Are Domestic Violence Homicides on the Rise in DC?

Are Domestic Violence Homicides on the Rise in DC?

Recent high-profile coverage of local homicides of female victims have a number of local government and nonprofit agencies concerned about a potential spike in domestic violence homicides. Violent crime in general tends to increase during the summer months, and domestic violence is no exception. But is it accurate to say there is a trend of increasing domestic violence homicides happening in the District of Columbia right now?

First, it’s important to note that different local agencies track statistics on domestic violence in different ways. SAFE, and most nonprofit service providers, draw a distinction between “intimate partner violence” (violence between partners of any gender who are married, cohabiting, dating, or sexually active) and “intrafamily offenses,” (which includes the above but also violence between siblings, parents/children, infant deaths, and other non-romantic family relations). The Metropolitan Police Department tracks both types of crime under the general category “domestic violence.”

To date, in 2014, the District has seen 12 homicides that have been characterized as domestic violence (DV) homicides. Five of these have been confirmed as intimate partner violence (IPV) homicides; an additional 4-6 have a potential IPV link but are still pending investigation. In the entirety of 2013, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) reported a total of 14 homicides attributed to domestic violence. Five of these homicides were confirmed as IPV homicides, with an additional 4 having potential but unconfirmed IPV links.

To date in 2014, there have been slightly more homicides linked to intimate partner violence than at the same time last year, although several cases from both years remain unclassified pending further investigation. However, with single digit incidences, and with a handful of cases remaining uncategorized, it is difficult to draw conclusions about any statistically significant trends.

In the last 20 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has demonstrated a significant decrease in the incidence of both DV and IPV, and there is no indication of a trend reversal in any recent reports or studies. The number of survivors seeking SAFE services at the District’s two Domestic Violence Intake Centers has not increased significantly between 2012 and 2013, at approximately 5,000 per year. SAFE’s 24/7 bilingual Response Line has seen an increase over the past two years; between 2011 and 2012, calls rose from just over 2,800 per year to 3,600, and the following year to 3,900. However, the number of Response Line calls received from MPD remained relatively constant throughout that period; the increase in SAFE’s numbers is attributable to new referral partners as we have added entry points at local emergency rooms and nonprofits, to expand victim access to services. Like sexual assault, domestic violence is heavily unreported by survivors due to fear, shame, or other barriers such as lack of knowledge of available services and victims’ rights; as such, it is important to  understand that an increase in survivors accessing services is not the same as an overall increase in the incidence of abuse, but may reflect an increase in the number of access points to services.

Looking at a trends over time, we see that the intimate partner violence homicide rate for the District of Columbia has actually decreased by 64% over the past five years, from 14 in 2009 to 5 in 2013. The Metropolitan Police Department has worked hard to implement new infrastructure, training, technology, and partnerships in this time, and has absolutely revolutionized the city’s emergency response services, improving safety for domestic violence victims and city residents alike. DC SAFE is proud to have MPD as a partner in our work.

MPD, DC SAFE, and the DC Office of Victim Services partnered together in 2006 to establish the Response Line, a 24/7 bilingual resource for domestic violence victims, which provides information, emergency shelter, and crisis resources to survivors at the moment they first report domestic violence to the police. SAFE advocates conduct a lethality assessment with every incoming client to determine her immediate risk of reassault or homicide, and develop a safety plan with each client to identify her primary safety needs and address them. These needs vary from client to client– shelter placement; an emergency lock change for her apartment; assistance in contacting MPD’s gun unit to retrieve a firearm from the abuser’s home; or transportation to the house of a friend or relative where the abuser can’t find her.

Each homicide that occurs is a tragedy, and our community feels each loss in a deeply personal way. But statistics tell us that the number of such tragedies per year has actually decreased, in no small part due to the collaboration of local government and nonprofit partners. We applaud the work of all of our partners to increase victim access to services, raise awareness, and hold offenders accountable.

