular basis, the confiscation of victim's cell phone on a regular basis. These behaviors should be setting off red flags.
 
 
A batterer who may appear low risk at the time that a specific tool is administered, may suddenly become high risk as dynamics change...specifically, if the victim/survivor chooses to leave the relationship. Given this, how reliable are DV risk/lethality tools?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Overall, written assessment scales should not be seen as a stand-alone feature of risk evaluation and management but as one piece in a toolbox of measurements and strategies. I believe the greatest weapon in the fight against intimate partner homicide is knowledge, applied by workers who understand all the risk factors and have enough consistent involvement with the victim and offender to monitor the situation as a whole over time, not simply relying on a numerical score to assess risk.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Other shifts in situation that can move an unstable perpetrator toward violence include professional andor financial failure, a court decision that doesnt go as he wanted, events or conditions he perceives as humiliating, or a further descent into substance abuse or mental health problems. Holistic assessments (in-depth interviews as opposed to limited checklists) should be conducted at multiple points, particularly when circumstances change in any significant way. Also, the victims own opinions of her risk level should never be discounted even if evidence doesnt support her fears. Every assessment tool has shown to predict risk better than chance alone, but across all scales the 1# predictor of violence was the victims belief that the offender might hurt or kill her.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The prediction of risk is sometimes more of an art than a science. The written assessment tools we use can be very helpful if lethality indicators are present but when a case scores low, victims and practitioners must pay more attention to the static (unchanging) and dynamic (changing) factors of the situation. Your example of a trigger event (the victim leaving the relationship or expressing her intention to do so) is one of the most common overall factors researchers have found in intimate partner homicide, appearing in up to 80 of cases.
 
 
1. Given that the standard medical question in the ER is "Do you feel safe at home" and is clearly not an accurate question for assessing DV in a medical setting. What question(s) do you recommend. My team of forensic nurses sees approximately 300 adult victims of DV in the ER annually.
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 It is important to make hotline numbers, posters, brochures, magnets, pens or some other kind of information distribution available in a place where victims can access it without letting anyone (including the abuser) know they have received it. This strategy cuts through the barriers of fear and shame that many victims face in disclosing their abuse. I applaud your team for being concerned enough about the welfare of patients to act on their suspicions and instincts. A practice of general but sensitive inquiry allows practitioners to follow-up with information and resources, regardless of whether a victim is ready to admit the abuse or not.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 A YES answer to any of these questions should prompt referral (or better yet, an on-scene direct contact) to a domestic violence advocate who can provide assistance. If the patient sticks to her story about the injury because she hasnt been abused then staff has asked an innocent question designed to help other people. But if you suspect she has been assaulted and doesnt want to disclose, you can take an indirect path to referral by mentioning that information is available should she need it. Staff could say OK. Just so you know, we tell all our female patients that the womens crisis line number is posted in the bathrooms. We think every woman should know about that valuable resource.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 If the patient admits that she has been abused, then procedure for addressing this situation can follow. That plan should include inquiries about the victims immediate safety upon leaving the hospital, as well as a few questions about the general situation (including lethality) such as: Has he threatened to kill you? Has he ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with one? Has he ever strangledchoked you?Is he constantly jealous and controlling of your behaviors? Have you tried to leave him in the past, or would you like to now? Has he ever forced you to do anything sexual that you didnt want to do? Is anyone else in your home (including children and pets) in danger?
 
4.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Once immediate safety has been established, my thoughts would be to start very generally, narrowing down and specifying your questions as further inquiry is needed, like a flowchart. For example, a nurse or physician might say We are concerned that (or we feel like we should ask you if) there could be another explanation for the injury you are presenting with today. Did someone hurt you, either intentionally or by accident? This opens the door for a victim to tell the truth about her condition, even if she makes an excuse for or denies that her abuser injured her on purpose.
 
