In the family violence scenario, suicide threats are manipulative and can lead to the murder of other people.
Suicidal threats from a man who has a history of psychologically controlling his partner may indicate that he may seriously harm or kill family members, often before committing suicide. Such threats make it imperative that family and friends urge and support a woman to seek first-line help from qualified professionals.
Carrying out a homicide risk assessment tool helps determine the level of risk and can ensure the safety of family members and get the right help for the man.
When a controlling man threatens to kill himself in order to manipulate his partner, those threats are serious, not because he may necessarily kill himself, but because the daily reality in the US, UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia shows that such a man kill your partner. he can kill and/or his children.
A reader of my blog titled “Domestic violence is much more than physical violence' she wrote in a comment, outlining her concern for her friend whose husband is threatening suicide to get her to do what he wants. She claims that her friend called her husband to tell him that she planned to take the children to her parents' house for the weekend. But he "left work behind, drove down the freeway, called her cell phone and told her to pull over and come home with him or he would kill himself." Other men who make these kinds of threats say things like "If you ever leave me, I'll kill myself" or "I can't live without you" or "If I can't have you, I can't have anyone" or "Death before divorce" or 'You belong to me, no one else.'
These statements are not only compelling, they are meant to appeal to women's sense of responsibility, but they should never be taken lightly. Too often, these threats come true. The threat of suicide is an indication, a warning sign of serious concern, like someone abusing an animal. It represents a risk factor that indicates a real possibility that the person will also mistreat family members,as I have already commented.
Homicide-suicide can be a comparatively rare problem, not everything ends up being murder. But it can - and it does
Psychological abuse and power and control know no limits. There are no rules of thumb for how far things can go, but there is a growing global body of knowledge that cannot be ignored. Knowing what to look for is important in taking precautions to protect family members.
Therefore, my blog aims to provide you with information to support women who may be unaware of the indicators and risk factors that can lead to murder. It's not just okay to talk to and help women, it's vital.
Silence contributes to the problem - so does ignorance
I know anecdotally that a woman who was murdered by her controlling ex-husband last year could have been saved if her family had faced the very real risks of leaving her husband and going back home to take care of her possessions to go looking, fully understood. . Unfortunately, her family had tried to do everything they could to support her, but their lack of awareness of the signs of her abuse makes the woman's death even sadder.
Some suicidal men may commit murder before committing suicide
Suicide threats are a red flag, an indication that such a man could seriously injure or kill his partner and those close to him. Men commit the majority of murders and suicides. Most of the victims are women and children. Therefore, it is imperative that women (or those who support them) learn to understand the nature and seriousness of the situation and seek help through a risk assessment.
Find professional help to perform a risk assessment
Staff at domestic violence programs for women or end abuse programs for men should be able to help you complete a risk assessment tool. You should expect staff to undertake: "a review of the case history, risk factors, nature of risk, need for immediate intervention, victim protection, and offender management" (Office of the Chief Coroner Province of Ontario 2006: 45).
Keep in mind, however, that not all professionals are specifically trained in the dynamics of family violence and the risk factors that can lead to serious injury or homicide. In its Fourth Annual Report of the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Province of Ontario (2006) describes some cases where members of the public and/or professionals have failed to intervene effectively. The following is a case where both the man and the woman were connected to the mental health system at different times in their lives:
“. . . and there was some vague evidence of abuse in their relationship, but this was never investigated, followed up or addressed. . . In the years immediately preceding the murder-suicide, the perpetrator was severely disturbed and socially isolated. . . Still, there was no overt screening, investigation of relationship problems or abuse by a psychiatrist. The level of risk must be assessed and managed. The perpetrator was identified as "seriously depressed" and encouraged to retrieve the gun from him so they could go hunting as a form of therapy. However, the weapon was used in the murder” (2006:15).
It is important that the professionals you contact take seriously the potential danger to family members other than the man threatening suicide.
If you are not satisfied that the professionals you contact seem to understand the problem or are minimizing or ignoring it, then it is important that you continue to seek appropriate help. Professionals should “assess for homicidal thoughts when people report suicidal thoughts and vice versa” (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2009:5) and professionals should be trained in the use of a risk assessment tool.
Risk Assessment Tools
A risk assessment tool is based on years of research in real world situations. Risk factors may include psychological, biological, sociological, and other factors that are commonly present in someone who kills or attempts to kill a family member. However, not all situations are the same and risk assessments are only indicators of opportunity. To avoid missing or misinterpreting clues, it's important that laymen don't try to figure this out on their own. People trained in the dynamics of domestic violence can help you and the woman you support.