If you want to support local survivors, please consider making a donation to support SAFE’s crisis services. Every day, we meet with victims, conduct lethality assessments, and develop safety plans to hold offenders accountable. Your gift supports our emergency shelter services, our 24/7 bilingual Response Line, our Court-based advocacy, and our expanding partnerships with local providers. If you have been following with concern the news of domestic violence homicides in our community, please take action now to ensure the continued availability of safety net services for victims in crisis.

Advocate of the Month: June 2014

Advocate of the Month: June 2014

Ana is our Advocate of the Month for June 2014! She had the highest number of client contacts and legal referrals in our Court program last month, during one of our busiest times of year. She has only been with SAFE a few months, but has become an invaluable asset in that short time– supporting fellow advocates and interns, covering gaps on the Response Line, and meeting with tons of clients. She has learned the ropes incredibly quickly, and provides intense and thorough advocacy to every client she meets with. Thank you, Ana, for being a top-notch advocate for our clients!

SAFE y La linea de ACCIÓN te invitan a participar!

SAFE y La linea de ACCIÓN te invitan a participar!

DC Safe y La Clínica del Pueblo, con el apoyo de la Oficina de Servicios a las Víctimas (OVS), se han asociado en un Proyecto de Enlace con la Comunidad Latina.

El propósito de este proyecto es evaluar los puntos de entrada a servicios para Latinas sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica en nuestra comunidad, determinar la capacidad de esos puntos de acceso de  proporcionar servicios a las clientas Latinas y desarrollar estrategias para mejorar sus capacidades y aumentar el alcance comunitario donde sea necesario.

Le invitamos a colaborar con este proyecto y completar nuestra breve encuesta. Sus respuestas serán anónimas y la información recabada nos ayudara a crear una visión general de los servicios disponibles en el área metropolitana de Washington DC.

Por favor, conteste las preguntas basadas en su entendimiento personal y conocimiento de su trabajo y su organización. La encuesta está disponible en español e inglés.

Agradeceremos mucho si envían la encuesta a todos  los compañeros de trabajo o empleados que les sea posible, para conseguir una  muestra mucho más amplia y representativa de perspectivas.

Gracias por su apoyo y participación en este proyecto. Apreciamos su contribución a este diálogo sobre la necesidad de mejorar el acceso a servicios para las Latinas sobrevivientes de violencia doméstica en nuestra comunidad.

DC SAFE Invites You to Participate

DC SAFE Invites You to Participate

DC SAFE and La Clínica del Pueblo have partnered on a Latina Community Engagement Project with the support of the Office of Victim Services.

The purpose of this project is to assess the primary access points for Latina domestic violence survivors in our community, the capacity of those access points to provide services to Latina clients, and to develop strategies for improving capacity or increasing outreach where  needed.

We invite you to participate by completing our brief assessment survey. Your responses will remain anonymous and will be aggregated to get an overview of services in the Metro DC area.

Please answer the questions based on your personal perspective and knowledge of your work and organization. The survey is available in both English and Spanish.

Also we would greatly appreciate it if you would forward the survey to as many of your co-workers/employees as possible, so we can get a broad cross-section of perspectives.

Thank you for your support and involvement in this project. We are looking forward to your contribution to this dialogue on improving access for Latina survivors in our community.

Advocate of the Month: May 2014

Advocate of the Month: May 2014

Nicole is our Advocate of the Month for May 2014! Nicole recently left her position as a Court-based Advocate to fill a vacancy at SAFE Space shelter. She started her new role shortly before our shelter director was scheduled to go on maternity leave, and also shortly before another new shelter advocate was brought on to begin training. Because of her breadth of experience, Nicole was able to go through a condensed training regimen and take on the majority of SAFE Space’s client case load while the new staff completed training. As if that wasn’t enough, she has also provided vital assistance to the administrative team members who are handling day-to-day operations while the shelter director is on leave. As with everything she does, Nicole handled this stressful transition with perfect composure and grace. She rises to every challenge, and we’re so lucky to have her providing such stability at SAFE Space!

