Preventing and Reducing Domestic Violence Homicides

March 14, 2013

The past two weeks have been filled with excitement, energy, and momentum.  Last week we joined you in celebrating as we watched President Obama sign this historic Violence Against Women Act reauthorization into law. 

 The Obama Administration’s continued commitment to ending violence against women is needed now more than ever.  The week VAWA was reauthorized, at least 15 women and 4 men were killed by intimate partners.  A 9-year-old boy was killed with a hatchet by his father, who had previously served time in jail for domestic violence and fought for custody after his release.  A 17-year-old boy was arrested for stabbing his 16-year-old girlfriend to death. And a 22-year-old pregnant woman was shot in the head and her body burned - her boyfriend has been arrested.

 As we hear about these and other tragedies we find ourselves asking what we could have done to prevent these senseless tragedies.  Fortunately, we’re learning more and more about how we can save lives by reliably identifying women who may be in danger of being killed by their partners. Attempted strangulation, threats with weapons, stalking, sexual assault, and obsessively jealous and controlling behavior are among the markers of particularly lethal abusers.  

 We know that victims who interact with law enforcement, prosecution, courts, health care services, domestic violence programs, and other systems can be screened with a short list of questions.  Once at-risk victims or offenders are identified law enforcement, prosecution, courts, and service providers can take action to protect victims and their families.  This team of responders can search for open warrants, make arrests, connect victims with services, and use pretrial conditions to keep offenders in custody. 

 Homicide reduction strategies like these work.  That is why, yesterday I was so proud to join Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder to announce the first-ever Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative (DVHP Initiative) grant awards to 12 cities and counties totaling $2.3 million. 

 Speaking to a crowd of law enforcement and domestic violence advocates, the Attorney General said:  “beyond our traditional enforcement efforts – by supporting the development and evaluation of domestic violence homicide prevention models, and then adapting these models for different communities – this new Initiative will strengthen our ability to reduce these heinous crimes and help those who are at risk.” 

 The demonstration sites, each receiving one-year awards ranging from $100,658 to $200,000, are:  

  • Contra Costa County, California;
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida;
  • Palm Beach County, Florida;
  • Rockdale County, Georgia;
  • Winnebago County, Illinois;
  • City of Boston, Massachusetts;
  • Borough of Brooklyn, New York;
  • Westchester County, New York;
  • Pitt County, North Carolina;
  • Cuyahoga County, Ohio;
  • City of North Charleston, South Carolina; and
  • City of Rutland, Vermont. 

 OVW is partnering with the National Institute of Justice to rigorously evaluate the implementation and outcomes of the DVHP Initiative, which is based on the successful homicide reduction models from Newburyport, Massachusetts and the Maryland Lethality Assessment Program.  We will identify the key components of these models, and the steps necessary to adapt and successfully replicate them in different communities. 

 We look forward to working with the selected communities and building our collective understanding of how to reduce domestic violence homicides.  To ensure that grantees are able to implement the models with fidelity, the department is collaborating with the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing to provide technical assistance to the demonstration sites. 

 I know that much of the work you every day is sobering, and domestic violence homicides can break the heart and challenge the soul.  We are honored to stand with you in the face of these tragedies, and will continue to fight alongside you to prevent and reduce domestic violence homicides.

 For more information, visit www.ovw.usdoj.gov

 The press release announcing the grants can be found here:  Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder Announce Grants to Help Reduce Domestic Violence Homicides

 The Attorney General’s remarks can be found here:  Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Initiative Announcement