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Seeking Help Could Save Your Life

Study shows women much less likely to be killed if they ask for help

  • November 25, 2015
  • By domesticshelters.org
Seeking Help Could Save Your Life

New findings out of Dallas County, Texas show that in one study of more than 30 intimate partner homicides over the course of two years, all of the victims had one, unfortunate thing in common—none of them reached out for help from a domestic violence advocacy organization prior to their death.

In October 2014, the Texas Council on Family Violence released a report stating that Dallas County had the highest per capita rate of murders in which women were killed by an intimate partner. Twenty women were killed in 2013.

So Dallas County decided to form a committee of law enforcement, medical examiners, prosecutors and victim advocates called the Dallas County Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review Team to review murder cases and make recommendations about how to intervene in violent situations, prosecute batterers and help victims. In August, the committee released findings after reviewing 34 intimate partner murder cases from 2009 to 2011.

“The thing that struck us all, out of the cases we reviewed, is that not one victim had called a service provider before her death,” says Jan Langbein, committee member and chief executive of Genesis Women’s Shelter in Dallas. “At first my response was, what are we doing? Then I realized if she does reach out, she doesn’t die. That was the most profound thing.”

Langbein says that of the murder cases, where 49 people in total had been killed, including children or parents of the intimate partner, none of the victims had valid protective orders or had gone to a shelter. Only a few had ever gone to police, attorneys or victim advocates.

As a result, the Dallas County committee continues to review cases and is working on recommendations for intervention. One such initiative is a gun confiscation program.

“Federal laws say if there is a protective order in place against you, you cannot have a gun. The judges order them to be collected but the problem is, who’s going to get them, and where are we going to put them?” Langbein says. “So one judge in town got a grant to pay for a deputy sheriff to go and collect guns and store them at a gun range for the duration of the order.”

That’s just one of the recommendations that has come out of the committee thus far, and more are to come. Victim outreach is on the review team’s list of priorities, Langbein says.

“We’re pretty proud of the work we’ve done so far,” she says. “It takes a village, that’s for sure. The best way to address this within a community is a coordinated community response, and we’re working on that. We hope to be an example for other communities.”

Itis never too late to reach out and ask for help, no matter how long the abuse has been going on. Trained advocates are ready to listen 24/7 at The Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE. Your call can be completely confidential.

Ready to talk about an escape plan? Find an advocate in your area by going to DomesticShelters.org and searching in your zip code.