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Evaluating What Works for Victims and Those Committing Offenses: The Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative

Date Published
September 30, 2016
Jennifer Lynne Holmes, Research Assistant
Bethany Backes, Social Science Analyst, National Institute of Justice

Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October marks the one-year anniversary of model implementation in the first two sites of the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative (DVHPDI), managed by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and evaluated through funding support from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

The Demonstration Initiative

The demonstration initiative is a multiyear, two-phase project intended to assist local sites nationwide in reducing domestic violence homicides through promising domestic violence homicide prevention models. The models focus on identifying those at high-risk to become victims or commit offenses in order to target specific community-based resources directly to those cases. In March of 2013, Vice President Biden and former Attorney General Holder announced the initial grant awards establishing the demonstration initiative.

During Phase One, 12 initial sites received grant funding to assess local criminal justice and community response structures to domestic violence cases and data-sharing capabilities among the cooperating community organizations. From the information gleaned through on-site visits and grantee submissions, the Phase One sites were pared down to Phase Two implementing sites. Those select sites were invited to move forward into Phase Two based on their readiness for model implementation and data-sharing capacity.

Now in Phase Two, two sites – Contra Costa County, California, and Pitt County, North Carolina – have begun implementing a promising domestic violence homicide prevention model developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence called the Lethality Assessment Program. The Lethality Assessment Program is a collaborative effort between local law enforcement agencies and domestic violence services. Officers responding to an incident of domestic violence conduct an 11-question Lethality Screen with the victim. Those individuals screened as high-risk are informed of their victimization risk and notified that individuals in similar circumstances have been killed. The officer encourages the victim to speak with an advocate, using the officer’s cell phone on scene, to discuss immediate safety planning assistance and arrange further services. Information gathered in the on-scene assessment is shared with the domestic violence service for future follow-up. Two additional demonstration sites – Miami, Florida, and Winnebago, Illinois – are currently preparing to implement the Lethality Assessment Program.

Read the final report for the previous evaluation of the lethality assessment program and the Journal article about that evaluation.

The Evaluation

NIJ awarded a grant to a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Yale University and Michigan State University to conduct the process and impact evaluations of the demonstrat​ion initiative — assessing model fidelity, implementation, and impact. Evaluators will ask important questions to determine the barriers and facilitators within each community to implementing the models, how the models work across the different communities, and the outcomes achieved.

The evaluation process includes an analysis of th​e Lethality Assessment Program model within comparison sites outside of the initiative, using longitudinal data collected from administrative records and victim self-reports over an extended period. Evaluators will analyze changing interactions between the different agencies over time and observe exchanges between law enforcement officers and victims during police ride-alongs.

The evaluation will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the Lethality Assessment Program across the four sites. Local researchers are embedded in each demonstration initiative site to assist with victim interviews and administrative data transfers.

This scientific model evaluation funded by NIJ will provide insight into what works to identify risk, prevent homicide, and reduce injury. The evaluation will assess a range of victim outcomes. This important research will provide valuable information to communities nationwide on how to effectively implement domestic violence prevention in high-risk cases.

Looking Forward

Throughout the demonstration and evaluation process, the OVW site managers and the NIJ-funded research evaluation team will provide regular feedback to local community partners and federal stakeholders involved with the demonstration initiative. As the multiyear project concludes, we anticipate widespread dissemination of the results and the lessons learned to inform future implementations.

About This Article

The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2013-ZD-CX-0001, awarded to Yale University.

Date Published: September 30, 2016