Glad You Asked: What are Lethality Assessments?

A lethality assessment is a screening tool that identifies when a victim may be in danger or at high risk of being killed or seriously injured by the perpetrator of domestic violence.

Attempts to consistently evaluate the risk of homicide in domestic violence cases began in the 1980s. Barbara Hart and Jacquelyn Campbell independently created lists of known risk factors for victims. These factors typically occurred prior to domestic violence homicides. This research paved the way towards future research into the topic of lethality assessment and the creation of lethality assessment protocols. Lethality assessment protocols are now being used to support collaborative intervention between local police departments and local domestic violence victim advocacy programs.

Law enforcement and other first responders can use the lethality assessment questions to help identify when an individual is in extreme risk or danger. Once an individual is identified as being in a highly lethal relationship, they are given additional information and directly offered services. Successful community implementation of a lethality assessment protocol includes creating a plan for all those involved in assisting survivors to ensure each survivor is given the access to services, especially those experiencing potentially lethal violence.

Identifying lethality, making the referral, and providing the services helps ensure those in the greatest danger will have a better chance for safety and survival.

Domestic violence remains a serious issue in the United States and across the world. On average, nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States. In 2018, Kansas experienced one domestic violence incident every 21 minutes, 50 seconds. Additionally, thirty-seven homicides occurred as a result of domestic violence in 2018.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2019-MU-AX-0021 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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Lucca Wang, Communications Coordinator

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