Trained professionals will help you understand what the list of risk factors means in a specific individual situation.
Campbell Risk Assessment for Intimate Partner Violence
You can download JacquelynCampbell's intimate partner violence risk assessment toolshereand take it to a trained professional who will explain exactly how the evaluation works. I discussed this risk assessment tool in another blog posthere.
Risk Factors Reported by Barbara J. Hart Esq.
- Death or suicide threats
- murder or suicide fantasies
- Access to weapons, previous use of weapons and/or threat of use of weapons
- "Owned" by partner hit
- partner centrality
- separation violence
- Access to the abused woman and/or family members
- Repeated confrontation with the justice system
- Increased personal willingness to take risks.
- hostage taking
Barbara Hart's list of risk factors is availablehere.
Risk factors compiled by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Province of Ontario
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Province of Ontario (2006) has compiled detailed information on risk factors that could lead to homicide. You can download a copy of its Fourth Annual Report of the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (see reference below) and read pages 30-33. You can take the report to a person trained in family violence who will help you deal with the abuser's behavior and learn the steps to take to keep family members safe.
Risk factors reported by the New Zealand Police
The risk factors listed below, compiled by the New Zealand Police, are intended to alert professionals that a particular situation may indicate that someone is at risk of death or serious harm (you can see the risk factors below at page 83 in the New Zealand Standards, 2006 documenthere).
- The perpetrator is obsessed with, dependent on, or persecuting the victim.
- Recent separation, issued court order or divorce and dangerous reaction.
- The victim believes that the perpetrator could hurt or kill her.
- The perpetrator strangled or attempted to strangle the victim.
- There is a history of domestic violence and it is becoming more severe or increasing in frequency.
- The perpetrator threatened/attempted to commit suicide or kill the victim, children, or other family members.
- The offender has access to, and has used or threatened to use, weapons, particularly firearms. He may have convictions related to weapons (knives, firearms).
- The perpetrator has easy access to the victim, children, or other family members.
- Children were at home when the violence occurred or were hurt or threatened in family violence situations.
- Cases of animal cruelty by the author.
- The offender has a history of alcohol or drug problems.
- The offender has a history of violent behavior toward non-family members.
A history of physical violence is only one possible risk factor. Marie De Santis of the Women's Justice Center, Santa Rosa, CA, USA, emphasizes that many risk factors "do not usually bleed! In fact, these high-risk factors often do not leave any visible traces."
speak for women
I urge you to speak up for women if you believe they are at risk of serious harm or death. Silence is no longer an option: psychological abuse, power and control, family violence is no longer a private matter.In fact, keeping the abuse private is another isolation and control tactic.If you know a woman who is experiencing something discussed on this blog, I urge you to support her. It is possible that she is isolated and insecure and she cannot help herself. She may not know what a suicidal threat can lead to and she may not be reading this website or she may not be able to find other resources to help herself. The nature of power and control isolates many women, creates confusion, is crazy, and can be financially and psychologically debilitating.
You can be their only link, and their only hope.
Women need support, some women may reject it, but ultimately it is everyone's responsibility to protect women from serious injury or death.
Ask the woman if she thinks she is safe or not.
Some women are able to judge for themselves whether their partner is capable of killing them, but many are not (as I did in aprevious blog post).
Guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health (2008:8) suggest that you might assess the woman's immediate safety by asking:
- Do you feel safe going home today?
- Are you afraid that your partner could seriously hurt you?
- Are there weapons in your house? What type?
- Has your partner ever threatened to kill or commit suicide?
- Is confidential hosting an option that interests you?
- What is your plan if there is violence in the future?
- What do you think could be done to support you?
Nevertheless . . . in a case reported by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Province of Ontario (2006:17):
“The [homicide] victim did not feel that her partner posed a threat of deadly violence, despite the presence of many warning signs consistent with a potential risk of domestic homicide. There were avenues for friends, family, and community professionals to intervene, but they seemed to feel limited or disabled in these attempts because the victim believed that she could handle the situation on her own. Research in the field suggests that approximately half of domestic homicide victims downplayed the risks involved and found their partner harassing and annoying, but not dangerous. In these matters, public and professional responders need better skills to engage the victim in a discussion about the apparent risks and the importance of safety planning and risk reduction strategies. These approaches must acknowledge the victim's ambivalence or guilt about the breakup and their mistaken belief that they can handle threats on their own without police or court intervention."
