Lethality Assessment

In May 2013, Pittsburgh City Council voted to require that the Pittsburgh Police adopt the Pittsburgh Police Lethality Assessment Program, a community wide domestic violence prevention project.

Modeled after a highly successfully program in Maryland, the Lethality Assessment Program trains police officers to administer an 11 question survey when they respond to a potential domestic violence call. The survey helps to identify victims in high danger relationships and the level of risk an abused person has of being killed by her intimate partner. If the answers to the questions on the survey indicate a person is in a high level of danger, the officer immediately calls a domestic violence center hotline and is able to confidentially connect the victim to domestic violence support services. Studies show that the re-assault of domestic violence victims in high danger was reduced by 60% if they made contact with a domestic violence program. During the first year that the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police implemented the program, 70% of the 1,779 screens they conducted were determined to be victims in high danger. 1,003 victims sought the services of the Women’s Center and Shelter following the initial screening. The number of intimate partner homicides in the city of Pittsburgh during the first year of implementation has dropped in half.

Women’s Center and Shelter has extended the Lethality Assessment Program to the broader community by developing RUSafe, a free app for Apple or Android that helps users identify if they are in a potentially dangerous situation and connect them to a domestic violence hotline in their area. It also helps individuals to assess the safety of family or friends so they can help to prevent intimate partner or sexual violence from occurring. More than 1,000 people in the Pittsburgh region used RUSafe during the first six months after its release.

RUSafe is based on the Danger Assessment developed by Jacquelyn C. Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. The app was developed by WC&S and Newton Consulting.