U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs; National Institute of Justice The Research, Development, and Evaluation Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice ProgramsNational Institute of JusticeThe Research, Development, and Evaluation Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice

Men Who Murder Their Families: What the Research Tells Us

Presentation as part of NIJ's Research for the Real World series by Jackie Campbell, Ph.D., and David Adams and Richard Gelles, Ph.D., June 2, 2009

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  • Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice
  • Laurie Robinson, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs


  • Dr. Jackie Campbell, the Anna D. Wolf Chair and a professor in Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, with a joint appointment in the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  • Dr. David Adams, co-founder and co-director of Emerge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to stopping domestic violence, and co-chair of the Batterer Intervention Working Group of the Massachusetts Commission on Domestic Violence.
  • Dr. Richard Gelles, the Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence in the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, director for the Center for Research on Youth and Social Policy, and co-director of the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research.

Kristina Rose: Good morning. My name is Kristina Rose, and I'm the acting director of the National Institute of Justice. It's wonderful to see all of you here this morning. And welcome to this symposium entitled "Men Who Murder Their Families: What the Research Tells Us."

For the next 90 minutes, we will hear from three leading experts on the topic commonly referred to in the research as familicide. But first, before we get started, I'd like to introduce to you our acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, Laurie Robinson. I've known Laurie since the mid-1990s, when she was OJP's assistant attorney general. Laurie demonstrated uncommon passion and commitment for her job back then, and I can tell you, after seeing her in action the past few months, her passion and commitment to OJP's mission has become even more fervent. Laurie returned to OJP having spent the last five years at the University of Pennsylvania as the director of their master's program in criminal justice. And since 2001, she also served as the distinguished senior scholar in the university's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology and as executive director of its forum on crime and justice. Laurie has been a great champion for the social sciences, and she has proven to be an unwavering advocate for the role of research in making decisions around criminal justice policy and practice.
I think I speak for the rest of my NIJ colleagues when I say we are extremely grateful for her strong support of the work that we do. It is my pleasure to introduce to you our acting assistant attorney general, Laurie Robinson.


Laurie Robinson: Well, thank you very much, Kris, and it's really a delight to welcome all of you here today. It's great to see a very full room here. There has been a great deal of debate in newspapers and in the academic community, and I must say, among criminal justice practitioners as well, about what kind of relationship there is between the economic downturn and crime rate. I've heard every kind of relationship posited.

A number of police chiefs have said, as well as academics, that there is a clear relationship between the economic depression or recession and the fact that there will be an increase in crime. And yet we look at UCR rates — Uniform Crime Reporting rates — that came out just yesterday from the FBI that show, in fact, that crime in 2008 went down across the country. So, in fact, there will be a continuing debate in coming years. We also know from studies that there is a link between poor neighborhoods and property crime, and we hear about links between certain types of crime and domestic violence.

We've seen a number of stories come out in recent years about men who've murdered their families, and we've seen that the media — eager to, in fact, blame the economy. But we cannot say for sure that the economy is to blame and that it is the culprit or, in fact, the only culprit. And we know there's probably more to the story here. We know that there are a number of important questions to raise here, and we know that there are implications here beyond, probably, the economy. We know there are a number of important signs to look for in individuals, important signs that may be pointing to violent behavior that may, in fact, deal with economic straits that the person may be facing. And one thing that occurs to me as I look at these stories that have been in the media is that we are not seeing women, as an example, committing these kinds of crimes.

Today, thanks to the National Institute of Justice, we have a distinguished panel of presenters who will help us begin to answer some of these questions. Kris Rose will be introducing them, but I want to extend my thanks — especially to my former colleague from Penn, Rich Gelles — for taking the time to be here today to help us in answering some of these questions. I think it's terrific that we have them here at the Department of Justice, and I think it's terrific that all of you would take time, from what I know are very busy schedules, to join us today. So let me turn now back to Kristina Rose, acting director of NIJ, for those introductions. Thanks so much.


Kristina Rose: The way that we will — is this — can you hear me? Is it working ok? The way that we will do this panel this morning is, I will introduce each one of the panelists, and they will each take about 10 minutes to present. And after the presentations, I will ask them a few questions to get the conversation started, and then we'll open the discussion up to the floor. So get your questions ready. We want to spend as much time as possible for the discussion part of this panel.

So I'm going to start by introducing Jackie Campbell. Dr. Jackie Campbell is the Anna D. Wolf Chair and a professor in Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, with a joint appointment in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has been conducting advocacy policy work in research in the area of domestic violence since 1980. Dr. Campbell has been the P.I. — or principal investigator — of 10 major NIH, NIJ, and CDC research grants, and has published more than 150 articles and seven books on domestic violence. She serves on the boards of directors of the Family Violence Prevention Fund and the House of Ruth battered women/s shelter. And she was a member of the congressionally appointed U.S. Department of Defense Task Force on Domestic Violence.

Next, I will introduce David Adams. He is the co-founder and co-director of Emerge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to stopping domestic violence. Dr. Adams has 29 years of experience working with men who batter and is a nationally recognized trainer and researcher. He has published numerous articles about domestic violence. He is the co-chair of the Batterer Intervention Working Group of the Massachusetts Commission on Domestic Violence and has done trainings in over 30 states and five nations. He currently co-leads the fatherhood parenting group, and recently authored and directed a danger assessment DVD.

And then Dr. Richard Gelles, who holds the Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence in the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the director for the Center for Research on Youth and Social Policy, and co-director of the Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice and Research. Dr. Gelles is an internationally known expert in domestic violence and child welfare. He was influential in the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, and he is the author of 24 books and more than 100 articles, chapters and papers in the area of child welfare and domestic violence. Thanks to all of you for being here with us today to explore this topic. So, Jackie, I believe you're first on the list. Can we start with you?

Jacqueline Campbell: Yes. I am delighted to be here. A wonderful gaggle of young, new employees at the Department of Justice are downstairs trying to get through security at the same time as I was and, of course, it was a little challenging, so —

I am really pleased to be here and really pleased to hear the opening comments because this is from whence I come, is the area of homicide-suicide when it involves a domestic violence homicide. And one of the really relevant databases is the National Death Reporting System, which was put together for the first time combining Bureau of Justice Statistics, FBI statistics on homicide with the data from medical examiners on suicide. And that's been done now in 17 states, and recently published was an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology on this very topic, was homicide-suicide. And from those 17 states, there was 408 incidents of homicide-suicide. In 91 percent, as has been already mentioned, the perpetrator of those homicide-suicides was a male. They were mostly non-Hispanic white males, so it is the homicide-suicide is more characteristic of white men, non-Hispanic. In 80 percent of those 408 incidents, it was a male intimate partner who killed his wife/girlfriend or ex-wife/ex-girlfriend, so therefore it was a domestic-violence homicide, followed by suicide of the perpetrator. In 21 of those cases, he killed someone else, also, and that was usually a child. So in these intimate-partner homicides of women — primarily of women, by men — children are also killed in about 4 percent of the cases of homicide-suicide overall. There was prior depressed mood in only 11.8 percent of the cases and prior suicide attempts in only 3.2 percent of those cases, so not your typical suicide kind of profile beforehand. In 88 percent of the cases, a gun was used.

