Family and intimate partner violence (also referred to as domestic violence) accounts for one-third of all homicides in Virginia each year. To better understand and prevent these tragic deaths, communities across Virginia, and across the country, have joined the growing fatality review effort.
In 1999, the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation authorizing family and intimate partner fatality review (hereafter referred to as domestic violence fatality review). The Code of Virginia §32.1-283.3 provides for the establishment of local and regional domestic violence fatality review teams (DVFRTs). It provides important statutory confidentiality protection, and directs the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to provide technical assistance and training.
The Commonwealth currently has seventeen local and regional DVFRTs. Teams are multidisciplinary, and through stakeholder participation, they review homicides, suicides, and homicide-suicide cases related to domestic violence. Additionally, teams assess their data to generate findings and recommended changes to existing policies and procedures as protective measures to prevent future domestic violence fatalities. Because the fatality review process is confidential, it provides team members with an excellent opportunity for honest and constructive discussion and analysis. Case review enhances collaboration among domestic violence stakeholders and improves the quality and coordination of community services, and supports healthy communities.
Reports published by Virginia’s teams provide critical information on the victims and perpetrators in fatal homicide events, as well as the lethality factors that shape these tragedies. The work of these teams is having a positive impact at the local level and also contributes to state and national domestic violence prevention efforts.