Did you know that in the U.S., more women are killed by intimate partners — their boyfriends, husbands and exes — than any other type of perpetrator?
On average, that works out to three women dead every single day.
Last month, The Huffington Post published an in-depth investigation into fatal domestic violence in America. We highlighted the common risk factors that occur prior to intimate partner homicides. Thanks to years of research, many experts consider these types of killings among the most predictable and preventable of all murders, because they often follow well-established patterns.
After we ran the feature, many readers emailed us to ask what can be done to end the bloodshed. If experts believe these homicides can be prevented, they wanted to know, what should we do to stop them?
To answer that question, we turned to those with firsthand experience of this complicated issue: domestic violence victims themselves.
We crowdsourced suggestions from women who lived through abusive relationships — including some who survived near-fatal attacks — about what practical steps they believed would help reduce fatalities.
We also scoured through policy reports for recommendations, and asked domestic violence experts and violence prevention leaders to share their ideas.
All in all, we collected almost 60 ideas, some small, some big, some practical and some wildly idealistic. Here’s what we found.
Criminal justice system
1. “Treat choking as the serious crime it is. Choking/strangling the victim is one of the top indicators of future homicide.” — Kim Gandy, CEO of the National Network To End Domestic Violence
2. “Create a national domestic violence registry, like the sex offender registry. Because the recidivism rate is so high.” — Kimberly Brusk, domestic violence survivor
3. “A lethality assessment protocol, used to determine how much danger a domestic violence victim is in, should be utilized across the U.S. Results should inform sentencing and treatment guidelines. Police and court officials should undergo training to understand lethality factors.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
4. “Relocation services and assistance for victims with high lethality risk, with a change of identity similar to current witness protection programs.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
5. “We need to do what the U.K. did and make psychological abuse a crime. Just because one was never hit, doesn’t mean you’re not a victim too.” — Jennifer Tetefsky, domestic violence survivor
6. “A system of detaining and monitoring the abuser rather than the victim having to drop everything and go to a shelter would afford greater safety. The victim still needs to go to work, still needs her kids to be in school, and those are both huge exposures to lethal violence. Remove the threat, not the threatened.” — Lisette Johnson, domestic violence survivor
7. “An electronic monitoring system where victims are alerted when their abusers who are on parole or probation are in their vicinity.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
8. “Stricter penalties for repeat offenders.” — Barb Weems-Mourglia, domestic violence advocate
9. “Law enforcement should arrest abusers when they violate restraining orders.” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence survivor
10. “Better communication across counties and states with law enforcement, prisons, jails, court systems and treatment providers regarding information about abusers. Perhaps a central monitoring system?” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
11. “Harsher consequences for stalking, harassment, ongoing emotional and verbal abuse.” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence survivor
12. “Make non-fatal strangulation a felony in Ohio.” — Amy Weber, lost a family member to domestic violence homicide
13. “Judges: When a victim is asking for a permanent restraining order, grant it!” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence and gun violence survivor
14. “Do not force victims to be in the same courtroom as abusers. Allow for testimony to be taken separately and safely.” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence and gun violence survivor
15. Annual domestic violence training for police officers and court officials incorporating victim impact stories to put a face on the issue that they often become numb to.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
Gun safety reforms
16. “Recognize that one of the most dangerous times for victims is when they are trying to leave the abusive relationship, or have already left. Make it easy to get a temporary restraining order, and remove firearms (and prevent gun purchases)Kim Gandy, CEO of the National Network To End Domestic Violence
17. Congress should close the loopholes in the federal gun prohibitions to ensure that stalkers and [abusive]dating partners are barred from gun ownership, just like other dangerous abusers. — Everytown for Gun Safety
18. Every state in the nation should prohibit possession of firearms by anyone convicted of abusing an intimate partner or family member. And every state should prohibit gun possession by anyone subject to a protective order prohibiting them from harassing, threatening or stalking an intimate partner or family member. — Everytown for Gun Safety
19. “Require police departments to investigate if domestic abusers are prohibited from owning guns, or [have the police]be subject to serious fines and imprisonment if their lack of proper investigation results in a shooting.” — Jennifer Tetefsky, domestic violence survivor
20. States should provide all records of prohibited abusers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. — Center for American Progress
21. Congress should require comprehensive background checks and ensure that prohibited domestic abusers cannot easily evade background checks by buying guns from unlicensed sellers. — Everytown for Gun Safety
22. There are 46 percent fewer intimate partner gun homicides of women in states that require background checks for private handgun sales than in states that do not. State lawmakers should require private, unlicensed sellers to conduct background checks on gun sales, just as licensed gun dealers do. — Everytown for Gun Safety
