Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse
Adjudicating This Hidden Dimension of Domestic Violence Cases
National Judicial Education Program
Welcome, Guest
Log in Log out Register Background Resources Course Information Help Contact Us    
‹‹ Return Proceed ››

Module III: Risk Assessment

Key Points: Risk Assessment
  • Risk assessment is a difficult, but crucial, part of domestic violence cases – particularly because the risk for sexual assault and lethality increase when the victim tries to leave the abuser.
  • In abusive relationships, much of the worst physical violence and most murders occur at or after separation. Often times the abuser sexually assaults the victim for the first time post-separation.
  • Stalking is a critical risk factor that should never be ignored or downplayed.
  • The risk for lethality extends beyond the risk that the abuser will kill the victim. There are six risks for lethality in intimate partner sexual abuse and domestic violence cases:
    • The abuser may kill the victim.
    • The abuser may kill the couple's children.
    • The abuser may kill a third party.
    • The abuser may kill himself.
    • The victim may kill herself.
    • The victim may kill the abuser.
  • Research overwhelmingly shows that intimate partner sexual abuse co-occurring with domestic violence heightens the risk for all these lethalities.
  • It is essential that risk assessment instruments inquire about forced sex. However, even the most accurate risk assessment instrument is no substitute for the victim's sense of her own danger from the abuser.
  • Intimate partner sexual abuse co-occurring with physical violence is a leading indicator of femicide. A physically-abused woman also experiencing forced sex is over seven times more likely than other abused women to be killed.
  • Any situation that heightens the risk of lethality for the mother heightens the risk of lethality for the couple's children. Often times meetings with the abuser to exchange custody may be lethal to both the victim and her children.
  • In the course of trying to kill their wives/partners, abusers sometimes kill third parties: relatives of the woman trying to leave, individuals coming to her aid, bystanders, or court personnel.
  • Studies show that victims of intimate partner sexual abuse are more likely to consider and attempt suicide because there is greater prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among these victims
  • Studies show that many battered women who have killed their intimate partners were also sexually assaulted by those partners.
  • The court needs to know whether there is sexual violence in the relationship in order to undertake informed risk assessment, including setting bail.

Module III → Key Points: Risk Assessment
‹‹ Return Proceed ››
Logo: State Justice Institute