Lethality Assessment Program Guidelines During COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, MNADV has developed a set of guidelines for Lethality Assessment Program practitioners.

We know times of high stress and unemployment can lead to a significant increase on cases of intimate partner violence (IPV). MNADV recommends to continue the implementation of the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) without jeopardizing the health and safety of the person administering the screen and of the victim responding to the screen.

We recommend all LAP implementers continue to follow the guidelines of the CDC, local government officials and individual
police departments for protocols around safety and response during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tips When Administrating a Lethality Screen

  • When administering a Lethality Assessment Screen, initiate screen after the scene is secure and the victim has privacy to speak with the Law Enforcement Officer or LAP Practitioner. The abusive partner should not be on-scene while the screen is being administered.
  • COVID-19 Exception Due to current circumstances, many IPV victims are confined at home with their abuser. Continue to exercise the best judgment if initiating a screen while the abusive partner is present at the location. A screen can be administered if the officer or LAP practitioner has enough privacy with the victim to ask the questions and speak with the hotline counselor without the offender overhearing. Additionally, the victim should not have a visual of the abusive partner while the screen is administered.
  • If you can’t, don’t… Based on the totality of the circumstances, if you believe the situation doesn’t allow you to carry out the LAP protocol safely at that time, you should not administer a Lethality Screen. The key is whether the victim can coherently, safely, and privately communicate with you.

Precautionary Measures

  • When administrating a Lethality Screen, follow CDC guidelines and stand 6 feet apart from the victim, while informing the victim you will be taking this measure per CDC guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.
  • The Law Enforcement Officer or LAP Practitioner should follow precautionary hygiene measures when initiating a call to the hotline. If you are taking any measure per CDC guidelines, such as utilizing gloves or disinfecting while working with a victim, please inform the victim you will be taking such measures per the CDC guidelines for law enforcement, as well as per your agency guidelines. Please inform the victim this is for the safety and well-being of all those involved during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you decide under current circumstances to not utilize your telephone to connect the victim with a hotline specialist, please call the hotline and create a safety plan for the victim to receive assistance:
    • If the victim agrees to receive a call from the hotline using their personal telephone, please discuss the risk of doing this if their telephone is being monitored by their abusive partner.
      • For safety purposes, it is preferable that the call happens while the police officer is still on-site.
    • If a call from the hotline specialist is to be arranged with the victim, confirm that the victim agrees to a date and time that is safe. A safe word and reason for calling should be established by the victim in case the abusive partner answers their phone or is nearby.
    • If the victim does not have a phone, the hotline specialist should create a safety plan and have the officer relay the message to the victim.

We want to highlight the importance of communicating to the victim that any measures you take are per CDC guidelines. This is in order to alleviate any health concerns the victim may have, as well as to demonstrate a level of compassion and care while interacting with the victim. If your agency has any questions or needs further guidance, please contact Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence at 301-429-3601 or access information online at www.mnadv.org and www.lethalityassessmentprogram.org.