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National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women




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children's art grieving loss of parent

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, 2007). 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.

"If I die, I want you to tell the world what happened to me. I don't want other women to suffer as I have suffered. I want them to be listened to." ~ Maria Teresa Macias

This collection provides:

This resource was developed by VAWnet and 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. To recommend additional resources for this collection, please Contact Us.

The Scope of the Problem: Intimate Partner Homicide Statistics

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, 2007). Overall (from 1976-2005), about one third of female murder victims were killed by an intimate partner (Catalano, 2007). In 2008, twelve (12) times as many females were murdered by a male they knew than were killed by male strangers. For victims who knew their offenders, 64% of female homicide victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers (VPC, 2010). Men can also be victims of intimate partner homicide. In recent years, about 3% of male murder victims were killed by an intimate (Catalano, 2007). There is reason to believe that the motivation for these female perpetrated crimes may be self defense or retaliation, as the majority of women who use violence against their male partners are battered themselves (Das Dasgupta, 2001). For more information about battered women who use violence, contact the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, a partner of the Battered Women's Justice Project, or see additional resources on VAWnet related to Women Who Use Force/Self Defense. Another helpful resource is Domestic Violence Turning Points, offering A Nonviolence Curriculum for Women who use both legal and illegal violence against their partners.

Data on intimate partner homicide provides a glaring picture of the magnitude and devastating toll that intimate partner violence can take. Therefore, the available data can be a valuable tool to aid advocates in their continuous efforts, including policy change, fundraising, and public education. This section includes several reports and other website resources providing the most current data and analyses available on the prevalence and incidence of intimate partner violence, with special focus on homicides/femicides. The section is broken down into three sub-sections: National, Specific Populations, and State-Specific. For ideas about how advocates can use homicide data in order to raise community awareness of domestic violence and mobilize social change, see the section Using Fatality Review Reports in Our Work.

National Homicide Data
Resources providing national data and analyses of intimate partner homicide, including information on murder-suicide, are highlighted below.

Homicide Data for Specific Populations
The following list highlights available information on intimate partner homicides among specific populations.

State-Specific Homicide Data
Resources in this section are offered as examples of how different states across the country have collected and reported data on domestic violence related homicides. This is not a comprehensive list of state reports, but rather a sampling for your consideration and reference. Additional state reports are available through the National Domestic Violence Fatality Initiative. Please consult your domestic violence coalition for the most current information available in your state. For a complete list of up-to-date contact information for all domestic and sexual violence coalitions across the United States and its Territories visit: http://www.vawnet.org/links/state-coalitions.php. Another resource for assistance in finding state-specific statistics is the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Data Resource Center. Funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the purpose of the Center is to provide information to researchers, practitioners and members of the public interested in finding, using, or understanding domestic and sexual violence and stalking data.












Safety Planning & Danger Assessment Tools


“Threats to kill are integral parts of many abusive relationships, most of which do not end in homicide” (Websdale, 1999, p. 22). However, women whose partners threatened them with murder are 15 times more likely than other women to be killed (Campbell et al., 2003b). Helping survivors to assess both the risks and protective factors present in their intimate relationships can be a critial step in recognizing the potential for homicide.

Considerations for Enhancing Safety
While safety planning is related to determining the risk of danger or lethality, the considerations are different. Safety planning is an interactive process done with the victim to assess and re-assess her risks and needs, as well as her strengths and strategies used to address those risks and needs.

Tools & Strategies for Assessing Danger or Risk of Lethality

While lethality assessment and risk assessment are overlapping concepts, they do not measure the same thing. The main difference is whether a tool was designed to measure 1) the risk of reoffense/reassault (the likelihood that abuse will occur again, often measured after corrective action has been taken, a.k.a, “recidivism”) or 2) the risk of homicide (the likelihood that a fatality will result). After the general resources provided below, you will find materials related to five leading assessment tools. Each tool includes a notation about the field of intended use, the perspective being evaluated, and an indication of whether the tool assesses reoffense/reassault or lethality risk.

