Earlier Intervention for Domestic Violence Victims: The Lethality Assessment Protocol

Written By: The Women’s Center’s Staff

November 11, 2020

It takes a community to create a holistic support system for victims of domestic violence. To do that, we partner with law enforcement, hospitals, government agencies, and many other organizations and groups.  

One of the most impactful collaborative programs in Waukesha County is the Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP), which we launched with the Delafield Police Department, Waukesha Sheriff’s Department, and the Waukesha County District Attorney’s and Victim’s Witness’ office.  

This partnership is essential to connecting domestic violence victims to our services, identifying victims who are at high risk of homicide by their partner, and increasing the likelihood that abusers are prosecuted.  

What is the Lethality Assessment Protocol? 

The Lethality Assessment Protocol (LAP) is national evidence-based screening tool that ensures the risk of homicide or near fatalities are better assessed at the scene of a domestic violence response by law enforcement asking the victim a series of standard questions. This assessment is conducted in a quiet area, away from the suspected abuser, and uses language more familiar to the public instead of legal terms. 

Further, it creates a protocol to connect victims faster to organizations, like The Women’s Center, that can provide services for survivors of domestic violence, leading to earlier intervention and reducing chances of homicide. At the scene of every domestic violence incident, officers with the Delafield Police Department and the Waukesha Sheriff’s Department, call our 24-Hour Hotline so we can offer victims support and a safe place to go. 

The LAP Saves Lives 

The LAP truly saves and changes lives. Research shows that in the year prior to a domestic violence homicide, more than 44% of abusers were arrested, but only 4% of homicide victims had used domestic violence services before their death. This shows there is significant opportunity to connect victims with services during earlier interactions with law enforcement. And when victims are connected to domestic violence resources early on, the risk for re-assault declines by 60%. 

This year, our law enforcement partners have conducted 231 assessments to date, and based on the assessment, 147 were considered highly lethal. Compared to 2019, they conducted 121 lethality assessments with 71 reported as highly lethal. This is a result of expanding our partnership to include the Waukesha Police Department and due to the increase of violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2020, just by updating the protocol for officers to call The Women’s Center on the scene of an incident instead of after, 56% of victims decided to seek services at The Women’s Center, compared to 29% in 2019. 

Thank you to our partners! 

We are thankful for each of our partners. They play a key role in making sure survivors are aware of community resources and have access to safety and space to begin healing and building a more peaceful future. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please call our free, confidential 24-Hour Hotline at 262.542.3828. Learn more about what to expect when calling our 24-Hour Hotline here

Learn more: 

  • Lethality Assessment Protocol 
  • The Women’s Center’s Director of Shelter and Transitional Living, Jessi Trauth, and our partner, City of Delafield Police, joined WUWM’s Lake Effect to discuss the Lethality Assessment Protocol for victims of domestic violence. Listen here.