Lethality Assessment Program
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The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) 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, and court personnel—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 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 tailor their actions to the unique circumstances of High-Danger victims.
The nationally recognized LAP model was developed by the Maryland Network to End Domestic Violence in 2005. The program uses three evidence-based components that increase both the level of accountability for perpetrators and the safety for victims of domestic violence.
- The program provides an immediate, consistent and proportional response to acts of domestic violence that are reported to law enforcement agencies. Public health research indicates that community responses to violence are most effective when they are immediate, consistent and proportional.
- The program relies on a lethality assessment tool that's been tested through research and further evaluated in the field in Maryland and other states.
- Domestic violence survivors are more likely to make use of resources to increase their safety if they are reached at the time when they are contemplating a change in their situation.
A unique collaboration is developed between community law enforcement and the local Domestic Violence Program. All first responders and domestic violence specialists are trained to use a consistent protocol with every domestic violence call. The program can also be expanded to other groups of first responders such as health care professionals.
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The LAP is initiated when a trained officer arrives at the scene of a domestic call—or when a community professional believes a victim of abuse may be in danger—and assesses the victim's situation. If there is any doubt about the risk of homicide a victim may be facing, the officer or community professional will ask the victim to answer a list of eleven questions known as the Lethality Screen for First Responders. If the victim's response to the questions indicates an increased risk for homicide, the officer or community professional states he/she is going to place a phone call to the local 24-hour domestic violence hotline to seek advice and encourages the victim to speak with the specially trained hotline advocate. Talking on the phone is always the victim's decision.
The Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Action Alliance are partnering to provide training for trainers to Virginia communities that would like to implement a Lethality Assessment Program.
Together we have reviewed numerous programs to improve the community response to domestic violence—and specifically to reduce homicides. We are in agreement that the Lethality Assessment Program—Maryland Model is an effective tool, and we believe that it can be effectively implemented in communities throughout Virginia. Therefore we are working together to provide the training that communities will need to replicate this program. The
Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the Virginia Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (the Alliance), have formed the LAP Core Planning Team and have come together to train and implement the Lethality Assessment Program – Maryland Model (LAP) in new jurisdictions throughout Virginia, to provide technical assistance and support to jurisdictions already trained and implementing, and to collaborate on improvements to LAP.
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Training will be for partnerships that meet the following criteria:
- A partnership has been established between the law enforcement agency and a community-based domestic violence program (DVP); both are familiar with the purpose of the Lethality Assessment Program and both the DVP Executive Director and the chief law enforcement officer are prepared to sign off on an application and send a team to be trained on the protocols for the LAP;
- The Domestic Violence Program must staff their Hotline locally with highly trained staff or volunteers (in other words, you cannot use the statewide hotline).
If you have all of these elements in place and you would like your community team to be a part of the training, please contact Morgan Abbate (
** LAP Trained Communities in Virginia **
For more information contact:
Morgan Abbate (
202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219