23. States should pass laws requiring that domestic abusers turn in their guns to law enforcement or licensed gun dealers when they become prohibited. — Everytown for Gun Safety
24. Research shows that domestic violence victims do indeed lack adequate access to affordable legal services. What about subsidized lawyers for domestic violence survivors? — The Institute for Policy Integrity
25. “Comprehensive financial and legal services available immediately to victims. Job placement. Housing. Money to get out of the home.” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence survivor
26. “We need to train domestic violence survivors on financial literacy so they can become economically independent.” — Ludy Green, domestic violence expert
27. “Abusers mandated to pay into a pool that gives rental assistance to victims, so fewer become homeless because of domestic violence.” — Barb Weems-Mourglia, domestic violence advocate
28. “Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Due to a critical lack of affordable housing, families in domestic violence shelters typically have no safe, affordable options and are unable to leave shelter. Moving victims and their children as quickly as possible into safe, affordable housing reduces the trauma of domestic violence, the disruption of children’s lives, and increased cost to the public sector to house a family in a shelter.” — Carol Corden, executive director of New Destiny Housing
29. “My situation was one of abandoning rights to marital property if I left the house. I was shot while we were working out who would leave. In situations of abuse, partners should be protected from any forfeiture of marital property.” — Lisette Johnson, domestic violence survivor
30. “Allow victims to be on stand-by [for court hearings]so they aren’t continuing to miss work every time court is postponed.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
Education and training
31. “Education in elementary schools. Little boys need to know that daddy pushing mommy around is not normal, and availability to a counselor should be there if a child wants to talk about their home life to someone.” — Anonymous
32. “Funding for domestic violence education at every high school in our nation. Teach our youth about red flags and not being a bystander. It truly makes a difference.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
33. “Attitudes need to change toward the victims of domestic violence. Many people still feel like the woman should ‘just leave.’ The problem is they don’t understand how dangerous it is to leave. The most volatile time is when the victim tries to separate.” — Lisa Riveglia Rasmussen, domestic violence survivor
34. “All EMS personnel should be required to have training on intimate partner violence dynamics and community resources. There is a significant gap in services to victims without that mandate.” — Karen Oehme, the Institute for Family Violence Studies at Florida State’s School of Social Work
35. “More needs to be talked about in terms of signs of manipulation and power/control in the mass media. When there’s no blood it’s just not ‘sexy’ or dramatic enough to make the news.” — Jennifer Tetefsky, domestic violence survivor
36. “We need more education about financial abuse. My ex-husband verbally and psychologically abused me for years. He systematically broke down my psyche until I could barely decide between wheat or rye on a sandwich without talking to him about it. Then, for six months on an almost daily basis, he worked to convince me that I was a bad parent because I was working 20 hours a week, 15 minutes from home. Once I left the best job I ever had, he had me totally under his control.” — Anonymous domestic violence survivor
37. “Become educated as a bystander on how to offer help in the right way (without judging) if you suspect/know someone in that situation.” — Lovern Gordon, domestic violence survivor
38. The National Governors Association, in collaboration with the Federal Government and Tribal Governments should launch a public education campaign in every state, territory and reservation. — Futures Without Violence
39. “Study funded to provide data of how often a woman lies about domestic violence versus it being legit. To shut up those who believe women lie about abuse.” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence survivor
Divorce and child custody
40. “In my first domestic violence case as a young lawyer, a client was shot by her estranged husband when he arrived for visitation exchange. Courts must stop forcing victims to share custody, legal or physical, with an abuser (who will doubtless use the child to punish her for leaving, and maintain power and control over her), and must not require the victim to be alone with the abuser for visitation exchange.” — Kim Gandy, CEO of the National Network To End Domestic Violence
41. “Immediate divorce granted for victims nationwide. It’s currently state by state, with most not immediate. I was made to wait until after his prison sentencing (14 months) to get my divorce trial.” — Kimberly Brusk, domestic violence survivor
42. “Never require divorce mediation in cases of domestic violence.” — Nicole Beverly, domestic violence survivor
43. “Separate CPS cases for abuser and victim.” — Kimberly Brusk, domestic violence survivor
44. “Require intensive domestic violence training for guardian ad litems and child protective services.” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence survivor
Support services and shelters
45. “A place to leave pets — like an emergency foster care system — if shelters won’t take them. So many won’t leave because abusers will kill their pets.” — Jennifer Tetefsky, domestic violence survivor
46. “Intensive mental health services for victims and children (covered by insurance or free).” — Kate Ranta, domestic violence survivor
47. “San Francisco was able to eliminate domestic violence homicides for 44 months. Domestic violence victims who access community-based services are less likely to be killed. We must ensure that there are funded community-based services that are accessible to all the various communities in an area, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, language, immigration status, sexual orientation and disability.
