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Reviewing Domestic Violence Deaths

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Issue: 250 Dated: November 2003 Pages: 26-31
Date Published
November 2003
6 pages
Publication Series

This article discusses the use of fatality reviews to reduce the deaths due to intimate partner homicide.


Increasingly, criminal justice professionals and other practitioners involved in domestic violence cases are using fatality reviews as a tool that may help reduce the many deaths due to intimate partner homicide. A fatality review helps determine what went wrong and what could have been done differently to prevent the tragedy. In a fatality review, community practitioners and service providers identify homicides and suicides resulting from domestic violence, examine the events leading up to the death, identify gaps in service delivery, and improve preventive interventions. A fatality review identifies relevant social, economic, and policy realities that compromise the safety of battered women and their children. Fatality reviews can reveal trends and may lead to changes to the system that could prevent future deaths. They may also enhance prevention and intervention programs aimed at reducing the death toll from acts of domestic violence. Reviewing domestic violence deaths over time might identify broader issues with social policies, criminal justice intervention strategies, and political initiatives. Fatality reviews may vary with the locale. They can uncover a region’s special needs, such as a need for language services. Fatality reviews may offer one means of enhancing dialogue between inner-city minority citizens and political authorities. Fatality reviews may raise liability issues and make some agencies nervous. Some States have reduced the concern associated with liability by enacting confidentiality laws to shield the deliberations and findings. These laws immunize teams from civil suits and disciplinary action. In States without confidentiality protections, reviewing only closed cases in which all the parties involved have died and where there are no pending civil or criminal legal proceedings, can reduce concerns about liability. The challenge is timeliness: the review must be recent enough that the findings can inform and guide discussions about improving existing policies and procedures. 11 notes

Date Published: November 1, 2003