Skip to main content

Intimate Partner Homicide

There are often reactions of shock and disbelief from friends, family members, and co-workers after an intimate partner homicide occurs. Continued coverage in the weeks following the fatality may provide information about an escalation in violence or reveal other risk factors that were present prior to the homicide.[1] Media coverage of intimate partner homicides should include the recognized research-based risk indicators for homicide, such as that women are much more likely to be killed by their partners than by a stranger.[2]

Media professionals can help the general public understand that there are frequently antecedents or patterns leading up to the homicide. Please consider using the following research-based data in your coverage.

RISK FACTORS FOR ESCALATION AND INTMATE PARTNER HOMICIDE[3]

  • Perpetrator has prior history of domestic violence
  • Perpetrator has prior non-domestic violence related criminal history
  • Perpetrator controls all/most of partner’s daily activities
  • Perpetrator exhibits extreme and/or violent jealousy toward partner
  • Perpetrator is stalking, making threats, destroying partner’s property
  • Perpetrator owns a firearm or can get one easily
  • Perpetrator abuses or is dependent on alcohol
  • Perpetrator avoided arrest for intimate partner violence
  • Perpetrator threatened to harm children
  • Perpetrator attempted to strangle the decedent
  • Perpetrator is unemployed
  • Perpetrator abuses illegal drugs or is drug dependent
  • Perpetrator has recently escalated the intimate partner violence
  • Perpetrator’s partner has expressed fear of re-assault/homicide
  • Perpetrator has attempted or threatened suicide
  • Perpetrator has threatened to kill partner
  • Perpetrator has used a weapon to threaten partner
  • Perpetrator has recently (up to one year) separated from partner
  • Perpetrator is living in a home with children who have a biological parent other than the perpetrator
  • Perpetrator has sexually assaulted their partner or forced sex in the past
  • Perpetrator has assaulted partner while she was pregnant
  • Media reports should include interviews with local experts, such as the local certified domestic violence center to explain the tactics of intimate partner violence and identify ongoing patterns of intimate partner violence. For example, law enforcement representatives can verify if the crime meets the statutory requirement for domestic violence to differentiate this type of violence from other types of crimes. Media professionals should include multiple sources to avoid the unintended consequences caused by minimizing violence.
  • It is important to name intimate partner violence as a crime and avoid terms like “disagreement,” “spat,” or mutual “fighting” that minimize the perpetrator’s actions.
  • Media professionals should consider the source of the information and avoid character references from casual acquaintances of the victim or perpetrator in intimate partner homicides. Survivors often do not reach out for help due to fear, shame, and the belief that the authorities will not help. However, they may share their experiences with trusted loved ones.
  • Including comments from representatives of certified domestic violence centers can provide media professionals with a contextual framework for understanding intimate partner violence. Interviewing subject matter experts from these centers also widens the scope of your news coverage. Domestic violence advocates can offer information on local services available to survivors and tools to hold perpetrators accountable. The executive directors of local centers may not be able to comment on specific cases, but can answer questions about the dynamics of intimate partner violence and resources available to survivors and their children.
  • Florida’s 41 certified domestic violence centers offer an array of services for eligible survivors and their children, including information and referrals, counseling, case management, emergency shelter, a 24-hour hotline, advocacy for survivors, safety planning, court/legal advocacy, and community education.

Some women in domestic violence situations will try to make their abuser happy so they don't get hurt. That may explain why the victim allowed the perpetrator to spend time with her family over the weekend. It's much like if you were kidnapped by a stranger. You wouldn't agitate that person. You would placate and appease that person and try to keep yourself safe in that situation until you find a way out. Having a child involved can also make the situation very complicated. Stronger penalties for abusers are necessary, Pye said, but she also believes communities need to band together to send a message that this kind of behavior is not acceptable, which takes that responsibility off the victim. We have to get in front of this issue. Part of that is the accountability. The first time these individuals come into contact with law enforcement, we have to prosecute those things to the full extent of the law. People have to be held accountable. People have to pay for what they're doing.” - Full Article

Media professionals can have a significant impact in educating communities about the resources available for survivors. Florida’s 41 certified domestic violence centers offer an array of services for eligible survivors and their children including information and referrals, counseling, case management, emergency shelter, a 24-hour hotline, advocacy for survivors, safety planning, court/legal advocacy, and community education. The executive directors of these local centers may not be able to comment on specific cases, but can answer questions about the dynamics of intimate partner violence and resources available to survivors and their children. Reporters should also include the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline Number.

DVP operates a trilingual statewide domestic violence hotline in English, Spanish, and Creole. Advocates are available 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, to provide support, advocacy, information and referral to survivors and their friends and family members. Advocates can connect callers to their local certified domestic violence center for immediate access to services.

1-800-500-1119

1-800-621-4202 (TDD)

Florida Relay 711

Additionally, the Florida Legal Services, Inc. provides attorneys to answer survivors’ legal questions regarding injunctions for protection, divorce, custody, housing, immigration, and other civil legal matters at no cost to survivors.  The hotline attorneys are available 8 am to 4 pm EST Monday – Friday.  Survivors can call toll free at 1-800-5000-1119 ext. 3.   TDD 1-800-621-4202; Florida Relay 711; Interpreter services are available for survivors with limited English proficiency. 

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447915/

[2]https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6628a1.htm?s_cid=mm6628a1_w

[3] These risk indicators are based on the work of Jacquelyn Campbell, RN, PhD, FAAN; Jill Messing, MSW, PhD. and Neil Websdale, PhD.