Obama White House Spending $2.3M to 'Predict Potentially Lethal Behavior'

March 14, 2013 - 11:00 AM

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The Obama administration is awarding $2.3 million to twelve counties or cities in an attempt to stop domestic violence before it turns deadly. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration is awarding $2.3 million to twelve counties or cities in an attempt to stop domestic violence before it turns deadly.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement on Wednesday:

Holder said the grant money will support "domestic violence homicide prevention models that will allow us to reliably predict potentially lethal behavior, take steps to stop the escalation of violence, and save lives.”

According to Biden, three women die each day in this country at the hands of their boyfriend, husband, or ex-partner. "We know what risk factors put someone in greater danger of being killed by the person they love, and that also means we have the opportunity to step in and try to prevent these murders. That’s why these grants are so important. They’ll help stop violence before it turns deadly,” Biden said.

The new "Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative" (DVHP Initiative), created by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women, is intended to reduce the number of domestic violence murders by identifying potential victims and connecting them with (under-utilized) domestic abuse hotlines -- and monitoring "high-risk" offenders, arresting them if warranted.

Researchers say they can reliably identify abused women who may be murdered: "Attempted strangulation, threats with weapons, sexual assault and obsessively jealous and controlling behavior are among the markers of particularly lethal abusers," the news release said.

The one-year awards, which range from $100,658 to $200,000, are going to: Contra Costa County, Calif.; Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County, Fla.; Rockdale County, Ga.; Winnebago County, Ill.; Boston, Mass.; Brooklyn and Westchester County, N.Y.; Pitt County, N.C.; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; North Charleston, S.C.; and Rutland, Vt.  After the 12-month assessment phase, up to six of the demonstration sites will be selected to continue a three-year implementation phase.

The DVHP Initiative is modeled after programs in Massachusetts and Maryland, where coordinated teams of police, prosecutors, health professionals and victims advocates have significantly reduced the domestic violence homicide rate.

The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence includes a lethality assessment program (LAP), which is described as follows:

The LAP begins when a trained officer arrives at the scene of a domestic call – or when a community professional believes a victim of abuse may be in danger – and assesses the victim’s situation. If there is any doubt about the risk of lethality a victim may be facing, the officer or community professional will ask the victim to answer a research-based series of eleven questions known as the Lethality Screen for First Responders, which reliably predicts a victim’s risk of death with a high degree of validity.

If the victim’s response to the questions indicates an increased risk for homicide, the officer or community professional states he/she is going to place a phone call to the local 24-hour domestic violence hotline to seek advice and encourages the victim to speak with the specially trained hotline worker. Talking on the phone is always the victim’s decision.

According to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, "Studies have proven that the support services of domestic violence programs can save lives and reduce re-assaults, yet programs continue to be under-utilized."

The Massachusetts model works to increase "victim safety" by monitoring and "containing" the offender and providing counseling and other services to the victim.

"Our model holds offenders accountable, gives victims a safe, socially just alternative to shelters, and recognizes that domestic violence homicides are both predictable and preventable," the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center website says.

The program focuses equally on victim safety and services and offender accountability.