Now, they do not have access to family members the way we did when we looked at intimate-partner homicides of women in 12 cities across this country early in this decade. This has also been published, and I brought copies of both of these articles. What we found in those cases, about 32 percent of the intimate-partner homicides of women, or femicides, were followed by suicide of the male perpetrator. And we found the same risk factors primarily as we have found for the homicides of female partners without a prior — without being followed by a suicide.

First of all, there was prior intimate-partner violence in 70 percent of the cases overall; in the homicide-suicides, prior domestic violence in 72 percent of the cases. Now, we asked family members about that prior domestic violence, rather than relying on arrest records. If you look at arrest records in those cases, it's only about 25 percent was there prior official domestic violence.

There's also partner access to a gun was a significant risk factor, threats with a weapon, a stepchild in the home, estrangement — it was often a case where she'd left an abusive partner. Unique to the homicide-suicides were partner suicide threats beforehand and a history of poor mental health on the part of the partner, of the male partner. But again, that was the minority of the cases; it was just more prevalent in those cases than in the intimate-partner homicides without a suicide. Those men were somewhat more likely to be married and to have somewhat higher educational levels than the intimate-partner homicides that were not followed by a suicide and, again, more likely to be white.

So the bottom line here is that although unemployment is a risk factor for intimate-partner homicide and intimate-partner homicide followed by a suicide, whether or not children are also killed, it is a risk factor, but only over and above prior domestic violence. Prior domestic violence is by far the number-one risk factor in these cases. When we use the danger assessment on these cases, we also found that it was significantly predictive of these intimate-partner homicide-suicides as well as the intimate-partner homicides. The danger assessment is meant to be used with abused women to see what the risk of homicide is in their cases. So we can identify cases of intimate-partner violence that may escalate to a homicide or a homicide-suicide. That's where we need to put our prevention efforts, but we also need to make sure that mental-health care providers are assessing for prior domestic violence when they do assessments for potential suicidality.

Kristina Rose: Thank you.

Jacqueline Campbell: Thank you.

David Adams: Do you want to switch? [indistinct]

Jacqueline Campbell: I can put it up for you. And I could even advance it for you, probably...

David Adams: David.

Jacqueline Campbell: I know. I said David.

David Adams: Easy. Thank you, Jackie. God, I'm so glad you made it. We had planned for Jackie to go first, just because she has such a nice way of kind of framing the issues, and so I was a little terrified that I was going to have to go first.


That doesn't bother you, though, Jackie, does it? All right. I'm going to talk about... I could tell the bio that was given for me is a little old because it has me at 30 states and five nations, when it's been 41 states and 15 nations now 

Jacqueline Campbell: You didn't do those all in the last week.

David Adams: No, that's right. Ha ha ha! But also, the significant thing is that I wrote a book since then, which is called Why Do They Kill? Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partners, and so I'm going to talk a little bit about that. And I almost had a subtitle — a different subtitle for that book — called "Jealous Drunks." "Jealous Drunks With Guns," because, really, that ends up being a very common scenario. And I think of that — I'd actually talk about the guns first and then talk about the jealous part second. Just because I think that — in terms of prevention, I think the guns part is really kind of the low-hanging fruit, you know, in terms of what's most easily avoidable. And so that if you look at — this is a study by the Violence Policy Center of 591 cases of murder-suicide, and they found that 92 percent of those were accomplished with a gun. And the second statistic, by the way, is a little bit misleading — 7 percent of those cases involve murder of more than one person, so that's what that next figure means. And so that the rate of gun use seems to be even higher for murder-suicide cases than it is for cases of just intimate-partner homicide, as high as that is. And so it's really — also, I think, that just the rate, the kind of extreme rate of gun use in intimate homicides in general in this country is one of the reasons why we have such high rates of intimate-partner homicide compared to Great Britain — no, compared to Canada, our rates of intimate-partner homicide are three times greater, four times greater than Great Britain, and eight times greater than Australia. If you look at all of the so-called affluent nations, the top 25 affluent nations, our rates are five times higher than those nations, and that is widely attributable to guns, that we have the most permissive gun laws of any industrialized nation, any affluent nation by far. And that if you look at even within this country, the states, the death rates, the intimate-partner homicide death rates, by the way, vary according to those gun laws, so that. you know. that the 15 states — one study showed that the 15 states that have the most permissive gun laws have three to eight times higher rates than the states that have the most restrictive gun laws. Not only is that true for homicide, but suicide rates as well.

There was another study that showed that with suicide rates — if you look at the states that have the highest rates of gun ownership, compared to the states with the lowest rates of gun ownership, they have twice the rates of suicide, too, so that guns very much are a facilitating factor for both homicide and suicide. And of course, as we know, for mass killing as well, guns are almost always the weapon of choice. So that there really seems to be, kind of, three kind of overriding rationales for use of guns. One is that they're more efficient. I mean, it's a lot easier to kill more than one person with a gun than to stab, you know, or to bludgeon. Also, there seems to be the impulse factor that's much more readily apparent with gun use, that just the presence of a gun, as Jackie's research showed, seems to really make it more likely that a homicide will happen. It really changes the atmosphere. And also, guns are used.. even when they're not used to kill, you know, the studies that — Jackie's study, as well as other studies of intimate-partner homicide, show that those guns, even before they were used to kill, were used to terrorize and to threaten, and so that those guns were being used all along, so to speak. One of the killers ... one of the victims of attempted homicide that I interviewed in my study was made to play Russian roulette with her abusive partner, for instance, where the gun went back and forth where she was supposed to pull the trigger. She was told to hold the gun to her head and pull the trigger, and it went back and forth six times and finally he said, "You didn't think that was loaded, did you?" That woman subsequently was rescued by a police SWAT team. And the police undoubtedly had saved her previously because they had confiscated his gun. And so he was holding them at knifepoint when the SWAT team arrived, so he surely would have killed them — her and the kids, that is — had he still had that gun. So one of the questions I asked the killers — there were 14 of the killers in my study that used guns, and I was curious and I asked them, "Well, would you have used another weapon if a gun were not available?" And as you can see from this slide, 11 of them said no, and the reasons they gave were that — "Well, I was intoxicated"; one of them said. "I didn't have the strength to stab or to choke her." Another one said, "Well, it happened so fast, I would have come to in the time it took to take out a knife." Another one said, "A gun depersonalizes. I wouldn't have gone through with it if I'd had time to think about it." This man: "A gun is an easier way. I didn't have the guts to use a knife. That's butchering." He is one of the killers that actually killed multiple people. He killed his wife, his wife's mother, as well as her sister. Kind of hid out on Easter eve in their house, broke into his estranged wife's house, and basically hid out in the basement and sprung himself on them on Easter morning. And first tracked down the mother, his wife's mother, pointed the gun to her and said, "Die, bitch," before shooting her, then tracked down her sister and shot and killed the sister and then killed his wife. But this order was very significant because he'd really thought it through and really wanted her to first see her mother and her sister being killed first, so he wanted to exact that last measure of revenge on them. So... that sort of speaks to the revenge motive, I think, which is so often true in many of these cases. And then another man said, "I hate knives. I've been stabbed." The thing about guns and the preventability of them is that — going back to sort of state and federal laws, is that the federal law with regard to restraining orders and the Lautenberg amendment is very vague, in terms of how guns should be taken from batterers or recipients of restraining orders, so that it's really left up to states to create these kind of enabling laws. And only about half the states have done that. Some of them relate to what police are supposed to do and some of them relate to what judges are supposed to do, but there's huge room for improvement, and there was one study that showed that within a year of changing state laws, when they looked at — kind of the amendment of state laws enabled police to confiscate those weapons, enabled judges to order the confiscation of those weapons, the death rates had gone down by an average of 8 percent in those states that had changed those laws. And so that's a very encouraging statistic, and that's why I think it's so meaningful to really kind of look at guns as a statistic, as a preventive factor.

