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Lethality Assessment Program

Between 2001 and 2011, at least 1,700 people in Pennsylvania died as a result of domestic violence—mostly abused women but also children, law enforcement officers, friends, coworkers, passersby and perpetrators who killed themselves. These deaths leave a wake of grief and devastation among the families and communities left questioning what, if anything, can be done to stop the lethal toll of domestic violence.

The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) is a two-pronged intervention process that features a research-based lethality screening tool and an accompanying protocol referral that provides direction for officers to initiate appropriate action based on the results of the screening process. The process begins when an officer arrives at the scene of a domestic violence call.

The LAP is a multi-pronged intervention program that identifies victims of domestic violence who are at risk of being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners and immediately connects them to SafeNet, the domestic violence service provider in Erie. LAP is the only lethality assessment program in the nation that makes use of a research-based screening tool and accompanying referral protocol, and it enables law enforcement and domestic violence programs to work hand-in-hand to actively engage high-risk victims who are, otherwise, unlikely to seek the support of domestic violence intervention services.

The LAP screening tool began to move into Pennsylvania in 2012, being used by 12 Pennsylvania Counties. It is currently being used in the majority of Pennsylvania police departments with the hope of expanding this research-driven program to all 67 counties to ensure that even more lives are saved. In Maryland, where LAP is nearly universally applied by law enforcement and domestic violence programs, the homicide rate fell 41 percent. If Pennsylvania can replicate these results, hundreds of lives could be saved.

Why is it needed?

  • Police previously on scene in 50% of DV homicides
  • Only 4% of DV homicide victims had ever availed themselves of DV services
  • Re-assault dropped by 60% when victims went into shelter


What does the Lethality Assessment Program do?

(1)        Identifying victims of domestic violence who are at the greatest risk of being killed,

(2)        for the purpose of getting them out of harm’s way, if necessary, and

(3)        encouraging them to go into domestic violence services.

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