Lethality Assessment Tools

Police departments across the country are familiarizing themselves with a new tool to combat domestic violence. Aiming to get those at risk into counseling, they are employing so-called “lethality assessments,” which are lists of questions that help gauge the probability that a person may be killed by a loved one.

Many in caregiving roles find themselves on the front lines of this battle, as victims of domestic abuse often contact clergy and counselors for assistance. Knowing the right questions to ask may both help the victim understand the severity of her situation and guide the counselor toward the proper resources. The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence offers the following list of questions to help measure the lethality of a threat to someone’s safety:

1. Is the batterer violent out side the home?

2. Is the batterer violent against the children?

3. Has the batterer made threats of homicide to the victim of children?

4. Has the batter made threats of suicide?

5. Are threats and violence escalating?

6. Is the batterer using alcohol or drugs?

7. Has the batterer abused the victim while pregnant?

8. Has the victim attempted to leave or divorce the abuser?

9. Has the batterer sexually assaulted the victim?

10. Is the batterer obsessed with the victim?

11. Has the batterer seriously injured the victim?

12. Has the batterer threatened family or friends?

13. Are there deadly weapons – guns or knives in the home?

14. Does the victim fear for her life?

The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence notes that there is no magic formula for determining these risks, but urges caregivers to take the responses seriously and discuss a victim’s responses candidly. Our therapists are available anytime for consultation on this and other therapeutic topics.

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