Possessive beliefs. That is the thing that I found true in most of the cases — I have one minute? Ok. I found that there were five types of killers. The most common type was a possessively jealous type of killer, and I found that many of the men who also commit murder-suicide, as well as those who kill their children, also seem to fit that profile as well. And I agree with Jackie; I think that — what I found was the despondency was more of a secondary issue in many of those cases and that even when you look at unemployment, many of them were actually unemployed because they had quit their jobs or had been fired from their jobs in order to have time to stalk their victims. And so post-separation, post-estrangement, many of them had increased their level of surveillance, increased their level of stalking, and basically were taking so much time to stalk their victims that they were either fired from their jobs or they'd quit their jobs. One of them, unbeknownst to his wife, two weeks prior to killing her, had quit his job, but then would drive away from the home as if he was going to work, but then just sort of parked down the street in order to surveille her every day. And so I found that, you know — obviously what we're talking about now, Richard will talk next — that there's a lot of different factors that are involved in these kinds of cases, and revenge is really just one of them. But I've found that it's really kind of hard to separate revenge from despondency because I think that very often, when you have somebody who's really intent on controlling their partner, that victims usually become more resistant over time, which in turn makes them more despondent over time, too. And so there's kind of a — real kind of reciprocal influence, I think, between those two things — revenge, control, and despondency — in a lot of those cases. Thank you. Want to switch?

Richard Gelles: [pause] I have more slides, but they're quicker. [pause] In the times that I've come to Washington over the period of time that I've looked at child abuse, neglect, at domestic violence, this is a time where you can almost choose any panel and we will agree on some basic facts. That hasn't always been true. I think we all agree with Jackie that the best predictor generally, 90 percent of the time regarding child abuse, neglect and domestic violence is past behavior. We are aware that among the proximate social and demographic factors that are related to all forms of family violence except for sexual abuse: poverty, unemployment and family stressors, which include disagreements over money, disagreements over sex and disagreements over children. So the economy always is a distal factor that is translated into family relations through poverty or employment or self-image or stressors. What's interesting — I think, if you look quickly at what data we have and it's not a long period of time because the methodologies have changed, but certainly since 1993, with a hiccup in 1998 — the rate of nonfatal intimate violence has gone down substantially. And, you know, there was a bit of a recession in 2001. The rate — well, these are the gross numbers of homicides. Actually, the rates have gone down because the numbers have stayed the same and the population has gone up. But there's been a slight decline in females killed by their male partners and a pretty substantial decline in males killed by their female partners. Moving uptown, the numbers and rates of child maltreatment from 1990 to 2005 had bumps in the mid-nineties, flattened out. There was no effect of the 2001 recession on child abuse reports or child abuse rates of — excuse me, not reports, substantiations. These are victims — not just reports, but victims — and then, for 2003 to the report that came out a week or so ago on child maltreatment in 2007, it's essentially flat. Now, keeping in mind the second virtue of these statistics is that government reports on domestic violence and child abuse lagged as much as two years, as little as one year. So even though we have data for 2008, we really don't know what happened yet in 2009. That was the reason, and has been the reason for 40 years, that I have paid attention to a very small nontypical subset of males who kill their wives and children. And it's not the majority subset; it is a really tiny little subset of men who kill their wives and all of their children and commit suicide. And, as Jackie said, that's a really small number, so small that from a research point of view, it's almost insignificant, so why pay attention to it? Well, to me, that small number represent the canaries in the violence mineshaft. Because our data of two years lagged, we really don't know, say, for anecdotal reports, whether we are about to see a reversal of the trends that have been in existence since 1993, and this time the economy will increase reporting of child abuse, neglect, will increase substantiations and will increase domestic violence, both nonfatal and fatal. And there's reason to think that it might. Because of that subset of men who kill their entire families — familicide — there seems to be a bump, small, but three or four more cases in the last six months of the atypical familicide — not the possessive, controlling husband with the gun, and this is where theory comes in. Sometimes theory sort of evacuates the field of child abuse and domestic violence, but this is a moment where it ought to be put back in. The kind of familicide that are represented by men who kill their wives and their children and themselves, if you remember week three of "introductory sociology" or week six of "criminology," is what Durkheim called anomic suicide. And anomic suicide is where there are radical and significant changes in the economic environment.

Obviously, in 2001 and in the recession of 1990, there was a disruption in the economy, but it did not produce huge waves of violence, either in child abuse, neglect or domestic violence. The second aspect that I look at beyond anomic suicide, which is not suicide because you've lost all your money, but suicide because the rules of the game have changed, because what you thought would be true about your life and your family and your 401(k) and the loyalty of your company has suddenly been disrupted. That's anomic suicide. It's not simply losing money. It's not simply losing your job. When that mixes with what Dave Olson, in his circumplex model, called "overenmeshment into families," you have individuals who — and this is, I think, is where Jackie and I could have a more interesting conversation — either view their family members as possessions that they control or don't see any boundaries between their identity, their wife, and their children. And so these are suicides of the entire family, where the anomic, overly enmeshed individual can't bear to leave the pain behind and so takes his wife and children with him. What commonality do you find in these guys? They're the atypical ones for whom there isn't much of a record of domestic violence, there isn't much of a record of child abuse, and they're the ones where the neighbors typically say, "He would be the last person on earth I would see doing that." Why is he important? Well, when that number goes up, and what we know about the effect of the economy on violence rates is true, which is always a lag effect. One does not lose their job on Monday and begin acting out on Wednesday. I saw this very clearly in the 1970s, during what I like to refer to as "the Nixon Recession," where there was a six- to eight-month lag between the economy being disrupted and prices going up and the effect occurring in families. The same thing occurred at the end of the Carter administration, where we had stagflation. It didn't happen all at once. Why is that important? Well, fairly obviously, it's important. As states and localities are trimming their budgets, one of the easiest things to trim would be social services. If the lag effect begins to kick in, as I think it did in the beginning of 2009, then we should start seeing — unfortunately, we won't see it in official statistics, but we will see the first and second quarters of 2009 producing increases in domestic assault, maybe coming to the attention of the police, but maybe not yet coming to the attention of the police, increases in child abuse and neglect calls not yet substantiated. It will take two or three calls before these jurisdictions will substantiate, which six months hence, should lead to increases in foster-care placement, which should be of interest to anybody here from HHS because title 4e is an open-ended entitlement. And that's a cost that can't be kept down if foster care goes from where it is now to 550,000 children in foster care on any given day to 600,000 children or 650,000 children, which is clearly a possibility. So Bernie gives me the one-minute sign. My bottom line is you probably can't prevent these events, but they could well be a canary in the mineshaft that people at NIJ and people at ACYF [Administration on Children Youth and Families] might want to pay attention to. Thank you.

