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Technology, Teens & Domestic Violence

Incidents of domestic violence and intimate partner violence have been increasing due to the lockdowns and social isolation of this covid-19 era.

Here is a guest blog by Randy Palmer, the Outreach Coordinator at Sunshine Behavioral Health in San Juan Capistrano, California. He discusses Domestic Violence High Risk Teams (DVHRTs) and other solutions to the epidemic of domestic and intimate partner violence.

History is full of stories of intimate partner violence.

In ancient Rome, men had life and death power over wives. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the “rule of thumb” applied, where men in England and America were allowed to discipline their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumbs.

Today, we may be more aware of social injustices, but domestic violence remains problematic. More than 12 million women and men are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking every year in the United States. More than one-third of women and one-fourth of men have been raped, assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner.

Such problems have never gone away despite activism and legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, but there are several programs emerging all over the United States that are designed to prevent, protect, and educate.

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic violence is far more than simply being pushed around. Abuse comes in many forms and can affect anyone. Types of violence include:

  • Physical: pushing, kicking, shoving, hitting, strangling

  • Verbal or emotional: threats, humiliation, insults, intimidation, monitoring, social isolation

  • Sexual: sexual abuse, rape, genital mutilation, harassment, overseeing birth control

Abuse can take a number of forms. Technology or social media can be used to harass, threaten, stalk, or monitor a current or former partner.

Stalking can be done in real life, too, by following someone’s activities or leaving unwelcome gifts. Abuse can be economic as well, in that one partner controls the finances, or withholds or takes money, or keeps the other partner from working.

Some sources bring up symbolic violence as well, where the media or culture either perpetuate or normalize brutality, in particular against women.

While this problem is far from solved, in recent years new tactics are being implemented to try to put a stop to intimate partner violence.

Domestic Violence High Risk Teams

One promising approach toward curbing domestic violence deaths poses the question: What if you could predict which victims were in the most danger?

That’s what’s at the heart of Domestic Violence High Risk Teams. These task forces operate on the local level, where area shelters work with law enforcement entities and the courts. They work to identify and protect the people at most risk by helping various participants communicate with one another.

Jacquelyn Campbell is a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and a leading expert on domestic homicide. For her doctorate, Campbell interviewed 2,000 domestic violence survivors and combed through homicide files, searching for patterns.

Some of Campbell’s findings include:

  • Half of the victims had sought help.

  • Previous physical domestic abuse was the biggest red flag for potential homicide.

  • The risk was highest when the victim tried to leave the abuser, or when there was some other significant change brewing at home — a pregnancy, for example.

  • The danger was highest for approximately three months post-split, then tapered slightly. After a year, usually the most imminent threats had passed.

Campbell’s work led her to create a Danger Assessment tool, a list of 20 potential risk factors for homicide. It includes substance abuse, gun ownership, a history of violence, and threats to kill.

The higher the Danger Assessment score, the greater the danger. The DVHRT Model operates on the principle that most intimate partner homicides are predictable and therefore preventable.

Risk assessments are folded into a local community’s domestic violence response system to identify the most urgent cases. The domestic violence agency then partners with law enforcement and the courts while finding alternatives to a shelter (private accommodations or safe homes). Instead of all components operating independently of one another, the task force fills communication gaps and keeps information flowing.

DVHRTs are still relatively new, but they appear to work. There are more than 100 communities in Massachusetts who have adopted them. They’ve also been established in California, Texas, Ohio, and New York, among other places.

In its first 12 years, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Newburyport, MA handled 172 high-risk cases. The results were highly promising, including:

  • Zero homicides

  • 95% of victims stayed in their communities, as opposed to entering shelters

  • 90% reported no further assaults

To start a DVHRT, core partner organizations must be on board, and a community assessment must be performed. Each task force is designed to fit the area’s jurisdiction, and training, implementation, and evaluations follow.

For more information about creating a DVHRT see:

For info on Sunshine Behavioral Health, a drug and alcohol rehab center in San Juan Capistrano:

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