In order to explore factors that indicate significant danger of death or life-threatening injury in intimate violence situations, Chicago medical, public health, and criminal justice agencies, along with domestic violence advocates used the Chicago Women's Health Risk Study (CWHRS) to compare longitudinal interviews with physically abused women with similar interviews of people who knew intimate partner homicide victims.
The project was based on analysis of lethal and nonlethal Chicago samples tracked through interviews over a profile year, plus a baseline comparison group of nonabused women. Retrospective profile years for the lethal sample, the 87 people killed by an intimate partner in 1995 or 1996 in Chicago, were obtained by interviews with a knowledgeable relative or friend--a proxy respondent. The 497 physically abused women were sampled from populations of hospital health clinic patients, interviewed about a retrospective profile year and then tracked by prospective interviews over a year. The 208 comparison women, not physically abused in the past year, were sampled from the same settings. The study design permitted analysis of the interactive effects of events, changing circumstances, and interventions for a lethal or life-threatening outcome, including stalking, harassment, and controlling behavior; attempts to leave the relationship; arrest and other interventions; and other circumstances such as pregnancy and gun availability. A key finding is that the relationship between leaving or attempting to end the situation and the timing of violence differs for women in different points in the abuse process. Another finding is that leaving or trying to end the relationship placed women in a position where the potential for increased safety was high, but the potential for extreme risk was also high. The single most important risk factor for continuing violence is the length of the time period since the last incident. The time since the last incident is crucial, but the degree of severity of the most recent incident is not. In screening and selecting clients, practitioners should be beware of age bias. Inter-agency coordination is vital. The CWHRS provides information that could be used for developing collaborative strategies to identify and intervene in potentially life-threatening intimate violence situations; it can also support informed decisions of field-level personnel such as beat officers and clinical staff. Appended study instruments, 120 exhibits, and 364 references
Date Published: January 1, 2000