"As a judge, when I assess lethality, my assessment is only as effective as the information that I receive...And my orders are only as good as the information that I receive. We know from the research that forced sex is a key indicator of escalating violence and potential lethality. It is critical to have trained domestic violence prosecutors and victim advocates assigned to domestic violence cases, so that thorough and appropriate interviews are conducted with the victims. Victims are often more reluctant to discuss sexual abuse, or assault, and the horrific details connected thereto, and the experience of the interviewer along with appropriate questions are key in eliciting information relevant to risk assessment."
—Judge Janice Martin, Jefferson District Court, Louisville, Kentucky
Risk assessment is one of the most significant challenges in a domestic violence case. As Judge Janice Martin observes, a judge's assessment is only as good as the information the court receives, and this information is often difficult to obtain, especially when it relates to sexual abuse and assault. Given that forced sex is a critical indicator of escalating violence and potential lethality, it is essential for court systems to create an environment and processes which encourage full disclosure of sexual abuse.
Assessment of an abuser's future dangerousness is usually thought of as assessing the risk that an abuser will kill his victim. In fact, assessing the risk the abuser poses is multi-faceted. There is the risk of escalating violence, especially when the victim tries to leave the relationship, and the risk of lethality to the victim, her children, third parties, and the abuser himself. All of these risks are heightened when intimate partner sexual abuse is a factor.