Safety Issue 9:
Determining your partners LETHALITY
If you are in an abusive relationship, it is not possible to guarantee that you or your children will remain safe. Therefore, it is extremely important to determine how dangerous a partner is and to have a Safety Plan ready.
It is important to consider the possibility of lethality, or your risk of death, if you are in an abusive relationship. Without effective intervention or strategic planning, domestic violence can become increasingly severe and in some cases result in homicide. It is true that all batterers are dangerous, but some are more likely to kill than others. Furthermore, some are more likely to kill at specific times, such as when the victim flees the relationship or takes legal action against the batterer.
There are some indicators that will help you assess a batterer's potential to kill. It is important to consider the following:
- Threats of homicide or suicide. Batterers who make these types of threats must be considered extremely dangerous. They may threaten suicide, but they will want to harm their partners as well.
- Possession of or access to weapons. The use of guns is a sure sign of danger, but threats and access to weapons should also be considered life-threatening.
- Alcohol and/or drug use.
- Extreme jealousy and an obsessive need to control or monitor partners behavior. Examples: refusal to end the relationship even after divorce; feels entitled; violates protection orders; stalks victim; is jealous of a new partner (you will never belong to another!); often imagines things; has distorted thinking; believes there can be no life without partner. These behaviors are very life endangering.
- Stalking or surveillance of activities. A batterer may go to extremes to monitor a victims behavior. This type of obsession is very dangerous.
- Separation or divorce from victim. When abusers believe they are about to lose their partner, they may choose to kill. This is a very dangerous time for the victim. (However, some batterers kill long before they have any idea that the relationship will end.)
- Depression. Research shows that many people who are hospitalized for depression have fantasies directed at harming family members.
- A Batterers access to victim. Careful Safety Planning may help limit the contact an abuser has with his partner, and reduce the risk of death.