5.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Although your staff probably already knows this, I will mention that patients should always be screened for DV outside of the presence of others, particularly if the person who has brought them in is suspected to be the abuser. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods such as inquiring of the patient in the X-ray room where companions will not likely follow, waiting until the companion has left to use the telephone or the bathroom, or telling the companion that the patient needs to be weighed and the scale is in the ladies room.
 
6.  Lynn Fairweathe
  I am not in the healthcare field but it would be my assumption that medical personnel have a sense when a patient arrives whether or not their injury could have been caused by abuse. If your staff feels that interpersonal violence has been a factor they would definitely want to go beyond the simple inquiry you have mentioned. Because we do not want to risk offending people who have not been abused by insinuating that their partner has caused their injury, but we also dont want to create further danger for true victims, we obviously need to tread lightly.
 
 
I am finding that both the victim and offenders get confused about the different no contact orders. often, the victim dosnt know which she has when I ask her, civil or criminal and then how each one is handled. Is'nt there anyplace that one would be consistant with what first responders should be giving and explaining? They are then given a court date and am not sure what it is about. How can we do a better job in first reponse training? I find DV victims feeling shell shocked and sitting on the fence as what they want to see happen or have the oppertunity to do.
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Lastly, if your area has a family violence coordinating council, or domestic violence task force, this may be an issue they can address because members often have the political connections needed to implement broader systemic change. Being a victim of domestic violence can be confusing and frightening enough without the added challenges of working with the legal system. Hopefully criminal justice practitioners and victim service providers can find more ways to coordinate their efforts so victims dont feel left out of a process that often exerts a great deal of control over their delicate and dangerous situations.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
  If you live in a location where officers can issue no-contact orders on scene, would it be fruitful to bring your concerns to the police leadership, letting them know that first responders are not adequately informing victims of their rights and options? Perhaps an anonymous survey of or a collection of comments by the victims you work with, illustrating the information gap, could convince them of the need for change.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Does your local law enforcement agency employ community based or internal advocates? They often do a better job of communicating with victims regarding judicial remedies due to the fact that their training (and the time they can offer) allows them to better explain a victims choices. Does your local courthouse provide in-house advocates to support and advise petitioners when they apply for a protection order? If not, could the district attorneys office (or their victimwitness advocates) provide a training for DV field workers on their systems and paperwork?
 
4.  Lynn Fairweathe
  Given the various terminology used for protective orders in different jurisdictions, and the legalese that the documents themselves are written in, it is no wonder that petitioners and respondents alike are sometimes confused. Unfortunately, victims sometimes feel like they are not really a part of the legal proceedings in their case and do not receive proper communication from the court system. In addition, even if a system is designed to include consistency in language, individual first responders may have different ways of explaining legal options to the victims they encounter.
 
 
Are there any methods in preventing violence in a family where other methods such as counseling and the police didn't work?
 
1.  Matthew
 I am speaking in a very generalized sense. As in if counseling and police intervention doesn't work. What types of methods are usually successful where those are not?
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 One of the most frustrating aspects of working in DV can be the feeling of helplessness we experience when violence does not stop despite repeated attempts at intervention. These are the times in which we must remember that the average victim leaves her abuser 7-9 times before making a permanent successful break, and even when it doesnt seem like it, we may be planting seeds for that future safe escape. Please don't underestimate your ability to save lives through persistent dedication and involvement just because your efforts have not ended the violence on this day doesnt mean you havent offered a glimmer of hope to a victim awaiting freedom, whether she is currently ready to take that step or not.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Is it possible that all avenues of charging and prosecution have not yet been explored, and the focused attention of a dedicated police officer or district attorney could yield new strategies? Are there sources of assistance that havent been considered such as involvement by child protection authorities, parole and probation officers, minority specific service providers, landlords, employers, and relatives of both the victim and offender? Is intervention failing because substance abuse or mental health issues complicate the situation? There are so many factors that go into a DV situation that we as practitioners must view the situation holistically, and be willing to look for sometimes obscure and long shot solutions.
 
