Study searches for deadly warning signs linking domestic violence victims


A new research study examining a seven-year period of 32 domestic violence-related deaths in Hamilton County, Ohio, found that in more than 80 percent of the cases, the victim was either separated or about to terminate the relationship. In 96 percent of the cases, there were so called "predictors of death." These are some of the key findings in a new research study led by the University of Cincinnati's School of Social Work.

UC School of Social Work Assistant Professor Gary Dick, in partnership with Ann MacDonald, Executive Director of Rape Crisis & Abuse Center and Chair of the Hamilton County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council's Death Review Panel, analyzed the final reports from the panel that were collected from 1997 to 2003. The research found that 91 percent of those who died were female. Sixteen percent of the victims had a protection order in place at the time of their deaths. Children were present in the household in 36 percent of the cases.

Dick says similar studies have been conducted in Chicago and Houston. Early findings from the Cincinnati study were presented at the 10th International Conference on Family Violence in San Diego. Dick says the findings from this study and other U.S. studies have implications for safety planning.

"Our goal is to share this information with those professionals who work with victims and batterers," Dick says. "In addition, this information will be shared with the public in order protect the health and safety of women."

MacDonald, says, "We are excited to be working collaboratively with UC's School of Social Work. This project is designed to help us prevent future deaths because of domestic violence. This is information every woman in the community needs to know."

"The combined efforts and expertise of UC's School of Social Work and the members of the Death Review Panel will help us address the problem of domestic violence," says Jim Beiting, director of the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati Batterers Intervention Program (AMEND) and Death Review Panel member.

The major findings of this study identified the following risk factors (predicators of death). They are:

  • Separated 83 percent
  • Substance abuse 68 percent
  • Escalating abuse 56 percent
  • Stalking behaviors 50 percent
  • Criminal history 46 percent
  • Threats to kill 43 percent
  • Prior domestic violence-related charge 36 percent
  • Child abuse 33 percent
  • Threats of suicide 33 percent
  • Perpetrator mental illness 31 percent
  • Perpetrator brought a weapon 29 percent
  • Strangulation 29 percent
  • Threats with weapons 25 percent
  • Property damage 23 percent
  • Violated a protection order 23 percent
  • Previous serious injury 23 percent
  • Sexual assault 21 percent
  • Animal abuse Eight percent

Dick adds that this collaborative effort will result in helping families recognize the seriousness of domestic violence. In addition, practical applications also include professional training and development of a statewide training assessing risk of death from domestic violence for the Ohio Department of Human Services. "The results of this study have important implications for the safety of victims in our community," Dick says.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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