Kristina Rose: Thank you. You've certainly given us a lot of food for thought here. And I'd like to start out with just a few questions to start the conversation. And I guess my first question would be for you, Jackie, and the work that you've been doing on lethality and risk assessment. And we've been talking a little bit about prevention, and in the cases — I can see where the cases where domestic violence is reported in those situations where there is a murder-suicide, that doing some kind of lethality assessment may help from a prevention standpoint. Could you talk a little bit about that and whether a broader use of those tools would help — how that would impact those murder-suicides? But also the kind that Richard was talking about, where we don't necessarily know the signs, where prevention seems to be elusive?

Jacqueline Campbell: Well, the first step in either of those cases, because oftentimes we do see intimate partners, male intimate partners, who are overenmeshed — that's one way to describe them — as a type of batterer, where we have noticed these before. They do sometimes escalate to a homicide. Homicide-suicide is relatively common. They are characterized by — the phrase that you see all too often is, "If I can't have you, no one can," which is partly a controlling kind of thing, but it's partly that overenmeshment, that very dependent abuser who has — you can talk about it in terms of attachment theory, his very uncertain attachment, that his violence is usually only triggered when she attempts to distance herself in some way. And, of course, the ultimate distancing would be when she was either talking about leaving him, and that's oftentimes that final scenario, and oftentimes we don't know that final scenario. But in some cases, where it's attempted homicide where she lives through it, that's oftentimes what women describe to us, is, "I was talking to him about leaving him because he's been abusive." That was the discussion she had with him rather than calling the police about the domestic violence or calling the national domestic violence hotline or any kind of shelter services. So the number-one kind of step here is to get women to disclose domestic violence, to get help, and to not necessarily make their first point of addressing this issue, although, you know, a strong, resourceful way to go and one that we oftentimes would applaud — you know, she ought to just leave him, right? But the trouble is that may result in an immediate homicide, right at that point in time. So what we need to do before we could ever use any kind of risk assessment, is to get women to come forward when they are abused, and if they disclose — because the first people they usually disclose to is a family member or a friend about being abused and for friends to help them get the kinds of services. We know that shelters are protective against women being hurt again. We know we have good resources. Now, that's not always appealing to all women to go to a domestic violence shelter, but they can get help from the shelter services, from the hotline, from counseling, from support groups, without actually going — having to go to the shelter. So, you know, that would be the first thing. Then, if they're part of shelter services, using something like a danger assessment, which helps her see for herself her risk of a homicide. So it's very much meant to be a tool that can be used with women because they oftentimes do minimize the amount of danger in their situations. Then, as David said, the other way that can be very useful is to get an order of protection, and then especially in states like Maryland — we recently passed a law that does do a better job of removing guns from known abusers, and the recent Supreme Court case did firmly support the notion that removing guns from known abusers — whether it's known because they have an order of protection out against them or because they've been arrested for domestic violence — that that is firmly within the Constitution. And so, you know, that's a good ally now for going forward to do something more about removing guns from known abusers. But again, they have to be known to the system, so she does need to go through getting an order of protection, which is a big thing for women. You know, that's really hard to do. It's hard to do from — I always say that all of us that work with domestic violence victims ought to go spend a day in court and see what it's like for women to get an order of protection, especially to go for the more long-term order of protection. It is not easy. It involves a lot of time and energy, so that's one of the things that we need to provide the supports for women to be able to do. And then a lethality assessment can be useful to do with her, and there's other risk-assessment instruments that are meant for perpetrators in the criminal justice system that have also been validated that can at least identify the more high-risk ones. But these overenmeshed perpetrators don't come up as easily on the risk — they don't look like ordinary batterers. You know, they don't have a long-term criminal record. They haven't been abusive very often. But again, when you ask family members, they oftentimes have been abusive, just not very often and it was never reported to the police. I think that's the piece that we oftentimes miss when we talk to the neighbors and they say, "Well, he was such a wonderful man." The other thing that we see in a lot of these cases is something that Rich can also talk about, which they call overkill, where there's really signs of rage. I mean, the two cases in Maryland, for instance. There was a lot of rage in those homicides before he killed himself. And in one of the cases, he didn't kill himself — I think, actually, both of them — for quite a lag time after he killed the last of the children, and he also killed the wife first. You know, there's — it's not a suicide scenario, and he, again, won't look like the typical suicide. If he does seek help because he's despondent and what David said about that combination, it's not one or the other. It's not either revenge or control or despondency. That's all mixed up in these guys, and you can see when you read the homicide records, it's really tragic, this downward spiral, that they were not unknown to people. Their boss knew that they all of a sudden quit or stopped working well and he had to fire him, so they were known that something was going on. They were oftentimes known, as I said, to the mental-health care system, and we're not going to be able to prevent all of these, but we could do a better job of being alert for them, of knowing that this kind of scenario does exist and can happen and is horrifically tragic.

Kristina Rose: I was talking with the colonel from the Baltimore County Police Department yesterday, who was actually reported to the scene of one of these in Maryland and talked about the violence and the rage that was obviously apparent in one of these familicide situations, specifically the rage. Richard, you've done some research in the area of transferring child protection responsibilities from child welfare organizations to law enforcement, and just thinking about some of the child victims in these cases, can you comment on that and how you feel that might impact some of these situations?

Richard Gelles: Well, I was thinking while Jackie was talking that it's a tremendous benefit to the field of domestic violence to have two or three scales that have some psychometric characteristics to them to use when you're concerned about lethality or escalation. The same is not true in child welfare. The District of Columbia is about to try to implement structured decision-making, which is better than what most jurisdictions do, which is called "wheel of fortune" risk assessment — not much better than random. And the research on clinical judgment — and my social work students hate it when I say this — is that it's no better than chance. Structured decision-making is slightly better than chance, but it is nowhere near as well-developed and well-tested as the kind of work that Jackie's done. So now you have a scenario where people pretty — people who work in shelters, advocates in hospitals, advocates in emergency rooms, even police officers, pretty well-versed in developing a lens to look for domestic violence. Now, what's the lens used for child abuse and neglect? Well, you should pardon the exaggeration, but it's only a slight exaggeration. That lens is developed by a 26-year-old art history major, who has an entry-level job for $34,000 a year with two weeks' vacation, with absolutely no access to criminal-justice data. Cannot pull down domestic violence, cannot pull down — because the systems aren't linked — cannot pull down protective orders, has almost nothing in the way of risk assessment, and so goes out and tries to determine, is this fellow a danger to his wife and children by how clean and neat the house is and how it smells? So we looked at Florida, which has four, now five, jurisdictions which turned investigations over to the police. The investigations are better. They are more costly. The turnover, actually, was a little higher than you'd find among child-welfare workers because they felt good about themselves and stayed in the system, and they had better access to information. The best thing about police doing child-welfare investigations, which is an anathema to the child-welfare field, is police can access information that's much more important and much more relevant than what child-welfare organizations are typically able to access, which is, is the family TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families]-eligible or not? It is an idea that essentially died in Florida. It has not gotten legs like maybe mandatory arrest got legs back in the middle 1980s, but police will find their way into these cases because they have no choice. What they're not going to find their way into typically are these anomic, overly enmeshed husbands who begin controlling behavior, and that's going to be viewed as neglect by the 26-year-old art history major who's doing investigation. So I've been frustrated for, you know, about a decade now that the idea of certain forms of child abuse are crimes, but still not treated as crimes. It's still the prevailing attitude with the child-welfare system.