4.  Lynn Fairweathe
 I am wondering if your question refers to the perpetrators continued abuse regardless of criminal justice and batterers intervention program involvement, or the victims continued (seemingly voluntary) involvement with the abuser. Perhaps both? Every domestic violence case is unique, and without knowing the particulars of the situation you are describing it is difficult for me to recommend specific management suggestions. However, given the limited details, lets step back and assess what has really been tried and what has really gone wrong in the circumstances you are citing. For example, could it be that the victim appears to remain with the offender out of choice when in reality, she lacks the financial resources to break free?
 
 
Are there any risk instruments that are appropriate for a judge to use in a pfa proceeding?
 
1.  Natasha
 Thanks for the information, I appreciate it.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 It is vital for judges to seek out as much education as possible in the area of assessing lethality because they may be the final line that stands between a potential killer and his victim. Another resource that can be of assistance is the National Judicial Education Program (NJEP) through an organization called Legal Momentum. NJEP creates and presents model judicial curricula, publishes articles in the judicial and legal press, and supports the state supreme court task forces on gender bias in the courts, for which NJEP was the catalyst. Legal Momentums website URL is: http://www.legalmomentum.org/our-work/njep/
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 By PFA proceeding, I am assuming you mean Protection from Abuse? The terminology varies greatly from state to state, so I hope we are on the same page. As mentioned in a previous response, Dr. Jacqueline Campbells Danger Assessment Screen (DAS) is the most highly validated and commonly used inventory in courtrooms across the country. It is brief, user-friendly, and considered a highly sensitive (predictive) tool. Even shorter versions of the same checklist (4-11 questions) are in use by law enforcement and others who find their interaction time with victims to be limited. Practitioners in all fields can become trained and certified to use this tool (at minimal cost) by visiting Dr. Campbells website at www.dangerassessment.org
 
 
Do you have a free resource that you would recommend for law enforcement?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Another resource that is now available to practitioners and victims alike free of cost is Gavin de Beckers DV-MOSAIC, a highly validated 50 question inventory that measures risk of intimate partner homicide. This computer program used to cost law enforcement agencies over $1000 per year to use but has been generously opened to the public by Mr. de Becker in hopes of preventing fatalities. The tool can be accessed at www.mosaicmethod.com but would probably be appropriate for follow-up as opposed to on-scene assessment due to its length.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence has created a groundbreaking project called The Lethality Assessment Program for First Responders (LAP). At its core is a lethality screen that can trigger an on-scene call to an advocate to provide information, resources, and support to victims. You can contact the Maryland Lethality Assessment Program by calling 301-352-4574 or view an informational packet at the following URL: http://mnadv.org/lethality.html
 
 
Is there a specific lethality assessment that you would recommend for use by probation officers or domestic assault program coordinators?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Also, it is vital that all probation departments and batterers intervention programs be in constant contact with the victim if at all possible. She will be the best judge of whether his behavior is changing or not, and keeping that line of communication open offers us a chance to assist her if needed, while obtaining valuable information about the subject being supervised.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Because such assessments would likely be given to the perpetrator instead of the victim, the challenge would be his level of truthfulness on a self-reporting questionnaire, although some answers may be obtainable through criminal record . It is well known that most batterers will heavily minimize their own behaviors particularly if they feel their responses could incite tougher conditions or sanctions. Ideally, a tool like Campbells Danger Assessment Scale would be given to the victim in conjunction. The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse has an excellent resource on domestic violence and probation which includes assessment tools. That document can be found at: http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/bwjp/probationv/probationv.html#id2376160
 
 
On behalf of our Victimology & Victim Services course @ Becker College, Ms.Fairweather... What specific tools for assessing domestic violence have proved to be the most helpful and useful?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 RE: Danielle's question - The research based assessment tools mentioned throughout this thread are all written or electronic inventories consisting of 10-50 questions that help practitioners determine what level of risk a case is at, and what interventionsservices are most appropriate for that scenario. Most tools measure a victims risk of re-assault or an offenders risk of recidivism by asking questions about the current and past behavior of the subject (the batterer) as well as inquiring about the situational factors in a given circumstance. Some rely on criminal records or subject interviews to obtain this information, while many collect answers from the victim.
 
2.  Danielle
 How are these tools used to assess Domestic Violence? What is the technique?
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 There is no tool that predicts 100 correctly, but all tools predict better than chance alone. It is important to keep in mind that across all scales the 1# predictor of assault, re-assault, or homicide was the victims belief that the abuser might hurt or kill her, therefore we need to pay special attention to a victims assessment of her own situation, recognizing who our expert truly is. Assessments are a valuable tool but should be only one part of an evaluation and management program, and low scores should never be used to deny services to a victim.
 
4.  Lynn Fairweathe
 It depends on what we are looking for, distinguishing between scales that measure risk of re-assault and those that predict lethality. Among the former, there are over 33 available, only a handful of which are widely used. These include DVSI, K-SID, ODARA, and SARA. In terms of tools that assess risk of intimate partner homicide, only two stand out: Campbells DAS (which has been shown to have the highest correlation with subsequent abuse) and de Beckers DV MOSAIC (which has shown the best performance in prediction of subsequent threats or stalking.) Please see previous questions in this thread for links to both.
 
 
Risk, Lethality, or Danger Assessment Tools for Native Americans: (Non-Gender Specific) What are the considerations needed when using them with Native American Indians? • Intoxicated individuals? • Individuals who have a co-occurring mental disorder? Is there a simplified tool that Crisis Intervention Workers in tribal areas that can be used onsite? What are the legal issues that may arise or be challenged when using these tools? Are they accepted in most courts including tribal as part of their process?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The best tool for on-scene practitioners in tribal areas might be Dr. Jacqueline Campbells Danger Assessment Screen (DAS). It is brief, well validated and highly sensitive at predicting lethality. Even shorter versions of the same checklist (4-11 questions) are in use by law enforcement and others who find their interaction time with victims to be limited. Practitioners in all fields can become trained and certified to use this tool (at minimal cost) by visiting Dr. Campbells website at www.dangerassessment.org In regard to the legality of using assessments in court, please see the first question in this forum thread it contains a detailed explanation that I do not think will differ in tribal courts.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 As with any type of assessment or interview, ideally subjects would not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the tool is administered. However, practitioners know that is not always feasible, particularly with on-scene evaluations done by law enforcement or medical personnel. If at all possible, I would recommend repeating the assessment at a later time when the individual is not impaired, but I dont know that the answers would change that much.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 That being said, practitioners conducting holistic evaluations should definitely look at all the factors within a subjects situation that could increase lethality. For example, a great deal of research has gone into examining substance abuse (particularly alcohol) in Native American communities. Since it is known that abuse of alcohol (both in the moment of attack and as a longstanding pattern) is a strong factor in lethality, this might be a consideration of additional concern in tribal areas. It is also known that Native American women experience more physical and sexual abuse than any other group, so I would say that danger and lethality assessments are even more important for police, medical, and crisis intervention workers to use in tribal areas.
 
4.  Lynn Fairweathe
 As there are multiple questions here, my answers will appear in several parts. To my knowledge, none of the danger/lethality tools in existence have ever made allowances for racial, ethnic, or religious differences in subjects. Similarly, no tool has ever specifically addressed individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues. The only assessment I know of that looks beyond viewing all abusers equally is Dr. Nancy Glasss recent work on lethality factors in same-sex relationships. In other words, the tools themselves would not be used any differently when being administered to Native Americans, intoxicated individuals, or individuals with co-occurring mental disorders because we are measuring behaviors not the factors that may contribute to them.
 
