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Domestic Violence Fatality Review


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Introduction | Frequently Asked Questions | Virginia Teams | Resources | Technical Assistance/Training Request

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.

5 people at a deskIn 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.

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The Commonwealth currently has fifteen local and regional DVFRTs. Teams are made up of multidisciplinary stakeholders who come together to review cases of fatal violence. Because the fatality review process is confidential, it provides team members with an excellent opportunity for frank and constructive discussion and analysis. Case review can enhance collaboration among community stakeholders, and improve the quality and coordination of community services.

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 shaped 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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WHAT IS FATALITY REVIEW?

Fatality review is a nationally recognized method for understanding how and why people die—the goal of which is to reduce those deaths. Domestic violence fatality review teams (DVFRTs) are made up of multidisciplinary stakeholders who come together to review cases of fatal violence. This process is confidential and retrospective, and is protected by Virginia law. Case review does not seek to place blame or reinvestigate deaths; it seeks to enhance community collaboration and safety.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FATALITY REVIEW?

  • Provides enhanced understanding of fatal domestic violence and lethality risk factors
  • Motivates community awareness and action through data-driven team findings and recommendations
  • Promotes positive collaboration and cooperation among local domestic violence service providers
  • Strengthens community systems promoting victim safety and perpetrator accountability
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HOW IS FATALITY REVIEW AUTHORIZED?

DVFRTs are authorized by the Code of Virginia §32.1-283.3, and endorsed by local government.


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HOW IS A FATALITY REVIEW TEAM FORMED?

A team is a voluntary, community-based group of domestic violence stakeholders. Generally, a team organizer invites the participation of all agenciesinvolved in the local domestic violence response. A detailed description for establishing and running a team is included in the Family and Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review: Team Protocol and Resource Manual (3rd Edition, December 2009) available on this website.


WHO ARE TEAM MEMBERS?

Domestic violence fatality review teams are made up of multidisciplinary professionals. Virginia law recommends but does not mandate team membership. Recommended representation includes:

  • Commonwealth’s Attorneys
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Domestic Violence Program Providers
  • Judges
  • Probation and Parole Officers
  • Magistrates
  • Victim/Witness Advocates
  • Legal Advocates
  • Batterer Intervention Providers
  • School Officials
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Medical Examiners
  • Court Personnel
  • Social Service Program Providers

Virginia State SealWHAT ABOUT CONFIDENTIALITY?

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of fatality review. The Code of Virginia Section 32.1-283.3 supports and protects confidential team case review. Statutory highlights include:

  • All team members and agencies sign confidentiality agreements which protect the information, records, discussions, and opinions shared during case review.
  • Only closed cases (those with no further criminal investigations or prosecutions) may be reviewed.
  • All case review information is excluded from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
  • Published team findings must not identify individuals; they can be published only in statistical or other form which protects privacy.
  • Confidentiality violations are punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor.

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Domestic Violence Fatality Review Teams

Domestic violence fatality review has gained prominence and momentum in the past decade. Since 1999, when the Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation supporting this important work, fifteen local or regional domestic violence fatality review teams (DVFRTs) have been established in the Commonwealth.

Virginia map of counties

  • Chesterfield County Intimate Partner & Family Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Colonial Area Family and Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review Team (James City County, Poquoson, Williamsburg, York County)
  • Fairfax County Domestic Violence Fatality Review
  • Four Rivers Regional Fatality Review Partnership (New Kent County, Charles City, King William, King and Queen and the town of West Point)
  • Hampton Family Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Henrico County Family Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Lynchburg City Family Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Monticello Area Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team (Albemarle County and City of Charlottesville)
  • Newport News Fatality and Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Norfolk Family Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Northern Neck/Essex Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team (Counties of Essex, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland)
  • Pulaski County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team
  • City of Richmond Child and Family Violence Fatality Review Team
  • Roanoke Valley Regional Family and Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review Team (County of Roanoke, Cities of Roanoke and Salem, Town of Vinton)
  • Washington/Bristol Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team (County of Washington, City of Bristol)

TEAM REPORTS

Reports published by Virginia’s local and regional teams provide information on the victims and perpetrators in fatal homicide events, as well as the lethality factors that shaped these tragedies.

