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Danger Assessment Could Predict if an Abuser Will Kill

Why it’s important to talk to an advocate if you answer yes to these questions

  • July 11, 2016
  • By domesticshelters.org
Danger Assessment Could Predict if an Abuser Will Kill

In 1986, Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, domestic violence advocate and professor at the John Hopkins University School of Nursing, developed a tool called The Danger Assessment. Working with law enforcement and clinical experts on abuse, and garnering input from domestic violence survivors themselves, she came up with 20 questions that she thought would predict the level of danger a survivor is facing and whether or not he or she faces a high risk of being killed by an intimate partner.

The questions are to be used in conjunction with a calendar on which a survivor marks the days he or she was abused and ranks the severity of the incidents on a scale from 1 to 5. Said Campbell, “The calendar portion was conceptualized as a way to raise the consciousness of the [survivor] and reduce the denial and minimization of the abuse, especially since using a calendar increases accurate recall in other situations.”

The Danger Assessment was designed to be used by law enforcement, domestic violence advocates and health care professionals, and a formal training is recommended to learn how to score and interpret the tool. You can learn more about the training options, either online or in person, here.

However, anyone can access the tools of the Danger Assessment online, for free. Note: the calendar tool is only available through 2015, but any 2016 calendar would work in order to record abuse. Read more about the importance of tracking abuse in “Why You Should Document Abuse.

The questions that make up the Danger Assessment were written for female survivors who are being abused by male batterers, but there is also a version for females in same-sex relationships, here. Campbell’s website says that it is reasonable to believe that many of the risk factors in the Danger Assessment also indicate risk for males in same sex relationships; what’s less certain is how well the weighted scoring applies in these situations.

If you’re a survivor reviewing the following questions, it’s important to note that an individual who has been trained in scoring and interpreting the results must evaluate your answers and your calendar in order to give you an accurate assessment of your risk level. However, as a survivor, reading through these questions may give you some insight into your own situation and the level of severity of abuse you’re enduring. Regardless of how many you can check off, if you feel frightened of your partner, scared for your safety or have any questions on abuse, know that trained advocates are available 24/7 to listen to your concerns and help you safety plan. Find an advocate near you by entering your ZIP code at DomesticShelters.org.

Danger Assessment Questions

1. Has the physical violence increased in severity or frequency over the past year?

2. Does he own a gun?

3. Have you left him after living together during the past year?

3a. (If have never lived with him, check here___)

4. Is he unemployed?

5. Has he ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a lethal weapon? (If yes, was the weapon a gun?____)

6. Does he threaten to kill you?

7. Has he avoided being arrested for domestic violence?

8. Do you have a child that is not his?

9. Has he ever forced you to have sex when you did not wish to do so?

10. Does he ever try to choke you?

11. Does he use illegal drugs? By drugs, I mean "uppers" or amphetamines, “meth”, speed, angel dust, cocaine, "crack", street drugs or mixtures.

12. Is he an alcoholic or problem drinker?

13. Does he control most or all of your daily activities? For instance: does he tell you who you can be friends with, when you can see your family, how much money you can use, or when you can take the car? (If he tries, but you do not let him, check here: ____)

14. Is he violently and constantly jealous of you? (For instance, does he say "If I can't have you, no one can.")

15. Have you ever been beaten by him while you were pregnant? (If you have never been pregnant by him, check here: ____)

16. Has he ever threatened or tried to commit suicide?

17. Does he threaten to harm your children?

18. Do you believe he is capable of killing you?

19. Does he follow or spy on you, leave threatening notes or messages, destroy your property, or call you when you don’t want him to?

20. Have you ever threatened or tried to commit suicide?

Total "Yes" Answers _____

Again, please talk to a health care professional, domestic violence advocate or counselor about what the Danger Assessment means in terms of your situation. You can find options near you by entering your zip code into the pink search bar found on the home page of DomesticShelters.org.

Editor's Note: The Danger Assessment retrieved July 6, 2016, from http://www.dangerassessment.org, (c) Campbell JC, Webster DW, Glass N. (2009). The danger assessment: validation of a lethality risk assessment instrument for intimate partner femicide. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(4):653-74.