 
On behalf of the students in our Victimology & Victim Services course @ Becker College... Ms.Fairweather, Have you already, or do you plan in the future, instituting your Program in other states in the U.S.?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Through my firm Presage Consulting and Training I travel all over the United States and Canada working with law enforcement, victim services agencies, advocates, prosecutors, judges, medical personnel, students and corporations who have an interest in learning more about reducing the risk of intimate partner homicide. Further details can be found on my website at www.presagetraining.com
 
 
Please address the legality of making a prediction on lethality so that our programs will not be held responsible.
 
1.  No Hitters Club
 When requested by the court for a domestic violence program for victims to make a lethality prediction before a sentencing, protection order or a conviction... where is the legal assumption that will hold the program liable IF the prediction is rated lower than the perpetrator has acted on following the assessment by the advocate. Can the courts hold the program as copable in his retrobution.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Please provide me with some more information in order to better address this question such as: What are your programs? What sort of predictions are you being asked to make and by whom? Who are you concerned will hold you responsible (victims, courts, batterers)and for what (false positives or false negatives)? I will come back to this question when more details are given.
 
 
I work for a domestic violence organization. We are looking to revise our safety plans,leithality assessment forms to fit our clients as the ones we have at this time are geared towards partners and we have clients that have other family members that are there offenders along with clients that have been sexually assulted.
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The challenge to measuring lethality has always been the low base rate of incidents, meaning that while intimate partner homicide takes 1200-1700 lives per year, that number is still considered low for research purposes. Homicides perpetrated by abusive family members or sexual offenders (known or unknown to the victim) are even more rare, and therefore it has not been possible to develop an effective tool for these exact circumstances. Various psychological tests exist to measure violence potential in patients or inmates, but these would not be administered to victims. Because there is so much variation in circumstance with the situations you describe, I would recommend developing and adapting individual safety plans, not attempting to create recommendations that can be generally distributed.
 
 
Please allow me to give some caveats regarding the language I will be using today: Because my work focuses on intimate partner homicide (IPH) and not all victims of domestic violence (DV) survive, I often use the term “victim” as opposed to “survivor”. I also mostly refer to perpetrators as “he”, and victims as “she”. We all understand that men can be victims of abuse and that women can be perpetrators, even killers. We also recognize that DV and IPH occur in LGBTQ relationships as well. Each one of these scenarios has unique aspects that make it a different from “traditional” IPH which is by the numbers an overwhelmingly male-on-female crime, therefore making today’s topic mostly an issue of femicide.
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Because certain aspects of abuse are unique to LGBTQ relationships (such as an LGBTQ abuser threatening to out their partner as a method of power and control), it stands to reason that some risk factors might be different as well. Dr. Nancy Glass has recently created a lethality assessment specifically for lesbian relationships. While her project is still in its early phases there is evidence that lesbian relationships may have different risk factors than heterosexual relationships. Other research indicates that aspects of the issue such as choice of weapon may differ in same-sex relationships as well. I believe this is an emerging field on which the coming years will bring us more information hopefully contributing to ideas for violence prevention.
 
2.  Sunny Gashi
 Are there then any particular tools or guidelines for assessing lethality and danger in same-sex relationships or amongst survivors and perpetrators in the LGBTQ community, that differ from those for same-sex relationships?
 
 
What about assessment tools for court staff/providers conducting presentence investigations
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Many pre-sentence investigators use the DVSI - Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (Williams & Houghton, 2004). It consists of 12 questions primarily related to offenders criminal history, employment, & several other risk factors. The offenders criminal record and interview are used to obtain answers. DVSI does not assess lethality but rather risk of recidivismre-assault for courts to use in making offender-related decisions. There are only two validated lethality assessment tools (DAS and DV-MOSAIC) but both rely more on victim information, which may not be possible to obtain in a PSI. Some courts use multiple assessments in conjunction with one another, for example, if an offender scores high on the DVSI, it can be followed with the SARA (Spousal Abuse Risk Assessment).
 