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TEAM QUOTES

Virginia DVFRT members represent a wide variety of disciplines and experience. Collectively, they have served as leaders or members of domestic violence task forces, Coordinated Community Response Teams (CCRs), and Domestic Violence Advisory Boards; they have trained domestic violence professionals at local, state, and national conferences; they have contributed to the growing body of domestic violence research; and they have been awarded local and state recognition for their domestic violence prevention efforts.

The following thoughts on domestic violence fatality review reflect the first-hand experience of some Virginia DVFRTs:

“With all the funding cutbacks, fatality review is especially important because it helps us better utilize community systems, and get the most out of the resources we've got." - Norfolk Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team... "A fatality review team is a critical component in coordinating a community's response to domestic violence. The team focuses on the needs endemic to the community and will result in strengthened victim services." - Washington/Bristol DVFRT... "Establishing a domestic violence fatality review team in our county has enhanced communication and coordination among key stakeholders that interact with victims and perpetrators. More specifically, the case review process has enabled practitioners in our community to better understand their individual and collective roles in responding to domestic violence." -Fairfax Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team..."The work we have accomplished through our fatality review team is significant. We have had an excellent opportunity to examine real circumstances and systems responses, and have enhanced our ability to implement positive change that ultimately serves to maintain the safety, autonomy, and integrity of domestic violence victims." -Lynchburg Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team

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Resources

VIRGINIA

State Resource Materials

Ten Years and Counting:  The Persistence of Lethal Domestic Violence in Virginia.  Final Report with Recommendations from The Fatal Domestic Violence Workgroup. 
Published:  December, 2010

Guidance on Using Domestic Violence Program Information during a Fatality Review.
Published:  September, 2010

Domestic Violence Fatality Review: Helping communities save lives and improve systems of public health and safety. This tri-fold brochure is an introductory overview of domestic violence fatality review in Virginia.
Published: June, 2010

Family and Intimate Partner Violence Fatality Review:  Team Protocol and Resource Manual. 3rd Edition.  This manual is a comprehensive “how to” guide which covers the principles and practice of domestic violence fatality review. Featuring 10 chapters with quick links to ready-to-use or adapt team documents, the manual is in downloadable Word format.
Published:  December, 2009

Family & Intimate Partner Violence: Fatality Review Team Protocol. 2nd Edition
Published: December, 2002

Family & Intimate Partner Violence: Fatality Review Team Protocol. 1st Edition
Published: March, 2001

Local and Regional Team Reports

Reports published by Virginia’s local and regional teams provide information on the victims and perpetrators in fatal homicide events, as well as the lethality factors that shaped these tragedies.

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NATIONAL

ndvfri logoNational Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI): The NDVFRI is a national clearinghouse and resource center dedicated to domestic violence fatality review.
http://www.ndvfri.org

 

A state-by-state matrix of teams across the country can be found on the NDVFRI website. These teams include:

Florida:
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence
http://www.fcadv.org/projects-fatality.php

Georgia:
Georgia Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project
http://www.fatalityreview.com

Maryland:
Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence
http://www.mnadv.org

Minnesota:
Hennepin Domestic Fatality Review Team
http://www.amatteroflifeanddeath.org

Washington:
Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
http://www.wscadv.org

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Technical Assistance/Training          

In Virginia, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) provides resources, training and technical assistance to new and established domestic violence fatality review teams (DVFRTs).

To Contact the OCME:

ONLINE- In order to better track and serve DVFRT information needs, the OCME requests you complete this brief online form:

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION/TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

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Please describe information/assistance requested:

 
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Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
737 North Fifth Street, Suite 301
Richmond, VA 23219

BY PHONE- (804)205-3852


Last Updated: 01-10-2012

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