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Report Links Domestic Violence, Suicide in WA

Jan 17, 2007

One-third of the 320 domestic homicide deaths in Washington State in the past decade were murder-suicides, and another twelve abusers killed themselves after attempting a homicide. If I Had One More Day: Findings and Recommendations from the Washington State Domestic Violence Fatality Review tracks domestic violence fatalities from January 1, 1997 to June 30, 2006, finding that in nearly half the homicides committed by an abuser, the victim had left, divorced or separated from him, or was attempting to end the relationship.

The report concludes that the process of petitioning for a civil protection order is a critical point of intervention for domestic violence victims. Authors say victims need safety planning information and referrals to domestic violence resources.

If I Had One More Day also finds that 44 percent of the victims killed by their abusers had children living in the home when the murder occurred. The majority of the children (57 percent) were present at the time of the homicide, and 40 percent witnessed it.

The report explores the impact of domestic violence on women’s mental health, citing a new study which finds that 13 percent of women who committed suicide in the state in 2003 had a court-documented history of domestic abuse. Researchers suspect that even more female suicide victims have a history of domestic violence, since many do not seek protection orders.

Domestic violence victim services and mental health services do not adequately address the connection between the probability of suicide and domestic violence for women, the report says: “The lack of focused efforts to prevent suicide among domestic violence victims represents a critical missed opportunity to address this substantial risk.”

Noting that women in abusive relationships have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, authors recommend that mental health professionals routinely screen for domestic violence when women present as depressed and/or suicidal. They also recommend that domestic violence service providers and all those working with victims receive training on how to routinely screen for suicidality, how to recognize suicide warning signs, and what to do when these signs are identified.

“It has been our hope that, by examining these tragic deaths, we can learn from them and improve the community response to domestic violence so others will not suffer as these individuals did,” Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Nan Stoops said in a letter about the report.

If I Had One More Day is the fourth biennial report from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. To read it, visit www.wscadv.org/projects/FR/index.htm#FR_Reports.

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