The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) is a strategy to help first responders identify victims of domestic violence who are at serious risk of being hurt or killed by their intimate partners. Police officers, health care providers, clergy and court employees can utilize the 11-question survey immediately to evaluate potential danger. The first 3 questions tend to be the most telling. They include:
1. Has he threatened to kill you?
2. Do you think he might kill you?
3. Does he have access to a gun?
Other serious indicators are if the offender is unemployed and if he’s ever tried or threatened to commit suicide.
In the past, cases have been documented in which police officers arrived at a potentially dangerous scene, have asked a couple questions of the offender and then determined there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward. This often left victims behind to potentially endure further abuse or even death. This puts into place an official program that requires officers to separate the parties involved and ask the victim to reply to the survey of questions. Of course, the victim can decline to participate, but it throws them a lifeline to get out if they feel endangered.
If the answer to a few of these questions is yes, then the first responder proceeds to place a phone call to the local domestic violence hotline to get advice about how to proceed in the area. The victim then has immediate access to speak over the phone with a trained domestic violence representative. Together the responder, the hotline advocate and the victim can quickly come up with a game plan for immediate safety.
Domestic violence is a serious situation across the nation. In 2012, the city of Pittsburgh, PA alone, reported a total of 12,438 dv calls. Studies show that many victims of domestic violence are afraid to get in touch with local shelters or other services because they fear reprisal from the abuser, feel like they can’t afford to get out from under the negative situation or are ashamed. This program helps them overcome this initial hurtle by providing support on the spot to lifesaving services. In Maryland, where the program originated, they saw a 34% reduction in homicides over a 5-year period after it was instituted.
The success of the program has contributed to it’s roll-out in 31 other states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Florida, Delaware, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Oregon, Nevada and Vermont.
If you are involved in a dv situation, report it and the offender is charged, you can expect the following legal repercussions to be put into place for your safety:
1. A restraining order against the offender.
3. Mandatory Anger Management counseling or Batterers Intervention Program. The offender must pay for generally between 8 – 52 sessions depending on the state it happens in, and severity of conviction.
4. Community service.
5. Significant fines. In California they can get as high as $6,000 for a first conviction.
6. Deportation if not a U.S. citizen.
7. Conviction goes on your permanent record for anyone to see if they do a background check.
8. Potential loss of parental rights.