Project Description

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What is surveillance?

Surveillance is the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data regarding health events of interests for purposes of intervention and the creation of prevention strategies.

What is the Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Surveillance Project?

The Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Surveillance Project is a public health effort to better understand fatal domestic violence in Virginia. The project coordinator utilizes news reports and records collected by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner during a death investigation to identify cases of homicide that were due to family or intimate partner discord. Once these homicides are identified, they are categorized by the relationship between the victim and the alleged offender. The project is used to create annual and special reports, as well as provide aggregate data to domestic violence stakeholders by request.

When did it start?

Before this project was implemented, collecting data and understanding the degree to which FIP homicide impacted Virginia was difficult. Virginia lacked two important resources: standard criteria for identifying FIP cases and a longitudinal database to input and analyze data. Therefore, in 1999 the Virginia General Assembly enacted Virginia Code §32.1-283.3 and took a critical step toward our increased understanding of family and intimate partner violence in Virginia. This Code section authorized the development of local family and domestic violence fatality review teams and created a state wide surveillance system to collect data on deaths involving family and/or intimate partners.

What information does the project collect?

The following types of information are collected for each family and intimate partner homicide case:

  • Victim and Alleged Offender information (age, race, gender, marital status, occupation, criminal history, etc.)
  • Event Information (fatal agency, location, time, survivors, etc.)
  • Precipitating Characteristics (substance use, end of relationship, third party intervening, mercy killing, etc.)
  • Relationship History (children, length of relationship, civil proceedings, etc.)
  • Risk Factors (stalking, threats to kill, alcohol abuse, financial hardships, etc.)

How does the project collect information?

The surveillance coordinator utilizes records collected or created by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner during the death investigation, including law enforcement records, toxicology reports, autopsy reports, and death certificates. Newspaper articles, court records, and other available online information are also used in investigating family and intimate partner homicide cases.

What has the project been used to do?

Reports from this project have been used to:

  • Inform the development of policies and programs
  • Create trainings for those intervening with victims and offenders
  • Provide the public with an understanding of family and intimate partner violence
  • Determine the need for specialized services for those experiencing this type of violence

Since the project’s inception in 1999, it has celebrated numerous accomplishments, including:

  • Helped establish 20 Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Fatality Review Teams throughout Virginia. These teams have enabled communities to develop coordinated responses to domestic violence.
  • Developed statewide interdisciplinary work groups to examine existing family and intimate partner violence laws and policies.
  • Provided comprehensive data to stakeholders working to prevent and intervene in domestic violence.
  • Worked with stakeholders to convene conferences and produce training materials. These conferences and training materials were developed to educate diverse groups on family and intimate partner violence.
  • Contributed indicators to the Violence at Home Report produced by the Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia.