The most tragic consequence of domestic violence is undoubtedly the death of one or both intimate partners, and in some cases, their children or family and friends of the victim. Intimate partner homicide is the final assertion of power and control in an abusive relationship and, paradoxically, an acknowledgment of the abuser’s loss of control (Websdale, 1999).
Although intimate partner homicide has declined over the past decades (especially among male victims), the available research shows that women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner (husband, boyfriend, same-sex partner, or ex) than by anyone else (Catalano, 2013). Female murder victims are almost 6 times more likely than male murder victims to be killed by an intimate partner (Cooper & Smith, 2011). This collection offers resources to support the expansion of services and systems’ responses that are critically important to the prevention and continued decline of intimate partner homicides.
Much is known about the risk factors that increase the danger that victim will be killed by her intimate partner. The predominant risk factor for intimate partner homicide is prior physical abuse, particularly physical assaults that have recently escalated in frequency and severity (Block, 2003). Other risk factors identified in the research include stalking, estrangement (physical leaving, legal separation, etc.); strangulation (choking) during an assault; threats to kill; prior use of or access to weapons, especially firearms; forced sex; controlling, possessive, jealous behavior; drug and/or alcohol abuse; and, to lesser degrees, the presence in the household of children who are not the batterer’s biological offspring; and unemployment of the batterer (Roehl, O’Sullivan, Webster, & Campbell, 2005 & Campbell et al., 2003a).
Sadly, leaving an abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily end the violence, and therefore leaving isn’t always the safest choice for victims. In fact, “the extant research literature shows that women experience an increased risk of lethal violence when they leave intimate relationships with men” (Websdale, 1999). It is essential that helping professionals become familiar with lethality risk factors so that they can best minimize these risks and support the informed choices of domestic violence survivors.
This collection provides:
- national and statewide homicide statistics that help illustrate the scope of the problem;
- an overview of tools and strategies for assessing danger or the risk of lethality in domestic violence cases;
- recommendations and approaches for utilizing the fatality review process to prevent intimate partner homicide;
- materials describing various systems’ responses to domestic violence and efforts to prevent homicide;
- resources to assist advocates in helping to frame the issue through media response and community mobilization; and
- resources addressing the grief and trauma experienced by loved ones of those whose lives are lost to domestic violence.
This resource was developed by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. Special thanks to the Battered Women's Justice Project, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence for their contributions.