Kristina Rose: Thank you. And then, before I turn it over to the audience, David, I'd like to ask you a quick question. I was really struck by the comments that the men, the batterers, made or the murderers made, that if they had not had access to a gun, they likely would not have killed at all. And aside from saying, "if I didn't have a gun, I wouldn't have killed," can you think of anything that the — any other information that these men would give us about some kind of intervention that could have been done to keep them from murdering?

David Adams: Well, the other thing that is a significant risk factor is threats, and that's why it is included in all of the danger-assessment, the risk-assessment tools. But just to sort of pick up on what Jackie was saying, I think we can't just over-rely on tools, because we really do — and this is where the criminal justice really needs to improve, is having a better manner, you know, when talking to victims. I think sometimes the tools are used almost as a replacement, you know, for trying to establish a rapport with victims, and so that shows up as a yes or no item, you know, "Has he threatened you?", under danger-assessment tool, but that doesn't really give you anywhere near enough information. What I've found in interviewing the killers and interviewing the victims of attempted homicide is that the frequency of threats was very significant. The more frequently someone had threatened to kill his partner, the more he was separating himself from the pack, so to speak, and establishing his credentials to kill. The other interesting thing I found in talking to the killers is that they — well, quite a number of them said, "You know, the more I said it, the more real it became, that I could actually do it," so that threats really seem to serve two purposes. One was to obviously intimidate and scare a victim into submission and to remaining in a relationship, but also for the killer, for the perpetrator to psych himself up. You know, the words are very much rehearsals for actions, and so that it was interesting to hear that mechanism, that many of them just using the words made them more likely, were sort of testing it out, so to speak, in the same way that kind of the serial killers will pick up a few hitchhikers before they kill their first one or kill some animals before they — they kind of work their way up to it, so to speak. And so that's very significant in, I think that that's where — like in batterer intervention programs, for instance, I think we can work very well with those types of people because whether they're enmeshed or whether they're jealous, it really kind of amounts to the same thing, is that, really, they should have some sort of program that helps them to recognize that there is life beyond the relationship, too. And that's where, really, the work is, and that's a very kind of potentially life-saving issue for many of the victims. They feel stuck. They feel like he just doesn't accept that there's any viable life beyond the relationship, and I think that's where help programs can come in, is to say — to refocus them. Sometimes we get them refocused on their children, sometimes we get them refocused on other things in their lives. But just to sort of get them to a place where they can begin to recognize that life doesn't stop. You know, there's still life, viable life for you, even if this relationship ends.

Kristina Rose: Thank you. Ok, I'd like to open it up to the floor. Do you have any questions? We've got microphones in the middle of the room, so if you'd like to stand up and come to one of the microphones, that would be terrific. And maybe tell us who you are and where you are in the department?

Man: All right. Good morning, you guys. My name is Shaboyd Cannon. I'm an OPJ [sic] intern in human resources.

Kristina Rose: OPJ?

Shaboyd Cannon: Office of Justice Programs.

Kristina Rose: Oh, OJP. Oh. Ha ha ha! I thought, that's a new one for me. Ok.

Shaboyd Cannon: I've heard some very interesting facts this morning, but I'm seeing from one extreme to the other. I heard a poverty factor that played a role into the men murdering their families, and I also heard the men quitting their jobs and murdering their families. And the other issue that I see is, or at issue, at question, is why are there — are there not African-American males doing the predominance of this act because of the socioeconomic stability of the African-American community being already below the poverty level? But then again, you have to ask your own question to that question of well, these guys are quitting their jobs, so why isn't this taking place within the African-American community?

Richard Gelles: When we did our first survey, and we put — we had correlation between poverty and child abuse, and poverty and domestic violence, and we then passed it out and looked at economic and racial groups. And then we added stress, and it was interesting. There were only two populations that stress did not increase the risk of domestic violence or child abuse — the poor and the very well-to-do. So you looked at that and then, theoretically, the answer was if you're poor and you're already oppressed, this economy isn't going to change all that much for you. And if you're extremely well-to-do and maintain your level of income, you can purchase your way out of stress. So where the new population of offenders are coming from are people who are in between, where the rules of the game have changed, where company loyalty isn't company loyalty, where if I work until I'm 65, my retirement will carry me, and that is not an oppressed population. Now, you know, you've got African-Americans in that population — what, 11 percent of the population, maybe 8 percent or 9 percent of the population, so ultimately, if the economy affects this, there will be some African-American protagonists, but when you're talking with an n of five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, the likelihood is, you know, it's going to be predominantly white men.

Shaboyd Cannon: Absolutely understood. And, Dr. Campbell, just one more question. Has anything been done in regards to the females not talking to their alleged assassin? Maybe going directly to the police department or maybe talking directly to their family members? Is there any counseling available for them to say, "Hold on. You know, if someone's already abused you in a physical fashion, don't talk to them about it because obviously they don't want to talk. They want to fight." So is there anything being done about that?

Jacqueline Campbell: Yeah, and it's not — don't talk to them. Yeah, that's one of the strategies that women use, quite effectively, actually, in addressing domestic violence, but just don't tell him you're leaving face-to-face. And, you know, that's a classic safety-planning process that domestic-violence advocates, health-care providers know to do with women, is if she's planning to leave, how she can do so safely. And so, again, if we can get her in touch with domestic-violence advocates and/or people in the health-care system — more widely — or social services, more widely than have been trained in safety planning with abused women, that's sort of the crux of that safety planning. But it's oftentimes getting her there, which is so problematic, and we do have African-American men who do kill their partners and then kill themselves. It's just, proportionately, in domestic-violence homicides, the African-American men are more likely to kill their partners and not kill themselves and — you know, versus white men. But it's not that it doesn't happen for African-American men, and I was just thinking, I'm not sure if they are, because we do have chronic unemployment being one of the risk factors for intimate-partner homicide-suicide over and above prior domestic violence, as well as the short-term just-before unemployment. So there is some chronic unemployment that's part of that picture over and above domestic violence, but we did not look to see if race — if there was an interaction with the type of employment. You know, after a while, again, your numbers gets small and it gets tough to do, but very good point and keep asking the questions.

Shaboyd Cannon: One more question.

Jacqueline Campbell: Yes. That's ok. Yeah.

Shaboyd Cannon: Dr. Adams, is there — and of course, we're all advocating for the women here. Is there any counseling, any study that show how the women may provoke the males to — Is there a cheating issue? Is there an issue where, you know, "You were supposed to be home last night"? Is there any skepticism in regards to the relationship? At least that's the first thing that comes to my mind. Do you have any information regarding that matter?

