Murder-suicide in New Hampshire Raises Questions Regarding Policy and Practice
August 12, 2013
Statement by Mary R. Lauby, Executive Director, Jane Doe Inc.
The tragic murder and suicide at a visitation center in New Hampshire is a stark reminder of the dangerousness when the risk factors of domestic violence homicide are not well understood by those involved in making decisions regarding child custody and visitation, and are not front and center in terms of policy and practice.
While we do not have all the information of the circumstances leading up to this murder-suicide, the reports that this man made threats to kill his wife and his child ring loud and clear. Whenever someone has made specific threats to kill, nothing like supervised visitation or any other contact should be allowed much less endorsed by the courts. The research on risks associated with intimate partner related homicide/suicide, as well as the collective experience of domestic violence advocates on this point is indisputable. In what other situation would we tolerate or think it makes sense to put people in the presence of someone who have threatened to kill them?
Every day victims of domestic violence and their children are forced to remain in or return to untenable and unsafe situations with those who abuse and control them. Supervised visitation services, when used appropriately, can provide domestic violence victims with a safe way to comply with custody and visitation arrangements with an abusive co-parent. For these services to be conducted safely, everyone involved must be trained to identify risk factors associated with the perpetrator's behavior that could indicate an increased risk of lethality. Coordinating support services for survivors and accountability measures for offenders must be an integral part of any and all domestic violence services, including supervised visitation.