Special Assignment: Domestic violence deaths on the rise in Loui - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Special Assignment: Domestic violence deaths on the rise in Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a chilling story that's still painful for Chenethia to recount.

“It didn't start out with him putting his hands on me. It was just a verbal abuse. This particular night things just got way out of control and I was physically abused,” Chenethia said.

She was abused by a boyfriend in the home they shared. She was able to get help to leave, but some men and women choose to stay and that can be a deadly decision.

“Last year we'd actually seen a decrease from 2012. This year we're seeing an increase,” said Chief Steve Conrad with Louisville Metro Police.

Chief Conrad said in 2013 there were six domestic related homicides in Louisville, but there have already been 10 this year.

In March, police say 36-year-old Jacinta Malone shot her child's father and then used the same gun to kill herself. Police said that they had been to the home several times.

In May, police said a husband shot his wife in the parking lot of a gas station, and then turned the gun on himself. We're told the couple was separated.

“I think so often people who are in that situation think there is no way out, and there is,” said Chief Conrad.

LMPD and the Center for Women and Families teamed up in late 2012 to try to stop homicides before they happen, using what's called a Lethality Assessment Program.

“When police go on the scene of a domestic violence call, they screen that call for high lethality. So they are asking a series of 11 questions to find out whether or not there's a chance for another incident to happen or for death to happen,” said Tamara Reif with the Center for Women and Families.

Some of the questions include:

  • Has he or she ever used a weapon against you or threatened you with a weapon?
  • Has he or she threatened to kill you or your children? 
  • Do you think he or she might try to kill you?

“It allows the officer to identify a victim that has a higher risk of actually being confronted by lethal violence in the future,” explained Chief Conrad.

Tamara Reif with the Center for Women and Families says based on how a victim answers the questions from police, a call may then be made to a crisis counselor to get involved.

“So, we are answering an average of 5 calls a day that are screening for high lethality. In the last two years we've done this program we have spoken to over 3,000 victims who have screened as high lethality,” said Tamara Reif.

The hope is that they will decrease homicide rates by almost 40 percent.

So why are the numbers going up?

“If we continue at the same rate, I think we'll see an increase not only for calls for service, but also in domestic violence related assaults. So there's more work to be done,” said Chief Conrad.

Chief Conrad says it's hard to narrow down why there has been an increase.

However, he says there is also a fatality review committee where they dissect every single domestic related homicide to try to figure out what more can be done to prevent them as a community.

“In some cases those couples had had contact with police due to domestic violence. In a couple of those cases they had been recent enough that we had done lethality screens. And I believe in at least one of those cases there was no follow-up. The victim chose not to speak to the counselor,” said Chief Conrad.

Chief Conrad also said raising awareness and getting victims to seek help is the first step to bringing the numbers down.

In the years to come they're hopeful the program will have a lasting effect on victims, like Chenethia.

“And I am just grateful to know there's a solution, a way out of what I was going through, and I'm here today to talk about it,” said Chenethia.

If you are in a domestic violence relationship and would like to get help, click here.

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