 
Are there current lethality assessments in use that involve gathering information from the perpetrator?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Currently there are no widely usedvalidated domestic violence lethality screenings that are administered to offenders, most likely because their level of self-reporting would not be considered truthful enough to get a valid score.There are re-assault scales such as ODARA that use criminal and police records (not offender interviews) but they do not measure lethality. Also, the Navy has developed a tool that looks at re-assault and lethality risk but I believe it is currently only used in military settings.
 
 
Are there any identifying factors of a domestic abuser that determines how lethal they may become?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 I look at lethality risk in terms of 3 categories: the batterers behaviors, characteristics, and overall situational factors. Researchers have discovered that behaviors such as strangulation, sexual assault, threats to kill, and substance abuse are all associated with intimate partner homicide. Certain traits such as jealousy, a need for control, and suicidality have also been identified as those common to dangerous abusers. Additionally, situational factors like estrangement, the abusers unemployment, the victims pregnancy, the presence of a stepchild in the home and gun ownership are all highly correlated with lethality. Some researchers have found as many as 50 different factors to consider. An article on this topic entitled Assessing Risk Factors in Intimate Partner Homicide can be found at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/jr000250e.pdf
 
 
Do you have any tools that are research-based for use in child custody evaluations when domestic violence risk is an issue?
 
1.  Kathleen King
 I have a similar question. I work for a child welfare agency that is trying to better assess domestic violence and safety of children. I would be interested in an assessment tool that addresses questions to the parents and the children. We would specifically be interested in assessing eminent risk (physical and emotional) to the children if they remained in the home under the current conditions. Since this would be done by intake workers who are in the home briefly, a tool that could be completed in one visit would be best.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Please provide me with some more information in order to better address this question such as: Are you referring to assessment tools that could be administered to the victim or the abuser (or both)? Are you looking for a tool that measures risk to the childchildren in question or the non-offending parent (or both)? Are you looking for an assessment tool that measures risk of re-assault or specifically of lethality? I will come back to this question when more details are given.
 
 
Do you find that victims answer the Danger Assessment questionnaire differently in person than via the mail- I see a much more lethal result in their scores (we use the John's Hopkins D.A.) when they enroll in our program in person.
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 1) Studies have shown that domestic violence victims who make the effort to seek help from law enforcement or community services are often the ones in greatest danger, and that they usually dont even take that step until multiple incidents of increasingly severe abuse have occurred. 2) The act of speaking with an empathic, knowledgeable advocate can allow victims a safe space to admit to, recognize, and remember incidents of abuse they misunderstood, had been in denial about, or simply blocked out of their memories. I am pleased to hear that victims are comfortable enough with your team to disclose their true risk, it is a credit to your staff and an opportunity to help those that need it most.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 I have not heard of administering the DAS through the mail because of the sensitive personal nature of the questions and the discussion that must accompany them, but I can understand that a postal method might be used in some locations where opportunities for direct victim contact are limited. The idea also brings up concerns about the safety of mailing such information to a home where the abuser might intercept it. I would be interested to learn more about how your program implements and safeguards its mailing system. That being said, it does not surprise me that you get higher scores in person for two reasons: (See next reply box - permitted word count has been surpassed)
 
 
Most Lethality and Danger Assessment tools that have been developed for Domstic Violence/IPV have been developed using victim-provided information. Are you aware of any such tools that utilize informaton solely from the perpetrator (including what could be obtained from criminal records and from interviewing him)?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (DVSI) and the Kingston Screening Instrument for Domestic Violence (K-SID) both utilize offender interviews and criminal records. These are most often used in offender contact settings such as paroleprobation units, and batterers intervention programs. The Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) is the only tool that draws information solely from criminal records, therefore claiming to be the only truly defensible assessment scale. However, its rigidity is also its weakness because it fails to capture unreported incidents, which we know domestic violence is largely comprised of. Screenings arent administered solely to offenders without the support of a background check or victim interview, because their level of self-reporting would not be considered truthful enough to achieve validity.
 
