Individuals – Messing et al. (2015)

Study Reference:

Messing, J. T, Campbell, J., Webster, D. W., Brown, S., Patchell, B., and Wilson, J. S. (2015). The Oklahoma Lethality Assessment Study: A Quasi-experimental Evaluation of the Lethality Assessment Program. Social Service Review, 89(3), 499-530.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), developed by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence ( provides police officers with a risk assessment tool to use in cases of intimate partner violence (IPV) to better predict a victim’s risk of death by homicide. In partnership with social service providers, those who are found through the LAP as being at high risk of homicide are referred to an advocate for victims of domestic violence. The advocate can help the victim create a plan for his/her safety and well-being. The LAP was expected to reduce the frequency and severity of future IPV by empowering victims to plan for their own safety and take protective actions.

How was the intervention evaluated?

For seven jurisdictions in Oklahoma, a non-equivalent groups, quasi-experimental field trial was used. Propensity score matching analysis was also used in four jurisdictions. The study examined whether or not the LAP increased victims’ use of safety strategies and whether or not the LAP reduced repeat IPV (in both frequency and severity). Participants were referred to researchers for inclusion in the study (and so were not randomly selected). Police officers responding to an IPV incident asked the victim if a researcher could contact him/her in the future and, if so, requested contact information. The treatment group consisted of 347 IPV victims at high risk of homicide who spoke with a victims’ advocate after being connected through the LAP. The control group consisted of 342 IPV victims at high risk of homicide referred to researchers before the LAP began and treated with standard police responses. Researchers contacted victims for a baseline interview soon after their incident of IPV and again for a follow-up interview several months later. Victims were asked about any protective actions they had taken and any subsequent instances of IPV.

What were the key findings?

Researchers found some evidence that the LAP may reduce risks, although effects were often smaller from the propensity score matched analysis than in the overall regression analysis, suggesting a selection bias of those who agreed to treatment. Those in the LAP group were more likely to take protective actions (removing weapons, changing addresses, obtaining medical care for injuries, seeking an order of protection, etc.) and were less likely to experience further IPV, relative to the control group. It is possible, though, that participants in the treatment and control groups were different to begin with, since participants were not randomly assigned to conditions. Those who sought help in the form of protective action may have already been more likely to seek help, independent of the LAP.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

LAP may be associated with reduced victimization. However, victims who were more willing to participate in the research may also be less likely to be re-victimized. This demonstrates that collaboration between law enforcement and social service agencies is important and can be effective in reducing intimate partner violence.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?