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List helps assess domestic violence danger

Posted June 16, 2010
Updated July 25, 2012

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— Last year in North Carolina, there were 100 cases of domestic violence homicides, according to the North Carolina Department of Justice. In 2008, there were 131 cases.

Law enforcement authorities are increasingly turning to a list of questions to assess the danger and risks associated with homicides of both batterers and their victims.

The 14 questions cover violent tendencies, weapons, threats and what a victim is thinking to help determine whether he or she is at a high risk of being killed by a spouse or significant other:

  1. Has the physical violence increased in frequency over the past six months or year?
  2. Has the physical violence increased in severity over the past six months or year, or have threats been made with a weapon?
  3. Does your partner ever try to choke you?
  4. Is there a gun in the house?
  5. Does your partner threaten to kill you, or do you believe he or she is capable of killing you?
  6. Is your partner drunk or high every day or almost every day?
  7. Does your partner control most or all of your daily activities (e.g., telling you whom you can be friends with or how much money you can spend)?
  8. Has your partner ever beaten you while you were pregnant?
  9. Is your partner violently and consistently jealous of you (e.g., he or she says, "If I can't have you, no one can.")?
  10. Have you ever thought about, threatened or attempted to commit suicide?
  11. Is your partner violent outside the home?
  12.  Do you plan to leave? Do you have a safety plan in place (i.e., where you will go, a suitcase with extra clothes, keys, important documents, medications, etc.)?
  13. What do you think will happen between you and your partner in the near future?
  14.  Are you expecting a violent attack?

Interact of Wake County, which supports victims of and promotes awareness of domestic violence, developed the list. If a person answers yes to three or more questions, they are at a higher risk for death.

Stephanie Francis, Interact's clinical education director and former shelter director, says the danger assessment can help victims understand their risk level.

"It's easy to not want to believe how dangerous the situation can be and think that a threat," Francis said. "If anybody is thinking about that and making those sorts of threats, you need to take that very seriously."

Counselors who work with domestic violence victims say it's important for victims, when leaving situations, to develop a safety plan.

For example, they need to plan their escape, including how they will leave, where they will go and how they will prevent their abuse from tracking them.

List helps assess domestic violence danger List helps assess domestic violence danger

Interact provides support and assistance for victims, including helping them find a safe place to stay, filing restraining orders, developing a safety plan and counseling.

Maria, an Interact volunteer, knows firsthand the constant fear domestic violence victims live with.

With a 2½-year-old son and $110 in her pocket, she left her husband after four years of abuse. Now, her goal is to help other women stay safe.

"I dealt with so many different levels of abuse from him. I really never knew how far it was going to go or when it was going to stop," she said. "I needed to save his life and mine."


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  • silverflash Jul 25, 2012

    a few years ago, after i pushed for separation, my spouse become very verbally and at times physically abusive towards me. I got a restraining order against my spouse and the night my spouse was served, my spouse filed a false charge against me. I was arrested. There was no evidence, only my spouses statement. The charges were later dropped as my spouse admitted to lying. Nothing was done to my spouse over that. What a screwed up court system we have.

  • mcraineycrazies Jun 17, 2010

    i called that place, my husband is an alcoholic, he mentally abuses me, he drinks every day, some days not as bad as otheres, but still, i called interact, i was told by them, by the police at my house, that noone can help me since they only help people with physical and sexual abuse, so he needs to me for help,/ has anyone ever gone through mental abuse?? you relive it everyday, i am trying to get out, i have kids, but i have no money, so please, interact is not everyones answer

  • Mugu Jun 17, 2010

    There are too many dead men that nobody is talking about or trying to help. This news piece is very biased.

  • boatrokr Jun 17, 2010

    To the men above - I agree that more needs to be done for you. Domestic abuse crosses gender, economic, social and age borders. God bless you, and I hope you get free and safe.

  • boatrokr Jun 17, 2010

    Interact is a blessing. They helped me escape an abusive marriage several years ago.

    Law enforcement and courts are a joke. They won't arrest the batterer without "visible injuries" and they're allowed considerable leeway in determining what constitutes a visible injury. I had bleeding scratches, but the LEO shrugged and said I could have done that myself. The only time they act quickly and decisively is if he kills you.

    As for leaving - I owned the home, prior to the marriage. I paid the mortgage, which was in my name only. I had the prenup in hand which stated that my property remained mine, plus a quitclaim that he signed when I refinanced the mortgage. The cops shrugged and said we were married, so they couldn't make him leave, and suggested that *I* move out to be safe (which my attorney said could be construed as abandoning the property to the spouse in the divorce!

    Instead of asking victims, "Why don't you leave?" Why don't you ask them why they think it's ok to hit us???

  • lisamariesrrm Jun 17, 2010

    This is great for diagnosing but they are missing a critical component. These agencies and police need to have at-risk women, whether its an abusive dating relationship or marriage, complete an "Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit" and use the plan as described by Susan Murphy-Milano. It's all included in a step-by-step plan in the book "Time's Up!" - Even if they decide to stay in the abusive relationship they need to use the abuse affidavit. It could save their lives.


  • snickers27588 Jun 17, 2010

    Interact does an excellent job of helping these people, however "legal Aid" is an absolute joke and when a judge states that that a woman's testimony has no credibility because she cried in some instances while being badgered by the husbands attorney about being beaten something is terribly wrong.

  • COPs eye Jun 17, 2010

    List or not if the abused is not willing to help themselves by leaving LEOs cant help them.

  • fuzzmom Jun 17, 2010

    Ditto to all of you. I am soooo glad to see this. As far as I'm concerned, it's right on the money and should be widely publicized.

  • GroupOfPricklyPears Jun 17, 2010

    This article is an example of one of the best uses of the internet and television. Posting more information to viewers/readers about how to be safe, drive safe, care for children, etc. is public service at its finest - less sensational, vacuous stories and more community support information. Thanks, WRAL, keep up the good work.