A Better Predictor of Domestic Violence

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By Kelly Brooks-Staub

Each year, more than three million women in the United States are abused by their intimate partners—and more than 1,200 are killed by their abusers. Many are unaware that their lives are in danger prior to the attack. The newly revised Danger Assessment instrument, developed by Jacquelyn Campbell, associate dean at the school, is available now online to help women at risk learn their level of danger and to train domestic violence advocates, law enforcement, and health care professionals in measuring danger levels.

“According to informants who knew the victims, only 47 percent of femicide victims accurately predicted their risk before the lethal event and only 53 percent of attempted femicide victims accurately predicted their risk before the attempted murder,” says Campbell.

Campbell created the first Danger Assessment (DA) 25 years ago to help victims of abuse and the professionals who work with them to better understand the threats to their safety and well-being. She revised and updated the assessment this year to
incorporate the findings of recent domestic violence research and to deliver the mechanism to a wider audience through a new website, www.dangerassessment.org.
Women who feel they are in danger may visit the website and download the DA for free. The results are best interpreted, however, by a person certified to use the DA scoring system.

The assessment asks women to mark the days when physically abusive incidents occurred, ranking severity from 1 to 5—an exercise that can reduce denial and minimization of the abuse.

The second part of the assessment asks the woman 20 questions designed to identify danger within the relationship. Each question addresses a specific behavior that is a significant predictor to intimate partner homicide. The list includes questions such as “Does he own a gun?” “Is he an alcoholic or problem drinker?” and “Does he threaten to harm your children?”

According to Campbell, “Women using the DA can gain a better understanding of their risk and decrease their chances of becoming femicide victims.” She added, “Now that the assessment is easily accessible to battered women, advocates, and other practitioners, perhaps some of those 1,200 murders may be prevented.”


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