Family, Friends and Faith
One essential key to addressing problems of domestic violence and suicide is to build capacity of friends, family members, members of the faith community, employers and coworkers to support people who are abused or abusive and suicidal. Time and again, fatality reviews reveal that members of the support system surrounding victims and perpetrators know more than anyone else about the history of abuse and dynamics in the relationship. This is also true for individuals who are suicidal; often, their family and friends are in the best position to recognize and address red flags and indicators of suicidal ideation.
Family & Friends: Due to the complex nature of domestic violence and suicide, persistent myths about danger and risk relating to these issues, and a lack of available information, it is often difficult for friends and family to fully grasp the severity of the situation their loved one is in. Interviews with family and friends of deceased victims revealed when they observed violent and controlling behaviors in the relationship, they did not always connect these behaviors with their concept of domestic violence.
Family and friends are often unable to put certain behaviors in context of domestic violence due to a lack of knowledge about dynamics of abuse; therefore, it does not occur to them to find out what help is available. Even when family and friends recognize their loved one is in an abusive relationship, they often do not know where to turn for help.
Co-Workers: In reviewed murder-suicide cases, both victims and perpetrators were more likely to be employed at the time of the incident, drawing further attention to the need for employers and coworkers to recognize warning signs of both suicide and domestic violence.
Fifty percent of murder-suicide perpetrators held full-time jobs at the time of the incident, as opposed to 35% of perpetrators in reviewed homicide cases. Sixty-eight percent of murder-suicide victims were employed, much higher than 45% of victims in reviewed homicide cases. The high percentage of both employed victims and perpetrators points to workplaces as a necessary target for stakeholders engaged in preventing future suicide and domestic violence.
CHART: PERPETRATOR’S EMPLOYMENT STATUS
CHART: VICTIM’S EMPLOYMENT STATUS
CHART: CONNECTED TO FAITH COMMUNITY
Faith Community: While the Project has long known that in reviewed cases victims turned to their faith community for support, murder-suicide victims were in contact with the faith community at a much higher rate (43%) than victims from reviewed homicide cases (26%). Additionally, perpetrators of murder-suicide were in contact with the faith community at a much higher rate (33%) than perpetrators of other domestic violence homicides (17%).
Even when victims sought guidance and counsel from faith leaders prior to their homicide or near-fatal attack, they did not always disclose the abuse. Sometimes victims were connected with a faith community but were unwilling or unable to disclose the abuse there. In other cases, clergy or fellow congregants were aware of the violence due to concerns voiced by others close to the victim
- Include messages in public education and outreach efforts directed to family members and friends. Incorporate tips for ways to support a victim, where to call for help and how to recognize signs of escalating danger — including suicidal thoughts or threats and other lethality indicators.
- Assist family members, friends and other supporters of a domestic violence victim, either on the crisis line or in a community outreach setting, in the following ways: Help them identify their own risks and make safety plans accordingly; ask about suicidal threats and depression; provide information about appropriate ways to support the victim; and help them link the victim to appropriate resources.
- When it is safe to do so, help survivors rebuild connections with their support system. Evaluate programmatic policies and practices that may hamper the victim’s ability to stay connected or reconnect with these key supporters, especially when she is utilizing shelter services.
- Partner with the Chamber of Commerce to sponsor Domestic Violence in the Workplace Training sessions for employers. The Toolkit is available for download here.
- Provide domestic violence training to faith leaders and engage them in work to end domestic violence. Download the new Safe Sacred Space Training and request the Safe Sacred Space Faith Manual here.
- Get to know your community’s domestic violence program and mental health providers and create a resource referral network.
- Let congregants know it is safe to discuss domestic violence-related issues by providing information through sermons, newsletter articles/ bulletins and in premarital counseling.
- Avoid counseling couples together when allegations of domestic violence are present.
- Work with domestic violence advocates to train staff about domestic violence and suicide intervention. Make an organizational plan for responding to abuse within congregations, prioritizing victim safety and abuser accountability.
- With the victim’s permission, consider keeping a log of incidents that you become aware of and document any suspicious injuries the victim may have. This information may prove helpful to a victim when she is ready to take action against her abuser.
- Provide the number for the domestic violence hotline (1-800-33-HAVEN) or mental health crisis line (1-800-715-4225) to coworkers who are in need of specialized support.
- Ask clarifying questions to human resources personnel about how an individual can access an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or other supportive resources offered by the employer.
- Conduct regular, mandatory domestic violence and suicide intervention training for managers, supervisors, HR professionals and Employee Assistance Programs.
- In collaboration with experts, develop a plan for addressing domestic violence which makes sense for your company. Plans may include development of a model policy regarding domestic violence in the workplace. Access model policies at www.workplacesrespond.org
- Become a gatekeeper to suicide prevention by providing a QPR workshop to employees as detailed on page 41 of the 2016 Fatality Review Annual Report.
- Contact a domestic violence program for support and guidance as you provide assistance to a friend or family member who is experiencing abuse.
- Remind the victim you are there for her, even if you do not understand all her choices.
- Do not attempt to limit the victim’s contact with her abuser, even if you do not approve of the relationship. Hard-line rules about contact may add to feelings of isolation for the victim and may reduce the likelihood she will share information about future abusive incidents.
- Encourage the victim to contact a domestic violence program for safety planning and supportive services.
- Provide training to domestic violence advocates, Family Violence Task Forces, and Family Violence Intervention Programs on the intersection of domestic violence and suicide.
- Provide training and technical assistance to programs and task forces as they implement training for faith leaders.