The Empowerment Process Model illustrated here (Bennett Cattaneo & Chapman, 2010) provides a helpful framework for engaging in risk assessment that shifts the focus from prediction to management. Lauren Bennett Cattaneo (2010) suggests that instead of asking, "What are the chances violence will occur?" we should instead ask, "Under what circumstances might violence occur, and how might we change them?" Effective risk assessment practices need to pull prediction into management, give victim voice, and integrate advocate expertise.

Intended field: advocates/health professionals
Perspective: victim
Assesses: lethality risk

Intended field: criminal justice
Perspective: offender
Assesses: reoffense/reassault

Intended field: criminal justice
Perspective: victim
Assesses: lethality risk

4. ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment) & DVRAG (Domestic Violence Risk Appraisal Guide)
Intended field: criminal justice & forensic clinicians
Perspective: offender
Assesses: reoffense/reassault

5. SARA (Spousal Assault Risk Assessment) & B-SAFER
Intended field: criminal justice
Perspective: offender
Assesses: reoffense/reasasult

6. DASH (Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour Based Violence) & RIC (Risk Identification Checklist)
Intended field: advocates/human service professionals
Perspective: victim
Assesses: lethality risk

High Lethality Risk Factors: Firearms & Strangulation

A study of the Danger Assessment tool revealed that women who were threatened or assaulted with a gun or other weapon were twenty (20) times more likely than other women to be murdered (Campbell et al., 2003b). In an earlier study, Saltzman et al. (1992) found that "Family and intimate assaults involving firearms are twelve (12) times more likely to result in death than non-firearm-related assaults".

“Strangulation is one of the most lethal forms of violence used by men against their female intimate partners, and is a significant risk factor for attempted or completed homicide of women by their male intimates. In a study of 57 women who were killed by a male partner during 1995-1996 in Chicago, 53% of the victims had experienced strangulation in the preceding year and 18% of the victims had been killed by strangulation" (Block et al., 2000).

The Family Justice Center Alliance provides training on the handling of strangulation cases for every domestic violence and sexual assault professional, and offer a training DVD entitled Strangulation: What We Have Learned that features national experts on the subject of strangulation from detection through prosecution of strangulation cases.

Facts About Intimate Partner Strangulation | PDFPDF ( p.)
by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (2009)
This brief fact sheet includes basic information prepared by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, a state that pioneered the prosecution of felony strangulation cases.
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Fatality Review


“The fatality review process is a critical component in helping communities understand the events that may have led to a domestic violence homicide, and ultimately to determine how to prevent such homicides” (FCADV, 2009).
“Like the reviews conducted after an airplane crash, a fatality review helps determine what went wrong and what could have been done differently to prevent the tragedy” (Websdale, 2003).

This section provides information on fatality reviews, a tool increasingly being used by advocates and practitioners to examine the barriers to safety, justice, and self determination that victims face, identify the gaps in our community response to domestic violence, and advocate for change so that intimate partner homicide can ultimately be prevented. This section is divided into three sub-sections: Approaches and Recommendations for Fatality Review, Sample Fatality Review Reports, and Using Fatality Review Reports in Our Work. For additional information and technical assistance on fatality review, please visit the website of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI). The mission of NDVFRI is “to provide technical assistance for the reviewing of domestic violence related deaths with the underlying objectives of preventing them in the future, preserving the safety of battered women, and holding accountable both the perpetrators of domestic violence and the multiple agencies and organizations that come into contact with the parties.” This website provides state-by-state information, reports, and a variety of other publications to support initiatives related to fatality review.

Approaches and Recommendations for Fatality Review
There are a variety of fatality review models or processes currently in place across the country. Despite the variations, however, “there is very little research strongly supporting one approach over another in terms of which review is most effective or comprehensive” (Chard-Wierschem & Mackey, 2006).

Sample Fatality Review Reports
This section provides a variety of sample fatality reports from different states across the country. This list is provided as a starting point and is not comprehensive or exhaustive. Additional reports can be found through the website of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI).







Using Fatality Review Reports in Our Work
Materials in this section provide information about creative ways in which advocates can effectively use fatality review reports in order to raise community awareness of domestic violence and mobilize social change.

