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Lethality Indicators

Looming accountability related to criminal charges or civil matters

Often accompanying the increased frequency or severity of abuse within the relationship, increasing contact with civil and criminal justice systems is an indicator of elevated risk of lethal violence. In reviewed cases, a startling 83 percent of perpetrators were in contact with law enforcement officers in the five years leading up to the fatal incident of abuse.

In a national study researching risk of intimate partner homicide, victims of completed or attempted femicide experienced abuse by a partner who had been arrested for domestic violence in 27 percent of cases (Campbell, 2017). Further, 48 percent of perpetrators in reviewed cases were known to have a violent criminal history. Details of police contacts about abuse were known in 69 percent of reviewed cases. In those cases, 254 incidents of abuse were reported, of which 199 calls (78 percent) had known outcomes. Roughly half of those incidents (98 incidents, 49 percent) resulted in an arrest. For more information on criminal justice outcomes in reviewed cases view related data on page 68.

Both victims and perpetrators in reviewed cases were also likely to have engaged in the civil court system, usually through the Temporary Protective Order (TPO), divorce or child support processes. In reviewed cases, 24 percent of victims had previously obtained a TPO against the perpetrator. Thirteen percent of victims had a TPO in place at the time of the fatal incident. TPOs are a highly useful tool for victims seeking safety from abuse, but the multi-step process of obtaining a TPO may lead to an escalation in threatening or violent behavior by the perpetrator. It is imperative all victims of domestic violence seeking relief from the courts be referred to a domestic violence advocate who can explore the potential risks associated with filing a TPO, conduct risk assessment and safety planning, and offer additional resources and support.