What is the LAP?
The Lethality Assessment Program-Maryland Model (LAP), created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) in 2005, is an innovative prevention strategy to reduce domestic violence homicides and serious injuries. It provides an easy and effective method for law enforcement and other community professionals such as hospital and other health care providers, the clergy, case workers, and court personnel to identify victims of domestic violence who are at the highest potential for being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners and immediately connect them to the domestic violence service provider in their area. The LAP is a multi-pronged intervention program that consists of a research-based lethality screening tool, an accompanying referral protocol that provides direction for the screener based on the results of the screening process, and follow-up contact and other best practices and protocols.
Why is the LAP Important?
The LAP is MNADV’s answer to missed opportunities in response to five bodies of significant research:
- In a 12-city study, 50% of women who were killed or almost killed did not perceive their intimate partners to be highly dangerous or tended to underestimate their level of danger (Campbell, Webster, et al., 2003). The LAP provides high-danger victims with another lens from which they can view and better understand their risk of lethality.
- In 50% of domestic violence-related homicides, officers had previously responded to a call on the scene (Campbell, Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2001). The LAP-trained police officers on the scene of a domestic violence call recognize situations in which victims are at the highest risk of serious injury or death and immediately link them to their local domestic violence hotline.
- Abused women who took advantage of community-based domestic violence program services were almost never the victim of murder or attempted murder (Campbell, 2004).
- There is a 60% reduction in risk of severe assault when victims utilize the services of a domestic violence advocacy program (9th International Family Violence Research Conference, Portsmouth, NH, July 2005).
- Only 4% of victims of actual or attempted intimate partner homicide utilized the services of domestic violence programs (Campbell, 2004). The LAP immediately links high-danger victims to hotline workers at local domestic violence programs who are trained to use special communication techniques. Although the services of domestic violence programs have been proven to be instrumental in saving lives and reducing re-assaults, they are under-utilized, especially by high risk victims.
How does the LAP Work?
The LAP begins when a trained officer arrives at the scene of a domestic call – or when a community professional believes a victim of abuse may be in danger – and assesses the victim’s situation. If there is any doubt about the risk of lethality a victim may be facing, the officer or community professional will ask the victim to answer an evidence-based series of eleven questions known as the Lethality Screen for First Responders, which reliably predicts a victim’s risk of death.
If the victim’s response to the questions indicates an increased risk for homicide, the officer or community professional states he/she is going to place a phone call to the local 24-hour domestic violence hotline to seek advice and encourages the victim to speak with the specially trained hotline worker. Talking on the phone is always the victim’s decision.
What Other Benefits Has the LAP Created?
An important by-product of the LAP has been improved partnerships and collaborations among law enforcement officers and other community practitioners and advocates. New guidelines were created for hotline workers who speak to high risk victims and special protocols have been developed for health care providers. Best practices now include follow-up telephone and in-person visits to victims to provide support and encouragement to use program services, and the screening of victims in court prior to or following temporary protective order hearings. In the coming year, the MNADV will work with domestic violence programs to review their services to ensure that they are providing the most effective assistance to high risk victims.