YWCA Northcentral PA and the Wise Options program proudly announces the Lethality Assessment Program - a new partnership with the Old Lycoming Township Police Department aimed at connecting domestic violence victims to local services and preventing murders caused by domestic violence.
The implementation of LAP on Oct. 1 kicked off the local observance of the nationwide Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Domestic violence claimed the lives of at least 1,532 people in Pennsylvania between 2001 and 2010, according to the YWCA. Only four percent of domestic violence murder victims ever obtained help through a protective service.
Old Lycoming Township Police and Wise Options-YWCA staff team up for Lycoming County’s first Lethality Assessment Program.
The goal of the innovative, evidence-based LAP is improving those statistics and eliminating domestic violence deaths. Accessing shelter services reduces the incidence and severity of re-assault by 60 to 70 percent compared to victims who did not access shelters.
The collaboration between law enforcement officers and domestic violence programs involves assessing risk and connecting victims with local programs and resources like Wise Options.
Participants in the program will use information based on decades of research identifying common factors among domestic violence murders. Some of these risks include the abuser's use or threat of using a weapon, strangulation during an assault, stalking, threats of suicide by the abuser, constant jealousy and attempts to control the victim.
When responding to a domestic violence call, LAP-trained police officers use a brief evidence-based screening tool to identify risk factors.
The officers at the scene can then connect high-risk victims with a local hotline to help create a safety plan with the victim and suggest available services.
"Every community is affected by domestic violence, especially when it escalates to homicide. The Lethality Assessment Program is a promising practice that will help us identify victims at highest risk of being killed and get them in to our program so that they find safety from abuse and the supports they need to rebuild their lives," said Susan Mathias, co-director of Wise Options.
While Lycoming County is one of 12 jurisdictions throughout Pennsylvania initiating the Lethality Assessment Program, at least 118 counties in 14 states have successfully implemented the program.
In Maryland, where the LAP originated, 91 percent (102 out of 112) of law enforcement agencies and 100 percent of domestic violence programs have implemented the program. The progress toward the goal of reducing domestic violence deaths has been phenomenal: the incidence of domestic homicides has declined by an average of 41 percent over the past three years, according to a YWCA news release.
"This program empowers victims to identify the risks they face and connects them with the services they need to save their lives," said Old Lycoming Township Police Chief William Solomon.