David Adams: Well, I mean, that's a favorite theme of batterers, of course, is, you know, and part of their denial system, part of their lack of taking responsibility is to claim that "she provoked me" in some way, you know. And, of course, the important message there is it doesn't matter what she did. You always have a choice, basically, and obviously some choices are a lot better than others. You know, some choices make the situation a lot worse than others. But, you know, on sort of a broader level, I think that it's true that, I think, to the extent that batterers are kind of invested in controlling their partner, battering always does create resistance on the part of victims. And so that very often, serious batterers get into this sort of ever-escalating pattern of having to increase their level of control, their surveillance, their control in order to achieve the same result. So it does become kind of a losing game over time as they kind of step up their level of control, which in turn, creates more unhappiness, more resistance on the part of victims, because most of the killers, their victims, their partners had left them or were in stages of leaving, and so they're very much kind of reactive to that. And for some of the killers, they said, "Well, you know, the only thing left was to kill her," basically. And so I think does kind of relate to this sort of just revenge motive, which I think sort of is the result of this kind of control issue that many of them have.

Jacqueline Campbell: And if I can add, in terms of the other partners, we did see other partners as being part of that scenario, but the most typical scenario is she left him because he was abusive. Then, after she'd been out of that relationship for a while, she got a new partner. Meanwhile, he has been trying to get her back, and oftentimes the stalking behavior he would characterize as, "I'm just trying to get her back, and she won't talk to me, so I have to follow her to work. I have to," you know, this kind of thing. And then, when she started dating somebody else, that was sort of a signal to him he wasn't going to get her back. So, you know, it's the "If I can't have you, no one can," then he would kill her. And in the police reports, my good friends, police homicide detectives, they would say, "This is nothing but a classic triangle, Jackie," and I'm saying, "No, it's a classic domestic violence scenario." But that's much more often, is that she would get this other partner after she had left him.

Kristina Rose: Thank you for your questions.

Shaboyd Cannon: Very informative. Thank you very much.

Kristina Rose: Yes. Please, stand up.

Woman: I'm Janice Freedian. I'm here at the main library. I have tried to condense my question. One of the things that I find really chilling is your description, your just immediate description of having left, and I'm curious to know what time frame we're talking about with that. That's my first question. And although you touched a little bit on rehearsal, you seem to have discarded my favorite types of what the predictors of violence are: fetal alcohol syndrome in pregnancy, bullying in childhood, abusive parents, the abuse of animals, you know, looking at that in the past. And my question would be also about exposure to explicit and graphic violence; playing computer games and that sort of thing on television. So I have that — I guess that's at least the first question, is about the time frame we're talking about between leaving a partner and then whether these other factors really do enter into predictors of violent behavior. I did have — and the other, well, I guess, really quick comment is that I did listen to a therapist who said that if you have a person who's despondent, who's ready to talk about suicide, the opposite of that is homicide and she said that they were predictive. That was particular with homicide as well because they have two faces of the exact same thing, sort of like the back and forth of your hand. One fourth and last comment is that my experience — [audio cuts out] Audience Member: For women to say, "I was hurt, and I really want some help with this," and the real limited amount of relief they were given.

Kristina Rose: Thank you. Jackie, do you want to talk about the separation portion of her question?

Jacqueline Campbell: I can in terms of the timeframe. What we found, it was some sort of estrangement, separation within the past year, and it might have been, you know, even she left and came back became a risk factor, but we did see in about — I'm gonna forget — the number of the homicide-suicides, but a fairly significant proportion of the homicide-suicides were right at the time she was telling him she was leaving. Now, the way we knew that was, again, family members told us, you know, "We know that she was planning to talk to him about leaving that day, that night." so it's only from family members — you know, there's no other way to get that information usually. And I do want to mention some of the other risk factors that you mentioned because they certainly are risk factors for domestic violence, at least growing up in a violent home definitely is. The pornography thing — there's some conflicting evidence on that. Pet abuse is definitely a risk factor for domestic violence. However, in our study we looked very carefully at pet abuse. It was not a risk factor for it elevating to homicide, either straight homicide or homicide-suicide. It was a very strong risk factor for domestic violence. Now there — it may be that actually killing a pet is a risk factor for it elevating to homicide, but we just didn't have enough of them to look at that. So that actual killing of a pet, which scares me whether or not it's on any lethality risk assessment instrument. Again, we asked about pornography. That didn't seem to be an issue. We did not look for fetal alcohol syndrome.

David Adams: Just in terms of kind of long-term risk factors or kind of — I did look at the childhoods of the killers and also asked the victims of attempts at homicide what they knew about their perpetrators' childhoods and kind of looking for any kind of predisposing factors of childhood, so to speak, and much research has already found this that one of the leading predictors of future spouse abuse is past exposure to spouse abuse, you know, so children who grew up witnessing fathers abusing mothers are way more likely to grow up to become abusers. Also, exposure to child abuse was very significant. About 60 percent of the killers said that they had abusive parents, either abusing the other parent or abusing them directly, and one of the interesting things I found is that even though most of the killers that had been exposed to those kind of factors were closer to their mothers and more fearful of their fathers, they ultimately copied their fathers, you know, so that one of the killers said, um, you know, "I was attracted to my father's attitude, which is to do unto others before they do unto you. Together, we couldn't be beat," and so he left his abusive mother, went to live with his father, who kind of inducted him into a life of crime, basically, and so that's what he was talking about. Another killer said, "My brother Elroy used to beat me up every single day, but I couldn't do anything about it because he was my father's favorite. Then one day, I beat up Elroy, and I was my father's favorite after that," you know, and so it seems to be kind of this kind of self-protective factor, I think, some children at least kind of learn to kind of — as if they're kind of forever ridding themselves of fear by kind of taking on the characteristics of the more aggressive parent, the more powerful parent, and developing that as their kind of persona.

Richard Gelles: I'd just add a caution that — in this discussion — that explaining domestic homicides is one thing. Predicting them is another, and when you look backward, there are some significant signs, but when you're looking at a population of 300 million people in the United States, you know, 90 million couples and you're trying to predict which 1,200 are gonna end in a lethal event or which 1,500 children will be killed by their parents, it be- — one predicts with great caution. There are some leading predictive factors, there are some second-level predictive factors, and then of course, there are some mythical predictive factors that my — I guess I'll have to pick on video games. I mean, one of the reasons I ran through the four slides was the proliferation of video games that fortunately my children were too old to get involved in. Of course, I have to try them all because that's my field. Had no impact on rates of domestic violence, no impact on rates of violence in the United States, no impact on rates of child abuse and neglect. Now you could find individuals incarcerated who will say, "That's all I did before I — ," but it's somewhat meaningless if you're trying to predict. It's meaningful if you're trying to hone in on the brain waves and individual idiographic characteristics of people who kill. So the question can be answered, but what the question is is very important. What are you trying to do? Trying to predict? You trying to prevent, or are you just trying to understand?

Kristina Rose: Thank you. Karen?

Audience member: Hello. I'm Karen Bachar from the National Institute of Justice, and I have two brief questions. One, frequency of threats was mentioned as something that should be looked at. What about the specificity of threats such as, "I'm going to do this with this weapon," or, "I'm going to do this in this way"? The second is, we've made great strides in other fields related to interpersonal violence when victim services and law enforcement collaborate. You mentioned a program in Florida that was driven — looking at children — that was driven exclusively by law enforcement because child protective services didn't have the same resources, but both for child and domestic violence, what could we do to enhance victim-law enforcement collaborations to address these issues? Thank you.

David Adams: Absolutely. On the specificity of threats, I found that as you got kind of closer and closer to the actual homicide or attempted homicide, threats had become not only more frequent but more specific and more graphic as well, yeah.