City agencies must also be willing to come together with community-based agencies to identify gaps and weaknesses, so that the response both from government and non-governmental agencies is continuously being analyzed and improved.” — Minouche Kandel, Esq., Women’s Policy Director, City & County of San Francisco
48. “An interconnected system to research shelters and specific services.” — Jennifer Tetefsky, domestic violence survivor
49. “Career training for survivors of domestic violence is a crucial part of their successful journey to self-sufficiency and freedom from abuse. Our staff regularly encounter cases where abusers exert financial controls to intimidate and isolate their victims, including limiting access to bank accounts and preventing them from pursuing education and career opportunities. Our Economic Empowerment Program, a replicable workforce training initiative, was created to address the needs of survivors living in the nexus of abuse, poverty and homelessness, and has helped hundreds of survivors learn marketable skills and obtain living wage jobs since it began in 2011.” — Judge Judy Harris Kluger, director of Sanctuary For Families
50. “Don’t deny people access to shelters because of drug use or sex work.” — Hilary Hanson, HuffPost reporter
51. “More money for domestic violence shelters. Each year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence does a one-day survey of domestic violence programs nationwide to calculate how many people are accessing help. On a single day in 2015, 71,828 victims were served across the country. Yet, 12,197 requests for help went unmet because of lack of fundingKim Gandy, CEO of the National Network To End Domestic Violence
52. Invest in treatment programs for children who have witnessed or experienced violence. — Futures Without Violence
53. Invest in treatment programs for men and boys who use violence in relationships. — Futures Without Violence
54. Paid sick days and paid family leave laws and policies are essential. It is also crucial for the leave to extend explicitly to survivors of violence. Women comprise two-thirds of minimum wage earners and are disproportionately subject to violence and stalking both in and outside the workplace. Most low-wage jobs, unlike many office or white-collar jobs, don’t come with paid leave, health insurance, or other benefits.
Missing work means not getting paid and the very real risk of getting fired. In the aftermath of a traumatizing assault or frightening stalking incident, a worker may need to go to the police, to court, or to the doctor. Employers can and should be first in line to provide support and protection to their workers — not punishments that further jeopardize their safety and economic security. — Futures Without Violence
55. “More companies should offer paid domestic violence days if a victim has to attend court or is out because of an attack (this was a big one for me).” — Lovern Gordon, domestic violence survivor
56. “Laws to protect domestic violence victims from losing their jobs.” — Melissa Saporito, domestic violence survivor
57. Public agencies should receive a fine for decisions that put victims at increased risk. — Futures Without Violence
58. Employers should develop and implement workplace policies/protocols that specifically address domestic and sexual violence and stalking. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 70 percent of U.S. workplaces don’t have a formal program or policy that addresses workplace violence. Most employers don’t think about violence affecting their employees until an incident occurs at the workplace. Rather than reacting to specific incidents, workplaces should adopt a more comprehensive approach. They can do this by focusing on protections and policies that create a culture of prevention — not reaction. — Futures Without Violence
59. Educate and train company leaders and employees. Employers should ensure that employees, including those in supervisory roles, know how to identify an employee who has experienced violence, and what resources are available for assistance. — Futures Without Violence
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