Refer tomy blog to discuss safety tips with womenif they intend to leave their partner. And seek professional help here too. I have yet to write safety tips for women if they are staying with their partner or have already left. For help with both of these scenarios, I suggest googling this help.
It is not enough to warn the victim that they may be in danger
A description of some of the Ontario death inquest homicide-suicide scenarios is available for reference in the Office of the Chief Coroner's 2006 document (see reference below). These case studies show that simply warning the victim that she might be in danger was not enough. Often friends, family, co-workers, etc. they suspected that several women were at high risk levels, but 'could not intervene effectively without the support of external resources' (2006:11).
He suggests that you do not draw any conclusions from the above risk assessment tools yourself. repeats Marie De Santis of the Women's Justice Center in Californiasudocument that assesses the risk of killingexactly the things I emphasize:
"The only sure way to determine the presence of these high-risk factors is through thorough and comprehensive interviews with the victims."
Men who abuse and control their partner need help
For my PhD, I interviewed men who admitted to abusing and controlling their partners. All the men had sought help to change. Often, men who use power and control are actually quite vulnerable and dependent on their partner, which contributes in part to their desperation to never let them go. A man told me the following:
“Well, I would definitely recommend someone who was in a similar situation to me to come to one of these courses, it certainly helped me because if I hadn't come to this course, I probably wouldn't have changed my mental behavior and I would. be a single man now. Either that or I would have thrown myself off a bridge, I don't know, I certainly wouldn't be happy, I would say. It's not that I wanted to kill myself or any nonsense like that, but yes, my life would end if my wife left me, I would have nothing to live for."
However, men often refuse to admit that they are abusive and refuse to receive help to change.
Many men do not believe that they are the perpetrators of domestic violence, but think that other men are
One man I interviewed said he had secretly covered up his partner's abuse and that a neighbor once came to the rescue to get a protection order against her husband. The man I interviewed said that it had not occurred to him at the time that he was abusing his wife in the same way that his neighbor was abusing his wife.
Popular culture is riddled with stereotypes about what kind of man threatens suicide to control his wife, and what kind of man kills his wife. But they are ordinary men, they are men you buy food for, men you get insurance advice from, men who are wonderful schoolteachers, men who help you garden on the weekends.In general, monsters don't commit murder, it's ordinary people who can do monstrous things.Stop Male Abuse Programs are there to help ordinary men face the truth of what they are doing that is hurting others. And once they start participating, many realize they have hurt themselves as well, and many admit that they don't like hurting their loved ones and that they are being challenged and need support to change.
Remember that threats can end up having serious consequences
And standing up for others is a way to protect victims and a possible way to help perpetrators. Although most men who threaten suicide or murder are able to withdraw emotionally, Johnston and Campbell (1993) indicate that some remain obsessed with the woman.
You never want to hear yourself say, “If only. . . ."
so please . . . . speak, speak loudly for women. protect the family
- Australian Institute of Criminology (2009) Home-related homicide: keynote papers from the 2008 international conference on homicide. AIC reports. Research and Public Policy Series 104.
- Campbell, Jaquelyn. (2003). Hazard Assessment Tool. Availablehere.
- De Santis, Marie, Women's Justice Center, Santa Rosa, CA, USA Domestic Violence Homicide Risk Assessment.
- Hart, Barbara J. (1990) Assessing Whether Bullies Will Kill.
- Johnston, Janet R. and Campbell, Linda, E.G. (1993). A clinical typology of interparental violence in custody-related divorces.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 63, 190-199.
- Martin, Jennifer and Pritchard, Rhonda (2010). Learning from tragedy: murder in families in New Zealand 2002-2006. Ministry of Social Development. Te Manatü Whakahiato Ora.
- Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Province of Ontario (2006). Fourth Annual Report of the Audit Committee on Domestic Violence Deaths.
- Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the Province of Ontario. (2007). Fifth Annual Report of the Audit Committee on Domestic Violence Deaths.
- New Zealand Standards (2006). New Zealand Standard: Screening, Risk Assessment and Intervention for Domestic Violence Including Child Abuse and Neglect (Online).
- Taylor, Betty. (2008). Dying to be Heard: Domestic and Family Violence Death Reports: Discussion Paper.
- Provider Guide for the State of Washington. Intimate Partner Violence and Pregnancy: Screening, Resources, and Referral. (2013).
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