Richard Gelles: Two answers to each question. First question. Would seem completely off-topic, but as I was trying to get to sleep last night so that I could get up at quarter of 6:00 in the morning and find where I'd left my train ticket that had been sent to me by the National Institute of Justice, my wife decided to watch "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Ok? So the part she turns on to is Kate is sitting alone on the couch — by the way, if you don't know what I'm talking about, you're really out of the cultural mainstream. And Kate talked about divorce, and I said, "It's over. It's just a question of what day." In the social sciences, part of predicting is that the offender or the perpetrator or the person seeking the divorce has to have a vocabulary of motive before they engage in the behavior. You have to know how you're going to explain it or justify it to do it, so once the idea is voiced and becomes a possibility, the risk is suddenly changed, and it goes up. If it becomes more articulate and more focused, it's only relevant if they have the weapon in the house. So I could run around saying, "I'm gonna kill that cat, I'm gonna shoot that cat," and my wife and children look at me and say, "Well, Dad doesn't own a gun. He's never gonna own a gun. The cat is relatively safe." On the other hand, if I go out and buy a gun after I say "I'm gonna shoot that cat," I think my family should be terribly worried about the future of that cat because there's now a connection between my vocabulary of motive and the instruments by which I can engage in the behavior.

Jacqueline Campbell: And if I can say, in terms of the collaboration between the criminal justice system and victim services, we've done a lot of that over the past decade, thank goodness, and all of that work's been very useful, and the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice has been really instrumental in making that happen in a lot of communities. One of the approaches to that is the family justice centers, which is a one-stop shop where both criminal justice and victim services are under one roof for abused women, and those are — we have them in, I forget how many cities but several cities around the country, and they can be very, very useful. The struggle is oftentimes funding on these programs. A lot of shelters right now — I mean, part of the economic downturn is not only putting more stress on families, but it's also putting terrible stress on the victim services, whether they be child abuse services — I know in Baltimore, you know, that's the first thing that went, and we have a terrible shortage in our city budget, and so the first thing that went was the specialized domestic violence unit within our child abuse services. It's gone. As of yesterday, I think. You know, so that's part of the real struggle that happens, you know, with these downturns is we have the pressure on services at the same time that we have the pressure on families.

Richard Gelles: VAWA criminalized domestic violence, so it's easy to talk about it in this building. Nothing has criminalized child abuse and neglect, and for all of the efforts that I've seen going back to the early 1970s, the Justice and HHS in the executive branch, and then the committees on the hill have never really effectively wrestled with the dilemma. If you're beaten by a spouse, a police officer comes to the home; if you're beaten by a parent, a 26-year-old art history major comes to the home.

David Adams: Yeah, and the downside to the criminalization — I mean, obviously, it's been a very important and powerful thing, but I think in some ways it sort of leads us to kind of the technology of making arrests, you know, and trying to arrest our way out of the problem, so to speak, and I think when you think about accountability, community accountability, it's a lot broader than the criminal justice system. You know, some of the approaches I like are ones that kind of educate neighborhoods about domestic violence. You know, one of the interesting things in my study was that I found that neighbors were kind of like the wildcards, that they were kind of uniquely positioned, and actually four of the women were saved by their neighbors, and so one of the approaches I like is called bystander responsibility. They've used this at different college campuses, too, where they basically teach students to be responsible bystanders, you know, and it turns out that one of the reasons that people don't intervene when they hear signs of domestic violence or sexual assault is that they assume someone else has taken care of it, you know, and so it's really important, and ironically, I think, because we have so many more professionals that are addressing domestic violence, in some ways it can create this community passivity where people are stepping back and letting the professionals handle it, so to speak. And yet I think we need to bring it back to really thinking about it as a communitywide responsibility where the coordinated community responses have more players in them, not just the criminal justice system, sort of. That's what I'm saying.

Kristina Rose: Actually, Cornelia, before we get to you, you had a question?

Audience member: My name is Richard McKee[?] [McCann?], and I'm with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency in the Department of Health and Human Services. My role there is as public health advisor on suicide prevention. We have grant programs across the country, a national hotline system, and a national resource center among other programs, and my question is are there opportunities for collaboration, recommendations that you would have between the field of suicide prevention and suicide prevention efforts and efforts to prevent domestic violence, child abuse, et cetera? So, uh...

David Adams: Oh, absolutely. I'm glad you mentioned that. Yes. I've gone to quite a number of suicide conferences and have been sort of struck by how few domestic violence people are there, you know, and how specialized the work is, and yet, as you've kind of heard from us, there really is a lot of — a lot of interplay between those two issues, and I think one of Jackie's findings was that with murder-suicides they actually were more likely to have threatened to kill their partners than themselves, too, and so I think it's important that many people that are involved in suicide prevention to really be educated about domestic violence and to really sort of think about that potential always there because obviously, you know, suicide is not just a matter of individual psychology. It's also a matter of what's happening in relationships, either children as well as with our partners, too, and how those are changing and how the changing status of the relationship affects our mood and our sense of hope and so forth.

Jacqueline Campbell: And one of the places where that's particularly important, I think, is for our returning veterans, where we know we have a serious suicide problem. We also have a serious problem with domestic violence, and oftentimes, these are the same people, the same families, and so again in those suicide prevention programs that the VA and the military is undertaking, there needs to be more attention to the domestic violence piece of that because unfortunately some of those suicides amongst veterans also involve homicide of a partner first and/or children. So, you know, again, you know, a perfectly good example of how we need to have more — you know, cross-training is something we talk about, definitely amongst all of these efforts to prevent suicide, which is a very important issue. There's far more suicides than there are homicide-suicides. You know, the homicide-suicide piece is a small proportion of that, but it is a somewhat different proportion, and it's something that people that are concerned about suicide need to think about being alert those possibilities. And, you know, substance abuse is oftentimes part of that picture, and in our intimate partner homicide study, 83 percent of the cases were known — either the victim or the perpetrator was known to some system before that homicide occurred, and one of the systems where the male perpetrators particularly were known to was substance abuse treatment. So again, where there's substance abuse treatment, there needs to be some not only attention to the substance abuse, which is a huge problem, et cetera, but also assessment for both domestic violence and other mental health issues in that substance abuser.

Richard Gelles: The only thing I can add to that is — and I think Jackie meant it. I only got two calls after we started getting calls about these familicides, actually only two calls that I returned. One was from Bernie from NIJ, and the other was from the Department of Defense, so it's not just veterans. They are very worried now. They've been worried for a while about their homicides and a couple of homicide-suicides, but now the number of homicides and the number of suicides among their active forces is really very worrisome to them, and they were wondering whether the economy is gonna play a role beyond the rotating deployments. In an ideal world, your agency with your concern would get together with DOD because they have a much easier task to do research with. They have a captive population. They have more contemporary data. Their data are not lagged. They know now many homicides they have a year in real time and how many suicides they have a year in real time, and they actually — there are some places in the country where there are likely to be spikes because of changes in domestic deployments of soldiers. Fort Bliss in El Paso, where they moved 50,000 soldiers into a community that doesn't have the capacity to handle 10,000 soldiers, is going to be a very difficult place for them in the coming years.

Audience member: And, Dr. Campbell, you had also mentioned something about the importance of including domestic violence in suicide risk assessments. Could you say just a bit more about that?

