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ASU researchers examine risk factors in Arizona intimate-partner homicides

October 8, 2020

New findings will be shared in an October social media campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence was already considered an epidemic long before COVID-19 impacted the world, but the pandemic has caused an uptick in abuse cases, creating a greater need for awareness, education and intervention.

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a time when survivors and advocates highlight and share information that can help those dealing with the silent pain and shame to ultimately save lives. People in all communities — regardless of age, race, gender, economic status, religion or nationality — are affected by domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually. 

Jill Messing with the Arizona State University School of Social Work and Jesenia Pizarro-Terrill with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice are researching factors for intimate-partner homicide, known as IPH, in Arizona. The Arizona Intimate Partner Homicide Study examines the demographics of victims and data from law enforcement officers and medical examiners. 

In collaboration with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and the Office of Gender-Based Violence, Messing and Pizarro are highlighting their research for a social media campaign (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). The monthlong campaign will reveal preliminary findings from their study to raise awareness of the high rates of IPH, evaluate risk factors leading to homicides and spotlight community resources throughout the state. 

ASU Now spoke with Messing and Pizarro about what their research reveals about the state of domestic violence in Arizona. 

Editor's note: Each response was provided jointly by Messing and Pizarro.

Question: What is considered domestic violence and intimate-partner homicide

Answer: Domestic violence, also known as intimate-partner violence, refers to violence and other forms of abuse perpetrated against a current or former spouse or intimate partner. Women are more likely to be abused, suffer injuries and mental health consequences due to violence, and be killed by an intimate partner. When women are killed by an intimate partner, they were usually abused by that partner before the homicide.

Intimate-partner homicides are lethal events where an individual is killed by a partner or ex-partner, due to an event in their relationship.  

Q: What are some of the risk factors for intimate-partner homicide?

A: Risk factors for intimate-partner homicide include nonfatal strangulation, threats to kill, sexual violence, gun ownership, threats with a weapon and separation, among others. 

Q: Your study shows that Arizona's rate of women killed by men is consistently higher than the national average. Why might that be?

A: One reason may be high rates of gun ownership in Arizona. More than half of intimate-partner homicides are committed by a firearm and, over the past 10 years, firearm-perpetrated intimate-partner homicide has increased 26%. When a perpetrator kills his partner and then himself (called homicide-suicide), the perpetrator nearly always uses a gun. 

Q: What else does your research on intimate-partner homicide in Arizona reveal?

A: We are working on being able to understand exactly how many homicides are intimate-partner-violence-related in Arizona. We are also going to talk to family members or loved ones of the homicide victim to understand the risk factors that were present in the relationship. The last study to do this collected data in the late 1990s — so, we want to update those risk factors. For example, stalking is a risk factor for intimate-partner homicide and, today, there are many ways that perpetrators can use electronic monitoring to stalk their partner that were not available 20 years ago, so we need to learn more about that.

Q: What will your findings help accomplish?

A: The findings from our study will accomplish three goals.  

First, they will provide an accurate count of intimate-partner homicides in the state. 

Second, this research will allow us to better understand the risk factors for homicide that are specific to Arizona. Understanding risk factors for intimate-partner homicide will allow criminal justice and social service agencies to develop and refine risk-informed approaches to reduce and prevent intimate-partner homicide in Arizona. 

Finally, our findings will shed some light on some novel risk factors for intimate-partner homicides. For example, we plan to look at opioid use among victims and perpetrators of intimate-partner homicide; firearm use/ownership/possession; protective orders, including emergency, long-term, criminal, and civil; military and combat history; children killed; and multiple strangulation. 

Q: The pandemic has made life for domestic violence victims even more dangerous. What kind of trends do you expect to see for 2020, once all of the data has been collected and reviewed?

A: One of the things we would expect to see is an increase in severity of violence in the home. More specifically, we expect to see an escalation in violence, particularly in already abusive relationships, and an increase in cases of intimate-partner homicides. Related increases in other types of domestic violence, like child abuse, might also occur. 

Q: What are some of the resources for domestic violence victims in the state?

