End Abuse has been tracking domestic violence homicides for the last 20 years. In the 18th edition of our Annual Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report, we include a summary report on 2019 domestic violence homicides, as well as a review of 20 years of coalition data collection on domestic violence homicide in Wisconsin.
Above, listen to End Abuse Interim Director Gricel Santiago-Rivera and Homicide Prevention Program Director Sara Krall discuss the release of our latest report and homicide prevention efforts in our state.
About the Annual Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report
Releasing our Annual Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report is a sobering reminder of how often domestic violence results in a tragic outcome.
Our intention with producing this report each year is twofold: to honor the lives of victims of domestic violence homicide in Wisconsin, and to catalyze improvements in systemic and community responses to domestic violence.
In 2019, there were 72 lives lost in Wisconsin due to domestic violence. This figure includes 52 homicide victims, 18 perpetrator suicides after they committed a homicide, and two perpetrators killed by responding law enforcement.
This edition of our homicide report includes a section that analyzes data elements from our 20 years of collecting domestic violence homicide information at End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. The review of our 20 years of data indicated that in at least 57% of the homicide incidents, prior domestic violence was a precipitating factor. Additionally, from 2000-2019, a victim leaving an intimate partner relationship preceded at least 42% of the cases we identified.
These percentages underscore that we still have work to do in Wisconsin communities to support people who are currently experiencing domestic violence by directing them to individualized crisis intervention and support before the abuse escalates. Furthermore, victims of domestic violence should be made aware of the risk involved in the decision to leave an abusive relationship, and have access to all relevant resources, support, and services needed to ensure they have a personalized safety net at that critical point in time.
Homicide Prevention Work at End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin:
Reflecting on Current Tools & Looking to the Future
For the past several years, End Abuse has received funding from the WI DOJ to provide training, support, and assistance to Wisconsin communities with the goal of preventing and reducing domestic violence homicides. Part of this work is through implementation of the Lethality Assessment Program – Maryland Model, or LAP. To date, 175 LE agencies in Wisconsin have received training on implementing this program, which involves officers using an 11-item research-based questionnaire to gauge the level of danger in intimate partner violence cases. When officers assess a victim to be in high danger, they utilize a referral protocol to connect victims to domestic violence programs immediately, before leaving the scene. The process also helps victims know what to look out for if things begin to escalate.
Beyond supporting LAP implementation, End Abuse promotes the development of high-risk teams in Wisconsin, which is the only other nationally recognized evidence-based domestic violence homicide prevention strategy aside from the LAP. High-risk teams complement what’s currently being done in communities that are implementing the LAP by creating a wraparound response to the most dangerous cases, promoting victim safety and perpetrator accountability as the case moves throughout the criminal justice system.
The LAP has not been implemented statewide, nor has it been used for long enough to notice a measurable difference in our state’s homicide numbers. In fact, our 2019 report tragically includes 25 more deaths than our 2018 report. This begs the questions: What else can we be doing? What are the additional disconnects that are not being addressed?
A perpetual barrier and challenge we know survivors face is the difficulty of achieving long-term economic stability, an aspect of which includes access to safe, affordable housing. End Abuse is excited to announce we’ll be expanding homicide prevention work to include developing and enhancing relationships between domestic violence programs and housing and homelessness service providers in partnership with the balance of state continuum of care.
Recent high-profile killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement across the nation have caused us to further consider whether our homicide prevention work, as it looks currently, aligns with End Abuse’s desire to dismantle systems of white supremacy. We believe current systems create racial inequities and perpetuate systemic racism, especially within the criminal justice system.
All forms of violence and oppression are interconnected, and at the intersection of domestic violence and racial inequities, the criminal justice system often also fails victims and survivors of domestic violence.
These tragic events have underscored how our homicide prevention efforts primarily focused on law enforcement response may further propagate the systemic violence we aim to end. Our intention is not to abandon the LAP, as we know it is effective in decreasing lethality for the many survivors in high danger who decide they must call law enforcement. Moving forward, we hope to broaden the list of community partners we equip to implement homicide prevention programming similar to the LAP in conjunction with local community-based domestic violence programs. Widening the range of service providers who are both knowledgeable about lethality risk factors and who have established relationships with domestic violence advocates will improve survivor access to individualized crisis intervention and long-term support.
The “Shadow Pandemic” of COVID-19
Our Homicide Reports paint a grim picture of the ultimate price victims and their families pay because of domestic abuse. As we release this report, we recognize that 2020 has been one of the hardest years in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges domestic abuse victims and survivors face each day. Safer at Home mandates across the nation sparked an increase in domestic abuse incidents, due to loss of income, isolation, and being in an enclosed space with an abusive partner.
These stressors, exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, put victims and their children at a higher risk of being murdered by their abusers. There is a direct correlation between the pandemic and an increase in domestic violence. Referred to as a “shadow pandemic” by international media and human rights organizations, domestic violence in these particularly challenging times requires increased awareness and an urgent response.
For too long, domestic violence has lurked in the shadows and is something many still consider a “personal problem.” This is simply untrue – we all live in an environment in which domestic abuse thrives; therefore, we all need to take responsibility for keeping our communities and Wisconsin residents safe in their homes and relationships. From this report’s findings, we know that domestic violence homicide happens often and everywhere, that domestic violence homicide has disparate impacts and predictable patterns, and that it is preventable. Together, we can effectuate a lasting transformation that will positively impact victims, survivors, and the families of homicide victims, and – most importantly – prevent future homicides.
While the path to preventing domestic violence homicide may not be a simple one, the coalition is committed to addressing anti-violence work with a multifaceted, intersectional approach that centers those most impacted by violence in our state. Together, we can end domestic abuse in Wisconsin.
A Call to Action
There are many ways to help end domestic violence in Wisconsin.
- On Tuesday, September 22, End Abuse is holding our first-ever non-event virtual fundraiser: Soar Above at Home. This is an opportunity for those who believe in the possibility of a violence-free future to directly support the coalition’s life-saving work. Register today for Soar Above at Home to provide a donation that helps us serve survivors statewide. Follow our Facebook event for statistics, quotes, and information about domestic violence homicide in our state, and how we can work towards a better future, together.
- Sign up for Action Alerts, so when we need your support, we can make the ask and you can take direct action.
- VOTE and engage in public policy advocacy. Use your vote and your voice to elect officials who support survivors.
- Follow End Abuse on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and share resources that raise awareness.
- Support your local programs. Find programs you can support in your community using our Get Help map.
There are domestic abuse advocacy services available in all 72 counties and 11 tribes in Wisconsin. To learn where the program nearest you is located, please visit: endabusewi.org/get-help