Jacqueline Campbell: Exactly. When, you know, there's a standardized, well, evidence-based suicide assessment that mental health care and primary care providers use with someone that they have reason to suspect may be suicidal, part of that assessment is do they have an intimate partner? Now I oftentimes joke, "And do you ever hit them?", probably is not the way to ask, but there needs to be developed some good questions that would be sensitive to the conflict in the relationship so that the — whoever is doing the assessment understand that it's not only this potential — this suicidal — potentially suicidal person who may need intervention. It's if there's a partner who is being abused, that person needs to be referred to appropriate services, also.

Audience Member: Thank you.

Kristina Rose: Thank you for your questions. Cornelia?

Audience member: yeah. My question was about — I'm Cornelia Sigworth with the Bureau of Justice Assistance. My question's about cases where the perpetrator kills just the children and not the spouse or partner, sort of the prevalence of those cases and if those perpetrators look different than the perpetrators that we've discussed already.

Richard Gelles: Biological dads who kill their children are a real rarity. Child homicide is — 50 percent of it is kids under three years of age, almost most of them killed by moms or paramours. As the children get older, that's the only place where biological dads become offenders, and it's almost always over a meshed control-custody dispute, and it's a different variation of what Jackie talked about — "If I can't have you, no one can. If I can't have then, you can't." Now some of those homicides are deliberate, and some of them are accidental. The numbers aren't huge, but if you're looking at deaths of older children at the hands of parents and if it's a biological parent, it's pretty much gonna be a dad, and it's pretty much gonna be the consequence of a very ugly, controlling, nobody-can-win custody fight.

Kristina Rose: I think we can take one more question. Bob?

Audience member: Thank you. I'd like to thank NIJ and OJP for putting on this panel today. I'm Bob Cheney, and I'm from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and since March 10, for a little bit over a month, I have been tracking mass murders and suicides, and I believe there were 10 to 12 cases. There were 82 murders and suicides associated with those cases. Two of the cases involved criminal events where seven police officers were killed in total. Part of the concern that I have seen in this — and I have a law enforcement background, and my portfolio in the department is law enforcement — is in almost all of those cases — and you have each touched on this on some way — someone else knew there was a problem. My question is this. This country has done a very good job in the past through public service announcements — "Buckle up your seat belt in your car," you know, "If you have a credit problem, call this number." Do you think if we had a media blitz — and not — we need to do it publicly in a very public way, we need to do it on television, radios, and we need to continue it for a period of time — that that would have an effect on the individuals who knew there was a problem with this person? "Call this number. If you or someone you know is so depressed and they may cause harm to themselves or to others, call an 800 number." It can be anonymous, but we've not done — and it just seems to me we always hear someone gets on the media after these events and said, "Oh, yeah. I knew that guy was a nut. He had all these guns. He was talking about problems with his family." But it just — it seems to me that we need to do a better job of getting the message out. Like you, I am concerned. We're gonna have hundreds of thousands of soldiers coming back and being introduced back into our society, and, you know, maybe economics is not the total cause, but economics now — we're looking at studies that happened in a period of time when we had — we were prosperous, and we're gonna be hurting, I think, in a few months. Thank you.

Kristina Rose: Thank you. Would any of you like to...

David Adams: The only thing I'd say to that is because the scenarios are so different and there's so many different kinds of mass killings, so to speak. There's the school-based ones, you know, the college-based ones, you know, the — you kind of have to make them more specific, the public messages, you know, to those different scenarios, you know, too, and I think college campuses have been sensitized to that potential now and are beginning to sort of offer some types of preventive strategies to kind of recognize some of the early warning signs, you know, disaffiliated students for instance, but the ones that are DV-specific, domestic violence-specific, you have to sort of really hone in on that part of the message, too. "Help is available for domestic violence," so to speak, so that — you can't really have a one-size-fits-all for these kinds of situations because they do seem to sort of represent different kinds of issues and different kinds of motives.

Jacqueline Campbell: But I do think a strategic, you know, "Families in trouble, this is what you might want to do," as a public service campaign could be very useful, and there's been some very effective — and they've been shown to be effective with attitude and behavior change — domestic violence campaigns, but part of the problem with these public service campaigns is they tend to come on television late at night, and nowadays, they get TiVoed out anyway, but I think a very strategic, savvy, "Families in trouble, and this is how you could tell a family in trouble" — there could be various scenarios. Conflict between the husband and wife could be one of the scenarios. So if people work together on that, I think it could be effective, and I know, like, the military has done a really good public service campaign against suicide, but it hasn't included the broader domestic violence issues. So we could build on some of the campaigns that have been done and have been successful, and I think that would be useful. However, the services also need to be useful. I mean, one of the things that happens with our military when they come back is that in terms of the insurance they have for mental health services, there's really problematic access with the known effective PTSD treatments. Even those known effective PTSD treatments don't usually address any couple conflict that's going on. So we do need to work on the services end, too, for people that we know do have problems.

Richard Gelles: I mean, I think you have to do both. I mean, there certainly have been mass campaigns that have been effective, but this time around, our knowledge base and our understanding and our tools are much better, but our connectivity is terrible. So here we have a situation where instead of 20 percent of subprime mortgages going under, you've got 60 percent of subprime mortgages going under. Now that's clearly a population you should be concerned with. Who's going out to see them? Well, it turns out ACORN is going door-to-door, but ACORN goes door-to-door, and they only know about telling people how to fight foreclosure. There's not a lot of connectivity in terms of community service. It's like what David said, coordinated community response, but we don't have a coordinated community response for this kind of economic upheaval for the outcroppings of issues that are going to really tax communities. Stimulus money is going to prop up communities, and then the tax is gonna be paid on these kind of personal troubles becoming fairly widespread social problems. So, yeah, I'd do the broad-based thing, but I'd also take advantage of — Laurie knows what we do at Penn. We can pretty much geographically map and predict where the outcroppings are gonna happen. First, you see the electric cut off. Then you see the water cut off. Then you see the taxes delinquent, and when you see that cropping up in two or three neighborhoods in Philadelphia, it — Laurie's colleague Larry Sherman is wise enough to know this is where you start community policing. This is where you know the outcroppings are gonna take place, and we're much better off technologically but very weak in connectivity in terms of taking that kind of information, bringing it to scale in terms of using community resources to deal with substance abuse, deal with juvenile crime, deal with domestic violence and child welfare issues. We're still fighting the battle with the tools we had in the seventies.

Kristina Rose: Well, I believe we are out of time. I want to thank our panelists. That was a fascinating and thoughtful discussion. Thank you so much.


I would also like to just close by thanking the NIJ staff that made this possible. I want to thank Bernie Auchter and Yolanda Curtis for all the work that they did to pull this together. Thank you so much. Have a great day, everyone.


Thank you very much. It was wonderful.

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NIJ Research for the Real World Seminar
Seminar in NIJ's
August 2009
Jackie Campbell, Johns Hopkins University, Richard Gelles, University of Pennsylvania, David Adams, author of Why Do They Kill? Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partners

Experts discuss cases of domestic violence that escalate to homicide followed by suicide. Although the economy and unemployment are risk factors, prior domestic violence is by far the number one risk factor. The men usually display possessive, obsessive and jealous behavior, and they typically use guns to threaten and terrorize before they use them to kill.

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Date modified: April 6, 2011