Changing Leadership at DC SAFE

Changing Leadership at DC SAFE

In bittersweet news, SAFE’s Board of Directors has had a recent change in leadership. Our Chair, Samantha Lasky, and Vice Chair, Sarah Potter, both reached the end of their 2-year terms. Board members Lisa Aramony and Amy Hunter have stepped up to fill their positions. We look forward with great pleasure to Lisa and Amy’s leadership, but we are saddened to close the chapter on Samantha and Sarah’s incredible leadership. Samantha has been a member of the Board for nearly 3 years, and Sarah for 5 years. Both will continue on as active and involved Board members. SAFE is so grateful for their leadership, and their continued service in support of our mission.

We asked both Samantha and Sarah to comment on the transition and what it means to them, and we are pleased to share their touching responses with you here. Thank you, Samantha and Sarah, for your incredible leadership and for believing in SAFE’s work! You’re amazing, and we’re so lucky to have you working with us.

Lasky head shot

Samantha Lasky
“I have always felt strongly about issues impacting women and children. And, when I learned about SAFE, thought about people I have known who have been victims of domestic violence, and the prevalence of DV – 1 in 4 women – I immediately wanted to get involved.” said Samantha. “As Chair, I am so proud of the work SAFE does and how the organization has grown and adapted over the last few years to the changing needs of the community and the survivors. The staff is an amazing group of people who I am proud to support and the stories about the victims who SAFE helps become survivors never fail to amaze me.”

“I have been lucky to lead the board and am thrilled to continue to be a part of SAFE under Lisa’s leadership. Lisa’s background in nonprofits and Board work, combined with her compassion for the work SAFE does is, a powerful combination. I am confident that she will continue to build upon SAFE’s strong foundation as Chair.”


Sarah Potter
“On nearly every street I’ve lived on as an adult, there has been domestic violence. A woman thrown on the ground by her companion and a neighbor telling him that won’t be tolerated in her neighborhood. The mother of one of my daughter’s friends moving the family to another state to escape an abuser. Police responding to a double shooting,” Sarah commented. “Knowing that there is an organization like SAFE out there to help victims and their families, and that I can help contribute in a small way to what SAFE does, makes me feel very fortunate.”

“SAFE is special. SAFE serves victims, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or status. And SAFE knows that providing safety and stability for a victim means supporting the whole family – like making sure that moving to a shelter doesn’t mean a child stops going to school. SAFE provides immediate assistance to get victims to safety, but they’ve forged significant partnerships with other service providers to ensure that families can get the support they need to stay safe – engaging the whole community. Importantly, they seek accountability for anyone who would perpetrate violence against their partner. And they also work to ensure that the systems that respond to violent incidents – courts, police, emergency responders – have the skills they need to provide the support victims deserve. SAFE innovates; when they see that victims need a resource - like short-term crisis shelter - and it doesn’t exist, they go out and create it. SAFE is the whole package.”

“My time on the Board has given me the opportunity to see so many examples of people contributing to SAFE’s work, every day, in meaningful ways both big and small. Whether it is by volunteering, hosting or attending a fundraiser, contributing shelter supplies, blogging about SAFE’s services, or tweeting about domestic violence and what we can all do about it, everyone has something to share. I’m overwhelmed by how much people want to help support SAFE and the victims they serve. I was buying groceries for a fundraiser at Trader Joe’s, and was talking with the cashier about the event, and she handed me the cash in her pocket – because of SAFE.”

“I’m looking forward to transitioning to at-large status on the board and seeing our amazing new board chair and vice-chair, Lisa Aramony and Amy Hunter, lead SAFE into its next phase. They have already made important contributions to our shelter project and our sustainability efforts, and I know that under their leadership, SAFE will continue to thrive.”

Do More 24 on June 19th!

Do More 24 on June 19th!

Do More 24 is coming up on Thursday, June 19th! Once again, United Way has selected DC SAFE among a number of other incredible local charities to participate in this unique 24-hour giving campaign. The campaign runs for just 24 hours, starting at 12:00 AM and ending at 11:59 PM on June 19th. 

