United States: Domestic Violence Programs to Receive Federal Funding
Monday, December 1, 2008 9:57 AM

A program in the state of Maryland that aims to prevent domestic violence-related homicides will be expanded to five other U.S. states with the help of federal funding. Maryland’s "lethality assessment program" makes sure that first responders give domestic violence victims access to counselors and other services and aims to reduce the number of domestic violence-related homicides.

Maryland’s program began in 2006 and was based on the findings of 25 years of research by Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing professor Jacquelyn Campbell.  This research found that only 4% of domestic violence homicide victims in the U.S. had ever contacted domestic violence services.  It also found that half of the victims of domestic-violence-related homicides had previously had the police respond to a call.  The study also found that shelters lower the risk of women being assaulted again.

So far, the Maryland program has been successful. Organizers say that over 3,000 at-risk people have been put in touch with counselors via the telephone right after violence has occurred, and more than 800 victims have received additional services.

The Maryland program trains police officers to ask the victim 11 questions to screen for a risk of homicide. In cases where the officers determines that the victim’s life is in danger, the officer privately explains the danger and calls a domestic violence hotline.  If the victim does not chose to speak to a counselor on the hotline, the police officer must give her referrals. If she does speak to a counselor, the officer responds depending on the outcome of the conversation, and the police department may stay involved in the case if needed.

Compiled from: "Grant to Spread Domestic Violence Program to Other States," Washington Post (23 October 2008); MNADV Lethality Assessment Project: Learning to Read the Danger Signs, Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (last accessed 1 December 2008).