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Can a questionnaire prevent a fatal act of domestic violence?

A Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment created a decade ago by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence is being used by law enforcement officials far from Maryland. The assessment was designed to help predict whether an incident of domestic violence is a precursor to a potentially deadly incident.

One prosecutor in a southern Illinois county that uses the assessment notes that it goes beyond helping officers determine whether the situation between the parties involved is likely to become deadly. He notes that it can "motivate a victim to do what they need to do to protect themselves us prosecute someone we believe poses a serious threat...." and help officers persuade victims "that it isn't just one bad night" or even just a bad relationship, but a potentially deadly situation.

When officers arrive on the scene of a domestic violence call, they separate the parties involved and then ask the alleged victim three questions. Has the alleged abuser ever used or threatened to use a weapon on the victim? Has he/she threatened to kill the victim or the victim's children? Finally, does the victim think the alleged abuse could try to kill them? If the victim responds affirmatively to those questions, police will call a domestic violence advocate to help encourage the victim to leave and help the person do so.

If the victim's responses are "no," the officer continues with the remainder of the questions to determine whether a victims' advocate should be called:

-- Some are meant get a clearer picture of the alleged abuser, such as whether he/she is unemployed or has tried to commit suicide.

-- Some involve the relationship, such as whether the alleged abuser is jealous and controlling, whether the couple has separated previously and whether the victim has a child that isn't the abuser's.

-- They also ask whether the abuser has or can easily obtain a gun, has tried to choke the victim or stalked, spied or left threatening messages.

If you or a loved one is being abused, it's essential to seek help and determine the best options for the safety of you and your children or others in the house. A Maryland attorney experienced in helping domestic violence victims can help with things like protective orders to help keep an abuser away from you and your loved ones.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat, "Lethality assessment aims to save lives of domestic violence victims," Beth Hundsdorfer, Sep. 23, 2015

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