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Assessing Whether Batterers Will Kill

Some batterers are life-endangering. To evaluate whether an assailant is likely to kill his partner, other family members, and/or himself, review the following conditions:

Threats of homicide or suicide The batterer who has threatened to kill himself, his partner, the children or her relatives must be considered extremely dangerous.
Fantasies of homicide or suicide. The more the batterer has developed a fantasy about who, how, when and/or where to kill, the more dangerous he may be. The batterer who has previously acted out part of a homicide or suicide fantasy may be invested in killing as a viable "solution" to his problems.
Depression. Where a batterer has been acutely depressed and sees little hope for moving beyond the depression, he may be a candidate for homicide and suicide.
Weapons. Where a batterer possesses weapons and has used them or has threatened to use them in the past in his assaults on the battered woman, the children or himself, his access to those weapons increases his potential for lethal assault.
Obsessiveness about partner or family. A man who is obsessive about his female partner, who either idolizes her and feels that he cannot live without her or believes he is entitled to her, no matter what because she is his wife, is more likely to be life-endangering.
Centrality of battered woman. If the loss of the battered woman represents or precipitates a total loss of hope for a positive future, a batterer may choose to kill.
Rage. The most life-endangering rage often erupts when a batterer believes the battered woman is leaving him.
Drug or alcohol consumption. Consumption of drugs or alcohol when in a state of despair or fury can elevate risk of lethality
Pet abuse. Those batterers who assault and mutilate pets are more likely to kill or maim family members.
Access to the battered woman and/or to family members. If the batterer cannot find her, he cannot kill her.

If a batterer is likely to kill or commit life-endangering violence, take extraordinary measures to protect the victim and her children. This may include providing transportation and conducting meticulous follow-up. The victim should be advised that the presence of these indicators may mean that the batterer is contemplating homicide and that she should immediately take action to protect herself and should contact the local battered women's program to further assess lethality and make safety plans.

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