Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

Lethality Assessment Program (LAP)

BJA Program(s): Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
State(s): PA

Grantee Agency: Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency

Subgrantee Agency: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Grant Amount/Year(s): FY 2012/$214,290

About the Program:

The purpose of this JAG funded initiative is to implement the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), an evidence-based program to address three fundamental issues concerning combating violence against women in Pennsylvania:

  1. Pennsylvanians (primarily female residents) are being murdered as a result of domestic violence;
  2. A high percentage of such victims are not accessing potentially lifesaving services such as shelter and support services available through their local domestic violence program; and
  3. Law enforcement agencies and domestic violence programs need to better coordinate their services to more effectively reach victims at highest risk of being killed.

It is anticipated that implementation of LAP in Pennsylvania counties will result in the following outcomes:

  • A rate of at least 50 percent of high-lethality-risk victims will speak by telephone to a domestic violence hotline worker at the prompting of law enforcement following a domestic violence incident;
  • That of these 50 percent high-lethality-risk victims, that 25 percent of them will engage in services at the local domestic violence program;
  • That there will be at least a 25 percent reduction in the number of domestic violence homicides in those counties participating in this project; and
  • That there will be improved coordination, cooperation and communication between law enforcement and domestic violence service providers in those counties participating in this project.

The scope of this program is statewide, although participation in the initiative is voluntary. Information provided by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) to date indicates that 18 counties are currently participating in LAP implementation, thus meeting the project’s goal.

LAP involves law enforcement and domestic violence agencies in each county committing to the project, successfully completing training provided by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence and PCADV on the LAP model, including administration and evaluation of the Danger Assessment Screening Tool, and additional training on safety planning and other related issues as determined by PCADV.

Program Successes/Effect on the Community:

Since the project’s inception in July of 2012, all 18 sites have successfully completed initial and ongoing training requirements. PCADV continues to provide training and technical assistance to the pilot sites and facilitate the addition of counties to the project.

Since October of 2012, 629 Lethality Screens (i.e., Danger Assessments) have been administered, with 458 or 73 percent registering as "high danger." Of these victims at high risk of lethality, 361 or 78 percent spoke with a domestic violence hotline advocate and 216 or 60 percent followed through by accessing services.

The following anecdote from York County helps to illustrate the impact of this project:

Safe Home received a call from a Hanover Borough police officer, who was at the hospital with a 28-week pregnant 19-year-old victim. She had screened in as high risk with the Lethality Assessment tool, as her boyfriend who was the baby’s father had choked her and thrown her to the floor. The officer indicated that she was reluctant to speak to a domestic violence advocate, but eventually agreed. The advocate told the victim that Safe Home would be happy to help her file a protection from abuse order and anything else needed to make her safe. The victim stated that the hospital would be holding her overnight for observation. A nurse from Hanover Hospital called the advocate later that evening to express concern about the victim having a safe place to go, as she had a bad experience with a local homeless shelter. The victim called the Safe Home client advocate the next afternoon to say she was about to be released. She was extremely scared and tearful, and the advocate reassured her that she would make sure she had a Safe Place to stay, and called Still Waters, YWCA York ACCESS program’s transitional shelter for domestic violence victims in Hanover. Still Waters agreed to take her on an emergency basis, and the Safe Home advocate went to the hospital to pick up the victim and transport her to Still Waters. Still Waters staff was able to use client assistance funds to send her to another state to live with her mother. This case illustrates the success of connecting a victim at high risk of lethality with an advocate through the program's hotline and, eventually, to lifesaving services.

Learn More:
To learn more about the program, please contact:
Ellen Kramer
Legal Department Director
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Email: ekramer@pcadv.org
Phone: 717-545-6400

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