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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 28, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 24
SON: Risk-Measurement Tool for Domestic Violence Is Now Online

By Kelly Brooks-Staub
School of Nursing

Each year, more than 3 million women in the United States are abused by their intimate partners, and more than 1,200 are killed by their abusers. These victims are often unaware that their lives are in danger prior to the attack. The newly revised Danger Assessment instrument, developed by Jacquelyn Campbell, associate dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, is now available online to help women at risk learn their level of danger and to train domestic violence advocates and law enforcement and health care professionals in measuring warning danger levels.

"According to informants who knew the victims, only 47 percent of femicide victims accurately predicted their risk before the lethal event, and only 53 percent of attempted femicide victims accurately predicted their risk before the attempted murder," Campbell said.

Campbell created the first Danger Assessment 25 years ago to help victims of abuse and the professionals who work with them to better understand the threats to their safety and well-being. Campbell revised and updated the assessment this year to incorporate the findings of recent domestic violence research and to deliver the mechanism to a wider audience through a new Web site,

Women who feel they are in danger can download the Danger Assessment for free. The results are best interpreted, however, by a person certified to use the DA scoring system. Criminal justice, health care and advocacy practitioners who wish to administer the assessment and interpret the scoring system also may use the Web site to obtain training and certification.

The assessment begins by giving a woman a calendar on which she is asked to mark the days when physically abusive incidents occurred, ranking each incident's severity on a scale between one and five. This exercise, Campbell said, can heighten the woman's awareness of her situation and reduce denial and minimization of the abuse. When the DA was originally developed, Campbell found that 38 percent of women who initially reported no increase in severity and frequency changed their response to yes after filling out the calendar, she said.

The second part of the assessment asks the woman 20 questions designed to identify danger within the relationship. Each question addresses a specific behavior that is a significant predictor to intimate-partner femicide. The list includes questions such as, "Does he own a gun?" "Is he an alcoholic or problem drinker?" and "Does he threaten to harm your children?"

According to Campbell, "Women using the DA can gain a better understanding of their risk and decrease their chances of becoming femicide victims. Now that the assessment is easily accessible to battered women, advocates and other practitioners," she said, "perhaps some of those 1,200 murders may be prevented." is presented through the Institute for Johns Hopkins Nursing, the joint initiative of the JHU School of Nursing and the JHH Department of Nursing formed to promote and support nursing excellence and to foster communication and collaboration between nursing education and nursing practice.


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