A: myPlan is an intervention that victims of domestic violence can use from the privacy of their own computer or phone. It takes the survivor through a risk assessment where they can assess their risk for homicide, a priority-setting activity where they can consider their priorities within their relationship, and provides a personalized safety plan with links to national resources. 

The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence is a statewide organization that has information and resources. 

Top photo from iStock/Getty images

Nikai Salcido

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Gen. H.R. McMaster, ASU President Michael Crow discuss America’s challenges and innovative strategies

October 8, 2020

The former national security adviser talks about his new book during virtual event hosted by the McCain Institute

On Wednesday, Gen. H.R. McMaster sat down with Arizona State University President Michael Crow to discuss McMaster's newest book, "Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World.” Their conversation was organized by ASU’s McCain Institute and was the third installment in a series examining America’s challenges and innovative strategies for solving them.

“I came with 20 questions for you,” Crow told McMaster, former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, at the beginning of their conversation. “The first question: In general, over the past 120 years, how do you think things are going?”

McMaster said that despite unprecedented progress over the past 100 years, he is not an optimist, and he explained why he is deeply concerned about what he called the current crisis in American leadership in the world. He sounded the alarm about what he sees as several existential threats confronting the United States.

“We are, at a fundamental level, in a competition between free and open societies and closed, authoritarian systems,” McMaster said. “Our present challenge is ensuring that free and open societies remain free and open societies. We need to compete effectively to ensure that our free and open societies remain secure and prosperous and can extend our influence effectively. And we retreated from this competition, to a large degree, in the 1990s because of over-optimism, and in the 2010s because of pessimism and resignation.”

McMaster believes that future American leadership in the world should instead be guided by a concept he calls “strategic competence” — the ability to integrate all of the elements of national power with the efforts of like-minded partners to compete effectively on all fronts of engagement, beyond the use of American military power.

Crow pointed out the new book's four resolutions to describe effective management of national security problems and the National Security Council:

  • Deliver optionality for national security challenges.
  • Understand the natures of the problems themselves.
  • Involve all government, not just the military.
  • No linearity, assume quantum forces.

“These four resolutions make total sense to me," Crow said. "But when I apply them to the coronavirus, I realize: We didn’t do any of them. Not one of them, relative to the coronavirus. So, I have to assume that somebody decided that global pandemics are not a national security threat. When, of course, they are.”

McMaster said that the response to the coronavirus pandemic had many shortcomings, but chief among them was that American officials ignored what was already known about the threat.

“We knew this was a threat, we knew that we had to plan for it, and we had a team dedicated to responding to it, going all the way back to President George W. Bush,” McMaster said. “And all of that was dismantled and forgotten.” 

Crow noted that this is likely not the last pandemic. 

“How do we ensure that, when we learn something, it sticks?" Crow asked the general. "How do we ensure that, no matter who is president, they can’t say, ‘Never mind, I don’t believe in any of this’?"

“Well, first of all, you have to study this most recent experience, and the shortcomings of our response, and learn from them," McMaster said. "And I am working on a study right now with some students from Stanford about what we can learn from this coronavirus pandemic, and we interviewed people from across the private and public sectors who were involved in the response and asked them about what worked and what didn’t.

“And we validated three key parts of what were in the plans. One, it’s best to stop a pandemic before it starts, at its origins. We need better global surveillance and the response to contain it. Second, you have to mobilize a biomedical response. We need effective integration, coordination and sharing of data, across the entire health system and every level of government. And the third aspect is biomedical innovation. Innovation for therapies and for vaccines. So, we know what we need to do going forward.”

Crow returned to the topic of democracy and the protection of democracy at the end of the discussion.

“We have an election coming up here in this country,” Crow said. “And what happens to our democracy if a president were to say, ‘I’m not leaving’?”

“Well, the president doesn’t get to say that,” McMaster said. “That is not something I am worried about.”  

The virtual discussion was part of the McCain Institute’s Authors and Insights book talk series, which invites authors to discuss their newly released books on American politics, policy or leadership.

Top image: A screenshot shows the virtual discussion between Gen. H.R. McMaster (left) and ASU President Michael Crow on Wednesday.