This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that generated shocking headlines: more than half of all female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. The report revealed that 55.3% of all female homicide victims are killed by a current or former intimate partner. The vast majority — 98% — of the killers in these cases are men.
The numbers contained in this report are sobering, giving us a clearer and more detailed look at the problem of domestic violence homicide than ever before. The CDC examined data from 10,000 homicides from 2003 to 2014, analyzing coroner’s reports, death certificates and crime data to provide these statistics.
The report noted that in approximately 10% of these cases of domestic violence homicide, there was some form of violence in the month before the murder that could have been an opportunity for intervention. The most common type of violence that occurred before a domestic violence homicide was an assault, which may provide an opportunity for police to arrest an abuser. These statistics may provide an incentive for legislators to toughen up laws on domestic violence so that victims who are experiencing domestic violence can be better protected and are at a reduced risk of being killed by their partner.
One way to reduce the number of domestic violence fatalities is through the Lethality Assessment Program. This is a brief screening tool given to police officers at the scene of domestic violence incidents to allow them to identify domestic violence victims at the highest risk of being killed by their abusers. Law enforcement officers can then connect victims by phone to immediate assistance at their local domestic violence program. In Maryland, where the Lethality Assessment Program was pioneered, the use of this tool led to a 34% decrease in domestic violence fatalities over five years. Blackburn Center has partnered with several police departments in Westmoreland County to implement the Lethality Assessment Program.
According to the CDC report, Black and indigenous women are at a higher risk of being killed than women of other races. Hispanic women are most likely to be killed in connection with intimate partner violence, with 61% of all homicides of Hispanic women attributable to domestic violence.
So what can we do with the information generated with the CDC report? These numbers are hard to stomach — and yet they represent a reality about domestic violence and the status of women in this country that cannot be ignored. Although we have made significant advancements, the root causes of gender-based violence still exist. Domestic violence is killing women, every single day, and we must take action to stop it.
At Blackburn Center, we believe in a two-pronged approach. First, we provide a range of services for all victims of violence, including domestic violence. This includes counseling, an emergency shelter, legal and medical accompaniment, a 24 hour hotline and more. Our services help individual victims and their loved ones recover from the trauma of violence and abuse, and move forward with their lives. Second, we work to change the culture so that the violence will end. We believe that transforming our society is critical to stopping domestic violence and all forms of gender-based violence.
If you would like to join our mission, you can get involved in a number of ways. Click the links below to learn how you can be part of the solution.