 
Hello, Our department is interested in the learning about the "tools" you are using. Can you list and breifly describe them?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 As I have mentioned in previous answers on this thread, written assessment scales should not be seen as a stand-alone feature of risk evaluation and management but as one piece in a toolbox of strategies. I believe the greatest weapon in the fight against intimate partner homicide is knowledge, applied by workers who understand all the risk factors and have enough consistent involvement with the victim and offender to monitor the situation as a whole over time, not simply relying on a numerical score to assess risk.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 All assessments ask questions about the current and past behavior of the subject (the batterer) as well as inquiring about the situational factors in a given circumstance. Some rely on criminal records or subject interviews to obtain this information, while many collect answers from the victim. Due to space limitations on this forum I cannot compare and contrast the over 33 tools in existence, but will provide you with a link for a document that examines the top five, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses among them. The URL is as follows: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/209731.pdf.
 
3.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The research based assessment tools mentioned throughout this thread are all written or electronic inventories consisting of 10-50 questions that help practitioners determine what level of risk a case is at, and what interventionsservices are most appropriate for that scenario. Most tools measure a victims risk of re-assault or an offenders risk of recidivism. Examples are SARA (Spousal Abuse Risk Assessment), DVSI (Domestic Violence Screening Instrument), K-SID (Kingston Screening Instrument for Domestic Violence), and ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment). Only two tools, Campbells DAS (Danger Assessment Screen) and de Beckers DV-MOSAIC measure risk of intimate partner homicide. These assessments have all been validated to varying degrees, but overall the DAS is the most commonly used and adapted.
 
 
In our area, our victims do not want to persue prosecution because it is such a tight community> The county DA utilzes digital recorders to collect evidence at the time of interview. How can we develop a measureable tool that demonstrates that we have the victims and how to get them interventions that stops violence or prosecutes/has an outcome?
 
1.  Katie
 My apologies for an unclear question, I had 1 hour notice of this event. We are in the process of developing tools to measure outcomes and further develop services needed by our clients. One successful example that we have heard is that the local DA collects stories as evidence at the time of any event with recorders, which for many Native's is the same as taking pictures - it's not okay. This is a difficulty to overcome among our small population. As it stands, our victims do not even want to come forward, which means we can't count them, although we know they are there and we tend to be involved on the fringes toward the end of an episode. Violence continues in the community because we aren't able to apply interventions early on. I am trying to wrap my head around a tool or method that measures how many victims and what interventions are successful that also meets the call of the grant which is also prosecution (which victims do not want to provide evidence for). Essentially, the purpose of developing a tool is to collect information for the grant, to learn what areas can be improved, and then to apply that information into the future in a way where our little Department can develop self-sustainability (without grants). Any suggestions on such a tool or developing such a tool are very much appreciated. Thank you - Wok-hlew.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The issue of victim reluctance to participate with prosecution is unfortunately common to smaller communities. I would like to address your question but ask that you clarify the purpose of the tool you have mentioned. I am not sure what you mean by the phrase have the victims. Is the second portion of your sentence asking a separate question regarding working with reluctant victims to assist and encourage prosecution? I will return to this question when more details are provided about what specifically you are asking.
 
 
In developing tools to assess the dangers of domestic violence, what professionals should be involved in this experience, besides the police?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The design of written assessment tools has been a collaborative process between researchers, practitioners, and victims themselves. Because each brings a unique perspective to the table, all contribute valuable input. But in order for assessments to be used in court, they must be research based and empirically validated, so while first responders and advocates may use shorter or ad hoc versions of established tools, these might not be admissible to a judge. Police, advocates, medical personnel, prosecutors, batterers intervention providers, child welfare workers, and even human resources employees may all have opportunities to assess and assist victims. However, it is important that holistic evaluations of a DV situation be conducted by experienced, knowledgeable professionals beyond the brief, on-scene assessment.
 
