Case Western Researchers Determine Domestic Violence Victims Are Higher-Risks for Homicide

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Researchers at Case Western Reserve and members of the Cuyahoga County Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT) hope to reduce fatal domestic violence cases countywide by focusing on higher-risk cases, starting with Cleveland.

DVHRT is a task force of criminal-justice professionals, victim advocates, and researchers who, along with CWRU researchers, partnered with the 1st and 5th district Cleveland Police Departments to assess what steps can be taken to prevent domestic violence and homicides

Through an 11 question survey titled "the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement (DA-LE)," the DVHRT have determined that victims of domestic violence are at a high risk to be murdered — or a victim of attempted
murder.

Scene spoke with Jeff Kretschmar, PhD, Research Associate Professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at CWRU and Managing Director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education via email about the findings.

"The foundation of the DVHRT was composed of four principles: the use of risk assessment to identify high risk cases, the use of a multidisciplinary team, active monitoring and containment of offenders and the provision of victim services," he says.

A staggering 95 percent of victims participating in the assessment had volunteered. High-risk victims who agree to participate in the program receive enhanced case monitoring, individualized intervention plans and links to appropriate services and resources.

"The DVHRT provides a glimpse into what could be a more comprehensive and multi-disciplinary county-wide response to DV in our community," says Kretschmar.
   
The team provided the information to researchers at Case Western Reserve’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education to analyze the data.

"Preliminary outcomes from this model were promising, and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) wanted to know if the model could also be effective in a larger city," Kretschmar says. "The Cuyahoga County Witness Victim Service Center responded to a Request for Proposals from OVW, and was selected for participation as a DVHRT site."

Between October 2016 and September 2017, researchers determined 45 percent of victims were at high risk for homicide and severe assault out of 1,554 assessments taken.

Of those high-risk victims, the data revealed that 88 percent had survived a previous strangulation attempt, 88 percent had already been threatened with murder and 89 percent believed their attacker capable of killing them.

"It’s difficult to estimate local domestic violence rates, as most DV goes unreported," he says. "I can say that in 2016, there were 4,364 DV charges in the county based on this report, but again, that’s just what’s reported to the police. We may not receive federal funding to operate the team in perpetuity, but I hope that the lessons learned from the initiative become integrated into the domestic violence response in our community."

The Cuyahoga County Witness Victim Service Center serves as the lead agency, with the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center and the Cleveland Division of Police assisting as the main partners.

"There are certainly challenges to operating the DVHRT in a large city," Kretschmar says. "But the victim advocates and the law enforcement and justice-related professionals who are a part of this team have done a great job addressing any potential barriers that have arisen."

The full report is available for public consumption here

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