BPHC logoVice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder have announced that Boston would receive one of 12 grants to build on the city’s work to reduce domestic violence homicides. Research shows that women whose partner threatens them with a gun or other weapon are 20 times more likely to subsequently be murdered than other abused women. In addition, domestic violence often puts children, coworkers, neighbors and police officers at risk of becoming victims of conflicts that spiral out of control.

As part of the new Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative, the Boston Public Health Commission’s (BPHC) Family Justice Center will receive $200,000 for a one-year program that will address domestic violence homicides by assessing how systems identify and respond to potential victims and by making recommendations for improved practices. This nationwide initiative is based on best practices employed in Newburyport, Mass., and Maryland, where coordinated teams of law enforcement, prosecutors, health professionals, and victims’ services have significantly reduced the domestic violence homicide rate.

“Every single day in America, three women die at the hands of their boyfriend, or their husband, or their ex-husband. Many of these women have been threatened or severely abused in the past. We know what risk factors put someone in greater danger of being killed by the person they love – and that also means we have the opportunity to step in and try to prevent these murders. That’s why these grants are so important. They’ll help stop violence before it turns deadly,” said Vice President Biden at the grant announcement in Rockville, Md., yesterday.

“Domestic violence is a devastating crime – and it claims far too many lives each and every day,” said Attorney General Holder.  “With this grant announcement, we are strengthening our ability to fight back more effectively – and aggressively – than ever before.  And we’re supporting the kinds of evidence-based domestic violence homicide prevention models that will allow us to reliably predict potentially lethal behavior, take steps to stop the escalation of violence and save lives.”

The new DVHP Initiative is based on an assessment tool that researchers have identified that can be used to reliably recognize women who may be in fatally abusive relationships. Attempted strangulation, threats with weapons, sexual assault and obsessively jealous and controlling behavior are among the markers of particularly lethal abusers. Once at-risk victims are identified, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and service providers can take action to protect them and their families.

“We know that there are residents of our community who face violent situations at home every day, and we are committed to continuing our work to offer them help, support, and a way out,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “This grant will help us ensure that the systems we have set up to address domestic violence in Boston are as robust, coordinated, and effective as they can be. It will also strengthen partnerships among law enforcement, advocates, emergency care providers like Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and other city departments to reduce rates of domestic violence.”

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital will play a key role in this grant, working closely with the Health Commission and other partners to screen domestic violence cases as they come into the hospital, and to spot and intervene with domestic violence cases before they turn deadly.

“Domestic violence is a public health issue that has serious health care consequences,” said Annie Lewis O’Connor, the grant’s principle investigator and program director for nursing practice at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  “We will embrace this opportunity with our partners in Boston to assure that all the residents of Boston who are experiencing domestic violence have every chance to be safe and healthy.”

Since passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, annual rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent, but more work remains to reduce the most serious of this violence.  OVW is partnering with the National Institute of Justice to rigorously monitor the implementation of the initiative and evaluate its outcomes. OVW is also working with national experts to provide technical assistance to the demonstration sites.

Other sites receiving grants are: Contra Costa County, Calif.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Rockdale County, Ga.; Winnebago County, Ill.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Westchester County, N.Y.; Pitt County, N.C.; Cuyahoga County, Ohio; North Charleston, S.C.; and Rutland, Vt.  After the 12-month assessment phase, up to six of the demonstration sites will be selected to continue a three-year implementation phase.