A number of factors have been associated
with an increased risk of lethal violence. For example, when a man is excessively
jealous and constantly wants to know where his partner is, he should be considered
dangerous. A jealous batterer often tries to control his wife or partner’s
behavior and may accuse her of having affairs. These men often “stalk”
women when they leave the relationship or move out of the house.
Often when a batterer kills his wife
or partner, he has threatened homicide or suicide in the past. These threats
should be taken very seriously. Batterers who are heavy drug and alcohol abusers
are more likely to kill. The abuse of alcohol and drugs has also been found
to be a factor in cases where women kill their batterers. Often, women are
more afraid when men use drugs and alcohol
and are more likely to use violence to protect themselves during an assault.
Research indicates that the most dangerous time for a battered woman
is after she ends the relationship. In the United States, research
indicates that women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater
risk of being killed by their batterers than those who stay. From
Julian Center, Women
in the US; Casa de Esperanza, Myths
and Facts. It is very important for a battered woman to make
her own decision to leave a relationship because she is in the
best position to assess the potential danger. An abuser’s
prior “choking” or “strangling” of the
victim as an indicator of extreme danger.
When a batterer is extremely depressed
and appears to lose hope for moving beyond the depression, he may be more
likely to commit homicide and/or suicide. When a batterer possesses weapons
or there are weapons or dangerous objects around the house, the batterer is
more likely to use them in an assault. A batterer who has used weapons in
previous abusive incidents or made prior threats with weapons may be more
likely to use weapons again. Studies also indicate that the isolation of the
batterer and the extent to which he is dependent on the battered woman correlate
with the use of lethal violence. Escalation of the violence in frequency or
severity can also indicate increased dangerousness.
Some men who batter believe that their
wives or partners belong to them. A batterer who believes he is absolutely
entitled to his female partner, her services, her obedience and her loyalty
is likely to be life endangering.
Neil Websdale, Lethality
Assessment Tools: A Critical Analysis,
offers an excellent overview of the current state of research on lethality
or dangerousness, describes some of the problems that arise this research,
and details the ways in which lethality assessment tools can be used to
the public, raise the awareness of service providers, and provide battered
women with an additional lens through which to evaluate their options and
plan for their safety.
Sample lethality assessment tools are provided by the U.S.-based Domestic
Institute and Alabama
Against Domestic Violence.