The Lethality Assessment Program
The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) represents a collaborative partnership where members of law enforcement use a research based lethality assessment screening tool with victims of domestic violence, and connect those individuals determined to be at high risk for lethal level violence with the domestic violence program serving their community. The goal of the LAP is to prevent domestic violence homicides, serious injury and reassault by encouraging more victims to use the shelter, counseling, advocacy and support services of domestic violence programs. The LAP was developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence based on the domestic violence danger assessment research of Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell from the Johns Hopkins school of Nursing.
The LAP protocol directs members of law enforcement responding on-scene to a domestic call to conduct an 11 item lethality screen with the victim. When the protocol indicates that the victim is at high risk of lethal level violence, the officer makes immediate contact with the domestic violence program. The victim is then encouraged, but not required, to speak with the domestic violence program representative. The responding officer and the domestic violence program representative work as partners to provide the victim with safety planning and resource information.
This collaboration is critical because domestic violence programs have been shown to be a strong protective factor in preventing domestic violence homicides, and yet, many victims haven’t been connected with those supportive services. An average of 1,500 domestic violence fatalities are documented each year in the United States. Research conducted by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell demonstrated that only 4% of domestic violence fatality victims had any prior contact with a domestic violence program. Conversely, law enforcement had responded to domestic calls prior to the domestic violence homicide in about 50% of the national fatalities. Additionally, rates of reassault among high danger victims was reduced by 60% after a shelter stay.
The Lethality Assessment Program in Indiana
Indiana was selected as a pilot site for the LAP’s national launch and evaluation project in 2009. Members of Law Enforcement in Allen, Grant and Wabash counties in collaboration with the YWCA Northeast in Ft. Wayne and Hands of Hope in Marion initiated the project in June of 2009. At the end of the pilot period, program evaluation was undertaken with participating officers and shelter advocates. The following quotes describe their experiences with the protocol:
Comments from advocates
- “The victim often said to me that she did not realize how bad it was getting or how dangerous it had become.”
- “I felt like this program gave staff an opportunity to offer services to victims who might not otherwise have seen a need to call.”
- “I believe that the LAP is making more victims aware of how serious their situation may be and also it makes them aware of the services we provide.”
- “I think this works for all of us; victims, officers, and us as advocates.”
Comments from officers
- “Always in the past victims were told about hotline/shelter and now being able to call and talk to hotline workers right there is a good thing– gives victims options immediately.”
- “The protocol lets the victim know that we care.”
- “LAP is another tool we can use to help prevent future crimes and keep people safe.”
Current project activity
As of the spring of 2011, four domestic violence programs: YWCA Northeast, Hands of Hope, Sheltering Wings and Middle Way House have adopted the protocol in collaboration with 16 law enforcement agencies in five counties in Indiana. We continue to collect, evaluate and report data from the existing teams in order to maximize the success of the LAP in Indiana.
To review the most recent quarterly report, click here.
For more information about LAP activity across the country see the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence at: http://mnadv.org/lethality/
For an overview of the LAP in Indiana please click here to access an archived webinar.