Systems Response & Opportunities for Prevention |


“The depiction of intimate partner murder as a shocking and unexpected family tragedy overlooks the preventable nature of many of these deaths and absolves the community of its responsibility for developing ways to better intervene in potentially violent and lethal relationships” (Fukuroda, 2005).

Coordinated Community Response

A coordinated community response involves police, prosecutors, probation officers, battered women's advocates, counselors, and judges in developing and implementing polices and procedures that improve interagency coordination and lead to more uniform responses to domestic violence cases. * For more information, see VAWnet's resources on Coordinated Community Response.

The Murder at Home Project is a groundbreaking effort of the California Women's Law Center to transform criminal justice, community and media responses to intimate murder and intimate violence to ensure that these crimes are taken seriously and addressed appropriately. Their report below is one resource that addresses a broad community-level response to domestic violence homicide.

Health Care
* See the related Special Collections: Domestic Violence and Health Care & Traumatic Brain Injury and Domestic Violence: Understanding the Intersections

First Responders

“It is often difficult to know for sure if cases of intimate killing are preceded by domestic violence. At times police do not log their calls to domestic-violence incidents. Recent research suggests that roughly half of intimate-partner violence is reported to the police" (Websdale, 1999). It is critically important that first responders accurately record the details of incidents related to domestic violence so that future threats can be identified and addressed.

For more information and resources about the role of the workplace in responding to domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking visit The Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center.

Telling Amy’s Story is a film that follows the timeline of a domestic violence homicide that occurred on November 8, 2001. This story illustrates the important role that employers and coworkers can play in promoting safety for victims of domestic violence.

Trends in Workplace Homicides in the U.S., 1993–2002: A Decade of Decline | PDFPDF (10 p.)
by Scott A. Hendricks, E. Lynn Jenkins, and Kristi R. Anderson for the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2007)
This study found that type IV workplace homicides -- that is, those involving a personal relationship between the worker and the offender -- had actually declined significantly less than overall workplace homicides and declined the least of the four types.
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Legal/Criminal Justice
For more information about promising practices of the criminal and civil justice systems in addressing domestic violence, please visit The Battered Women's Justice Project, which offers training, technical assistance, and consultation. Their National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith and Credit provides technical assistance on all issues related to the issuance and enforcement of protection orders across jurisdictional boundaries.

Media & Community Response


By providing accurate coverage of intimate partner homicides and avoiding sources, questions and language that perpetuate myths, the media can play an important role in helping the community understand “how domestic violence can go unchecked to the point of murder” (Starr, 2008, p. 1). Because the public gets the majority of its information about the world from the media, it is crucial that advocates work with the media to reach their goal of educating the public about domestic violence (Cuscino & Shea, 1999).

Grief & Trauma


"Children are present and witness the murder of victims in 25% of femicide" (Doyne, Bowermaster, & Meloy, 1999).

In the event of intimate partner homicide or homicide/suicide, it is inevitable that the loved ones of both the victim and the perpetrator will experience intense and complex feelings of grief and loss. It is critical that domestic violence advocates recognize the importance of reaching out to families of homicide victims to offer support and/or provide referrals to appropriate services. Children of homicide victims may experience a variety of complex and often conflicting emotions when it comes to the murder of their parent and their relationship with the perpetrator. It is important to provide a sense of security and consistency to children who experience such trauma, and to offer long-term support and advocacy on their behalf.

The Purple Ribbon Council exists "to help bring hope, healing, and happiness to children who have lost a parent or both parents to domestic violence homicide." Their Purple Ribbon Fund for Children brings hope, healing and happiness to children of domestic violence homicide.
*See also The Butterfly Club, peer-guided Brooklyn, New York based program for children orphaned by domestic homicide and a support group for their guardians.


The Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families, is dedicated to grieving children and families, supporting them in their journey toward hope after a loved one dies. HOPE the Butterfly was created as an awareness symbol to spread a message of hope to grieving children across the world that “it won’t always hurt so bad.”


For additional resources on grief and loss, please visit the National Alliance for Grieving Children, The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, GriefNet.org, or Caring Connections, a project of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.