 
Is there a special assessment that should be used when working with people who were formerly incarcerated?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 There is no tool specifically designed just for people (I assume you mean offenders) that have been previously incarcerated. Previous incarceration might only be a factor when using an assessment tool that examines criminal record to determine risk of recidivism. The main inventories that do so are O.D.A.R.A. (Hilton et al., 2004) and DVSI (Williams & Houghton, 2004). However, if you are trying to measure risk of lethality it is important to keep in mind that many domestic killers have never been incarcerated and in fact have no criminal record at all, so this should not be relied upon as a stand-alone measurement of risk (as no assessment tool ever should).
 
 
Are there any assessment tools service providers can use that determine whether a victim of domestic violence will/could use lethal methods to commit homicide on her partner (not necessarily out of self defense)?
 
1.  LynnFairweather
 Research has discovered that previous physical assault of the female by the male was a factor in up to 75 of all domestic homicides regardless of which partner was killed. This means that in many cases, women who kill their partners are actually killing their abuser and the term self-defense could refer to a victim acting on the longstanding, overarching threat to her life, as opposed to an immediate danger. While there is no written tool that measures this possibility, any victim who scores high on a risk assessment is someone in a desperate and potentially dangerous situation. Inquire about all methods a victim has used (and considered) to keep herself safe, including fighting back physically or with weapons.
 
 
Police Departments that are having difficulty in report writing, assimilating the appropriate information, i.e. photographs, victim statements regarding domestic battery/violence crime scenes. Any suggestions regarding correcting this problem?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Presenting the issue as a community problem, without directly pointing fingers may be a way to encourage the police to work with DV agencies to create a better training curriculum, implement a policeadvocate on-scene collaboration program or foster more accountability within the ranks. If all else fails, you might consider going to the press or a local political leader, but that would be a far more drastic and less effective option than first allowing police to come up with department initiated solutions that show improvement in services to DV victims. Coordinated community response is about building bridges, not burning them.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 All the aspects of police work that you mention are important pieces to the investigation of domestic violence crimes and it is unfortunate that your local law enforcement department does not appear to be following best practices. This is most likely either a training problem or the failure of leadership to implement and enforce proper protocol. I would suggest that a domestic violence services agency spearhead a project to collect examples of the problem from local cases, perhaps in the form of an anonymous victim survey, a review of DV related police reports, or a sampling of anecdotal evidence. Representatives could then bring that collection to either the office of the police chief or an area family violence coordinating council.
 
 
What kind of new "tools" are currently being developed to asses domestic violence? When the new "tools" are developed how will they be applied?
 
1.  Lynn Fairweathe
 The art and science of threat assessment and management looks at all angles of a case including situational factors, informational leakage, a subjectabusers criminal, mental health, and substance abuse history, and the victimtargets vulnerability and accessibility to the subject. Ideas for stabilizing and handling cases are then generated by multi-disciplinary teams that encourage collaboration between all stakeholders involved with either the victim or the offender. Coordinated community response is often the most effective method for assessing and managing cases because the open sharing of information allows a 360 degree picture of a situation to develop and ensuing strategies can be implemented and supported from all sides.
 
2.  Lynn Fairweathe
 Researchers are constantly working at developing new written and electronic assessment tools but they all face certain common challenges, such as the possibility of false positives/false negatives, issues of under-reporting, and the low base rate of intimate partner homicide incidents. There is not now, nor will there probably ever be a tool that is 100 predictive of domestic violence or lethality risk , but I see current trends moving away from reliance on numerically scored screenings toward the more holistic evaluations provided by techniques and theories of the threat assessment and management field. Please see the following post for a description:
 
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