Question: How many people died as a result of intimate partner violence last year in Maryland? How is this data collected?
Each year, we at MNADV collect statewide domestic violence homicide data, including not only the intimate partner victims who were killed, but the family members, friends, co-workers, bystanders, and first responders who were killed at the same time as the intimate partners.
We know that collecting data like this helps us to understand intimate partner homicide, its frequency in our community, the impact that it has on marginalized communities, and any methods for homicide prevention. We publish this data each year at our Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial Service, coming up on February 11.
One of the challenges of collecting this data, though, is determining whether or not these homicides are domestic violence-related. The definition of domestic violence and specifically, domestic violence-related homicide can vary depending on the source. The way we track domestic violence-related fatalities is with a lens that focuses not only on whether or not the individuals were or had been in a relationship, but also if there were abusive dynamics present in the relationship.
To do this, we examine what constitutes domestic violence. In many jurisdictions, law enforcement determine what “domestic violence” is based on what the law says. Civil law defines persons eligible for relief in a Protective Order Hearing in different ways. MNADV defines a domestic violence-related fatality more narrowly as a fatality or suicide perpetrated within the context of, or in connection to, an intimate partner relationship.
We look beyond the relationship between the parties. When determining if a fatality is DV-related, the MNADV considers the circumstances listed below. Not all considerations must be met to determine if a fatality is DV-related.
- Existence of power and control in the relationship;
- Presence of a sexual relationship (while not a requirement, it is a strong indicator of “intimacy”);
- Duration of the relationship (while not a requirement, a pattern of power and control typically develops over a period of time);
- Duration and escalation of the circumstance;
- Suicide by perpetrator within a reasonable time period after the actual or attempted fatality that would leave a reasonable person to deduce that the suicide was committed in connection with a domestic violence situation;
- Suicide by a victim or perpetrator where there is clear, public evidence that the death was motivated by domestic violence in the relationship;
- Police officer/s killed when responding to a domestic violence altercation or circumstance;
- A fatality that occurs as a result of a DV-related circumstance, such as when a police officer shoots an abusive partner, a victim, or a third party;
- When the motive is determined to be DV-related or the circumstantial information provided by information sources determines that a fatality is DV-related. Circumstantial evidence can include the presence of lethality factors.
To identify domestic violence-related fatalities in Maryland, a MNADV multi-person team evaluates multiple sources for information regarding the circumstances and motives of fatalities from across the state. MNADV staff generate a list of fatalities believed to be DV-related and distributes that list to DV programs, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, and other allied professionals to review for accuracy and any omissions. The list includes names and ages for both the victims and the perpetrators. The list also includes jurisdiction, the manner of death, and motive. Every decision made in the process of identifying DV-related fatalities is recorded.
It is critical to our work that we remember the lives lost, so we can focus on the lives we can help save. Every victim of intimate partner homicide was someone’s loved one and their lives ended prematurely. We collect data to honor those lives, and to work towards a world where deaths like theirs can be prevented.
We hope to see you at our Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial Service, where we will release the statistics for July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018. Community members and leaders throughout Maryland will come together on February 11 to remember those whose lives were lost as a result of domestic violence, bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence in Maryland, and propose legislative changes to support survivors. This free event is open to the public, and all are welcome to attend.
For questions about homicide data collection, you can reach out to Lauren Dougherty at email@example.com.