Risk assessment screening tools are crucial in identifying, assessing, and reducing the likelihood of domestic violence homicide. However, it’s important to note that not all tools serve the same function, and some may be more suitable for certain situations or contexts.

Some tools are designed to measure recidivism, or the likelihood of abuse happening again, while others focus on lethality, or the probability of abuse escalating to homicide. Additionally, there are tools that specifically address sexual and domestic violence, while others focus on stalking.

It’s also important to consider who the tool is intended for, as some were developed for use by law enforcement and first responders, while others were created for confidential victim advocates. Some tools are used within criminal legal proceedings, while others are used in community-based settings.

Before implementing any risk assessment tool, it’s recommended that jurisdictions conduct community readiness activities to identify the tool or combination of tools that would best meet the needs and resources of their community. Effective implementation of any tool requires some level of training and planning.

If you interested in learning more about the different types of risk assessment tools, please visit: dvrisc.org

Making Risk Assessments Effective

If you’re already using an evidence-based risk assessment tool such as the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP), you know how important it is to use the tool to fidelity. For the LAP specifically, this includes working closely with your local domestic violence victim service provider (DVSP) to ensure that IPV victims get the information they need when they’re in crisis.

Given the dangerous nature of all forms of domestic violence, it is crucial that individuals affected by violence receive access to available support and resources to ensure their safety. According to the findings of “The Oklahoma Lethality Assessment Study: A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of the Lethality Assessment Program” by Dr. Jill Messing, Dr. Jacqueline Campbell, and their partners, when the Lethality Screen is used in conjunction with speaking to an advocate over the phone, survivors reported reduced frequency/severity of violence and increased use of protective actions immediately after the intervention and up to 7 months later. These protective actions include removing or hiding their partner’s weapons, receiving domestic violence-related services, establishing a code with family/friends, obtaining self-protection tools, applying for and receiving orders of protection, obtaining medical care due to violence, going somewhere their partner could not find them, and engaging in other protective measures. (Messing, J.T., Campbell, J., Webster, D.W., Brown, S., Patchell, B., & Sullivan Wilson, J. “The Oklahoma Lethality Assessment Study: A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of the Lethality Assessment Program.” Social Service Review, 2015, pp. 499-530.)

Collaboration is crucial for a unified response to violence and its impacts on individuals. A partnership between law enforcement, community partners, and domestic violence service providers is essential for a sustainable and interdisciplinary approach to addressing incidents of domestic violence. By working together, these systems can provide reliable resources and support to those affected by violence. It is important to recognize that tackling challenges alone is not always effective, and success is often achieved through teamwork and collaboration.

What is the LAP?

The Lethality Assessment Program – Maryland Model (LAP) is a tool designed to reduce risks and save lives. The LAP involves an assessment by law enforcement to determine risks and, if risks are identified, collaboration with community-based victim service providers. Working together, law enforcement officials and victim service providers are better able to support victims with a variety of processes to include, but not limited to, counseling, housing, medical, financial, legal and other needs.


During the legislative session of 2015, the UDVC consisting of various domestic violence service providers (DVSPs) and law enforcement (LE) agencies advocated for the statewide implementation of an evidence-based risk assessment tool. The coalition specifically recommended the Lethality Assessment Program-Maryland Model (LAP) and was able to secure temporary funding to put this program into effect. This much-needed tool facilitated collaboration efforts in responding to cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) and provided a shared language between DVSPs and LE/community partners. DVSPs partnered with LE agencies throughout the state, and under the leadership of the coalition from 2016 to June 2023, the following impact was achieved:

31,317 amount of LAPs were conducted by LE & DVSPs
24,361 (78%) were assessed as high danger
13,537 (43%) safety plans were conducted over the phone with LE standing by
12,580 (40%) IPV victims accessed life-saving connections to services
68 LEAs, including 7 campus LEAs and 10 community partners, signed MOUs to collaborate with their local DV service providers

    Where are we now?

    Based on SB117, the Utah IPV risk assessment program began implementation in April 2023, with widespread adoption expected after July 1, 2023 and is modeled after the Lethality Assessment Protocol-Maryland Model. All state law enforcement agencies will be administering these screens at the scene of intimate partner violence cases where the predominant aggressor can be identified, and referrals will be made to local domestic violence service providers.

      Steps for Utah’s Ipv Lethality Program Implementation

      Below are a few of the steps organizations serving persons impacted directly by intimate partner violence can expect to follow:

      • Identify your local community-based confidential victim service provider
      • Conduct a new partner meeting to establish or strengthen your relationship. Meeting topics may include:
        • Role definitions
        • Training and implementation plans
        • Policy considerations
        • Data & information sharing considerations

      Next steps

      • We recommend completing an MOU for clearly stated shared understanding & expectations
      • Attend a Training-of-Trainers session
      • Ensure all of the employees who will be conducting the screenings have received training prior to the implementation date

      Training on use of Utah’s IPV lethality program is required before implementation by officers, deputies, and troopers. UDVC is an active partner with the Department of Public Safety in providing these trainings. Please reach out to mhaenchen@udvc.org for more information on use and training.

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