The Lethality Assessment Program—Maryland Model (LAP), created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) in 2005, is an innovative strategy to prevent domestic violence homicides and serious injuries. It provides an easy and effective method for law enforcement and other community professionals—such as health care providers, clergy members, case workers, court personnel, and even bystanders or family members—to identify victims of domestic violence who are at the highest risk of being seriously injured or killed by their intimate partners, and immediately connect them to the local community-based domestic violence service program.
The LAP is a multi-pronged intervention that consists of a standardized, evidence-based lethality assessment instrument and accompanying referral protocol that helps first responders make a differentiated response that is tailored to the unique circumstances of High-Danger victims.
The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) was originally designed for law enforcement. While the LAP is now used by various allied professionals—nurses, social workers, hospital personnel, case workers, and court personnel—the basic protocol is similar for all disciplines.
The process begins when an officer arrives at the scene of a call for service. Once the scene is secure and the investigation of the incident is complete, an officer may activate the LAP, if certain criteria are met. If the individuals involved are intimate partners and the officer discerns a “manifestation of danger,” the officer asks the victim the 11 questions on the Lethality Screen, which is the first component of the LAP. The screen itself takes less than five minutes to conduct and is adapted from Dr. Campbell’s Danger Assessment, an instrument used by clinicians and counselors to assess a victim’s risk of being killed by an intimate partner.
Upon completion of the Lethality Screen, the practitioner utilizes a corresponding referral and service protocol based on the dangerousness of the situation. This second and equally important prong of LAP is the real time connection for at-risk victims
One study conducted by Dr. Campbell found that almost half of female intimate partner homicide victims studied were not able to recognize their risk for fatal violence prior to their death. Because LAP has the opportunity to identify danger and lethality for a victim of domestic violence, it offers the occasion to inform them around safety strategies and link them immediately to help.
Even victims who are assessed as “Non-High Danger” at the time of the call for service, and those who are not ready to seek help, receive valuable information from the Lethality Screen; it affords them insight into the warning signs that could indicate that an abusive relationship is escalating in severity. Additionally, the officer’s concern for the victim, as well as the visible partnership between the officer and the advocate, both demonstrate to victims that there are people who care about their situation and are available to help when victims are able to safely seek services.
The Lethality Screen and Protocol are both equally important components. The LAP is one of only two models of evidence-based intimate partner homicide prevention to be honored as a “promising practice” by the U.S. Department of Justice, and has been studied and validated.