Please support SAFE by helping us spread the word in advance and on the day of! Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter pages and be sure to like and share so that we get the word out to the widest audience possible. We’ll be hosting a happy hour event at Impala Cantina on the 19th to celebrate with supporters, volunteers, and staff.

Additionally, United Way will award an extra $7,500 to the organization that raises the most dollars on June 19th. Please help us reach our goal and support domestic violence survivors in Washington, DC by making a donation here or on the Do More 24 website on June 19th!

Advocate of the Month: April 2014

Advocate of the Month: April 2014

Danita is a true hero to all SAFE staff. Our fearless, tireless Administrative Coordinator is the true magic behind the scenes – balancing the books, coordinating our office move, ordering supplies, running payroll, and so much more. She’s absolutely amazing and we don’t know how she manages to do it all. Danita, thank you from all of us for your incredible hard work!

Mother’s Day at DC SAFE

Mother’s Day at DC SAFE

Mother’s Day is coming up in just a few weeks. For SAFE clients and staff, this holiday has a different meaning than it does to most people.

58% of SAFE’s clients are mothers, most of them to children under the age of 10. The work that we do impacts not only these women, but thousands of children each year. SAFE Space housed 6,827 women and 3,939 children in FY13.

The mothers of DC SAFE would like to ask you to support our clients and their children with a financial contribution today. For every $25 you donate, we will send a Mother’s Day e-card to the recipient of your choice. And as a bonus, all donors will be entered in a drawing to win one of two gifts pictured above– a collection of heavenly soaps from Mama Organic or a $20 gift card to Tryst Coffeehouse!

Click here to donate today. Designate “For Mothers” in the dedication box, and we will contact you to personalize your e-card with a brief 200-character message, and send it to the recipient of your choice on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014.

Please email us for more information on how you can support the mothers we serve.

DOJ Honors DC SAFE for National Crime Victims Rights Week 2014

The Department of Justice recognized DC SAFE with the National Crime Victims’ Service Award during a national ceremony April 9, 2014, for providing rapid access to services for domestic violence victims.

“Through their courage and critical contributions to assist and empower victims, these individuals and organizations have given hope to countless Americans victimized by crime– even under the most difficult circumstances,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “I am proud to recognize these extraordinary advocates by celebrating their achievements and assure them that the Department of Justice is more determined than ever to help ensure their continued success.”

The SAFE Space program was established in 2011 to fill a gap in local emergency shelter resources for domestic violence survivors. Most other providers have a multi-week entry period, counseling requirements, or other barriers that can delay a victim’s entry into shelter. Immediate access to shelter is one of the most urgent safety needs faced by domestic violence survivors. After years of struggling to find safe shelter for our clients, SAFE partnered with a local real estate developer and the DC Crime Victims’ Compensation Program to establish SAFE Space, and create the city’s first and only emergency domestic violence shelter.

SAFE Space provides certified domestic violence advocates onsite. The program also enables timely access to government and social services, including expedited public housing transfers away from their abusers, clothing, personal care items and household necessities. This enables victims to return to work, send their children back to school and resume their lives.

This program also works closely with DC SAFE’s Lethality Assessment Project to identify high-risk clients and devise a client-led advocacy plan that expedites services provided by partnering with DC government agencies. DC SAFE has provided immediate shelter and vital services to 423 adults and their 604 children since May 2011.

“We are humbled and proud to recognize these extraordinary individuals, teams, and organizations for their outstanding service” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “These compassionate honorees have become beacons of hope for so many others who have endured shock and deep sadness in the face of too many incidents involving violence and loss.”

In addition to DC SAFE, the Department recognized nine other individuals and programs for their outstanding efforts on behalf of crime victims. Descriptions and videos of the honorees are available at the Office for Victims of Crime’s Gallery.

President Reagan proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981, calling for renewed emphasis on, and sensitivity to, the rights of victims. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be observed this year from April 6-12, and the theme is “30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice.”

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at

Check out the award recipient videos above, and click here to read DCist’s coverage of the event.