Domestic Violence Review Boards

Early Warning for DV Homicide

Most states compile data on domestic violence and domestic violence homicide in a effort to bring to bear similarities among cases.  They do this to make victims think they are researching ways to stop the violence or interrupt the cycle of abuse in some small way.  Unfortunately the reports generated by these review boards are often kept sequestered from the eyes of the public.  Rarely, do they result in specific recommendations to reduce DVH or political mandates for change.  Year after year these despicable events occur as if each one were a natural disaster and could not be predicted. “If only we could predict the next earthquake or tsunami so many lives could be spared” some might say. Interestingly, scientists are working on early warning systems that will forewarn those who live on known fault lines or in the path of tsunami.  But what about those living in the path of terminal rage and primitive intimate partner abuse?  Are there warning signs for the frequent emotional tsunami and violence that exude from these toxic relationships?  Some believe there are red flags that signal a need to take a closer look at the violent spouse out of concern that the violence may escalate into the emotional conflagration of terminal rage as was uncovered in the psychological autopsy conducted for the Maine Domsetic Violence Review Board in November 2012 (Allanach, et. al. 2012).

Brian Gagan (left) and Michael Sefton speak with members of the Bangor, ME media regarding domestic violence homicide PHOTO CREDIT: BDN

Domestic violence is not random and unpredictable. There are red flags that are the early warning signs of future violence. These warnings are the precursor of the emotional undulation that bears energy like the movement of tectonic plates beneath the sea. To prevent DVH contingencies must be put in place to mitigate these undulations and stop the abuse before it gets out of control.  When laws are violated against those with active orders of protection greater containment of violators is warranted and essential.  The well established, cyclical nature of intimate partner abuse often results in the unwillingness of a victim to prosecute her spouse – ultimately resulting in no case.  In most jurisdictions, this is slowly changing and victims do not have the option to recant.

It is not uncommon that violent men abuse one spouse or partner after another. I have seen cases where a single violent man has three or four active protective orders from several former partners and children.  These case demand public scrutiny not sequester.  By looking at them a clear roadmap to safety may be crafted and lives may be spared.  Changes in bail conditions e.g. no bail for repeated abusers or those at most high risk e.g. choking, use of firearm, and GPS monitoring are 2 specific interventions that will reduce the frequency of DVH.   People must begin to see that year after year we all bear responsibility for collecting the data of the cycling, tumultuous waves that are domestic violence homicide.  And it must be done with strength and conviction and courage so that people might be warned.

Allanach, R.A., Gagan, B.F., Loughlin, J., Sefton, M.S., (2011). The Psychological Autopsy of the Dexter, Maine Domestic Violence Homicide and Suicide. Presented to the Domestic Violence Review Board, November 11, 2011

Link to publication

Click to access Dexter-DVH-Psychological-Autopsy-Final-Report-112811-111.pdf

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