ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Three questions could help prevent a domestic violence case from turning into a later homicide:
- Has the offender ever used or threatened you with a weapon?
- Has the offender threatened to kill you or your children or anyone during this incident?
- Do you think the offender might try to kill you?
Those questions are part of an 18-question threat and lethality assessment that deputies in Ascension Parish now use when responding to a domestic violence call.
If the victim answers yes to any of those first questions, or answers yes to four of the 18 question in total, she is immediately referred to a domestic violence group right there in the field.
"We'll stay there with them while she does it and we'll actually talk with a counselor and we'll come up with a plan. Sometimes that plan may involve a shelter, sometimes it may involve a simple safety plan," Lt. Col. Bobby Webre with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office.
The in-field assessment can also be used by judges to help determine how an offender should be handled and gives officers good background on the offender to use in the future.
The assessment is just one of several ways the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office is working to better protect victims. The parish has seen five domestic violence homicides in two years.
In some cases, the suspect had a previous history of violence. That told the sheriff's department more needed to be done to protect victims before it was too late.
"We want to do our part to help them get out of it," said Webre.
The sheriff's department worked with the Iris Domestic Violence Center and judges, and looked at other domestic violence programs to create a more proactive approach to these cases.
The department also added more manpower to its domestic violence program, including a person whose sole responsibility is serving restraining and protective orders to offenders. Previously, those court documents were handled by the parish's civil services.
By putting one person in charge of restraining orders, Webre said those vital documents are put into action faster and more efficiently.
The sheriff's department can also help a victim through the processes of filing a restraining order and the legal challenges that follow.
Webre said the new protocols have been in place about two months and he feels they are helping. He said deputies have a better understanding and guidance on domestic violence cases, and victims are more empowered.
"We think it will get offenders into court quickly. We think we'll provide better services to the victim and I think what's really important to us is providing good services to that victim on scene," said Weber.
There are also many resources available to victims of domestic violence, to help them get out of an abusive situation and navigate challenges after.
For help, contact one of these organizations: