Monday, May 17, 2010

CDC Releases Surveillance for Violent Deaths - What Can We Learn?

A new CDC report — Surveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States, 2007 — summarizes data on 15,882 fatal incidents involving 16,319 deaths in 16 NVDRS states for 2007.

The majority (56.6%) of deaths were suicides, followed by homicides and deaths involving legal intervention (28.0%), deaths of undetermined intent (14.7%), and unintentional firearm deaths (0.7%). NVDRS provides a comprehensive picture of violent death by combining once fragmented pieces of information from:

• death certificates
• coroner/medical examiner report
• toxicology results
• law enforcement reports, and
• other reports related to each death.

While all of the information in the report is important, of special note are the following pieces of information for those addressing domestic violence as a workplace issue:

Intimate-Partner Homicide

• The 16 NVDRS states included in this report collected data concerning 562 incidents comprising 612 deaths of intimate-partner--related homicides that occurred during 2007.

• Of 612 homicide victims, 394 (64.4%) were female.

• Of 580 suspects, 451 (77.8%) were male.

• The highest percentages of victims and suspects (26.1% and 23.5%, respectively) were persons aged 35-44 years.

• The highest percentage (37.8%) of victims were married at the time of death.

Homicide Followed by Suicide

• The 16 NVDRS states included in this report collected data concerning 172 violent incidents that occurred during 2007 in which a homicide was followed by the suicide of the suspect.

• Of 240 homicide decedents, 174 (72.5%) were female.

• 160 (93.0%) suspects (suicide decedents) were male.

• The highest percentages of both homicide and suicide decedents were aged 35-54 years (31.7% and 49.4%, respectively).

• The majority of homicide decedents and suspects (34.7% and 32.4%, respectively) were married at the time of death (not necessarily to each other).

• 75.4% of the homicides occurred in a house or apartment and 2.1% each in a street/highway or commercial/retail area.

• Firearms were the most common (approximately 80%) method used by suspects both in committing the homicide and in subsequently killing themselves.

• Although 8.3% of persons who killed themselves following a homicide had a current depressed mood, only 3.6% were receiving mental-health treatment at the time of the fatal incident.

• Intimate-partner-relationship problems preceded homicide followed by suicide in 81.0% of suspected suicides.

• Of suspects who killed themselves, 91.1% had had a personal crisis within the preceding 2 weeks.

• Previous criminal legal problems were noted in 19.1% of suspected suicides and noncriminal problems in 3.0%; physical health or financial problems were contributing circumstances in 6.6% and 4.2% of suspected suicides, respectively; 6.0% of suicide decedents had disclosed their intent to kill themselves; and 1.8% had a history of suicide attempts.

So what does this tell us? Here is some of what we see:

When we look at homicides and domestic violence, victims are most likely female, perpetrators are most likely male, victims and suspects are in the age range of 35-44 years of age, and are more likely to be married.

In homicide-suicide, victims are overwhelmingly female, perpetrators/suicide decedents are overwhelmingly male, firearms are most likely to be used and intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly involved, the parties are most likely married, and the perpetrator/suicide decedent has experienced a personal crisis in the past two weeks. 

For a workplace this means some important things about assessing the risk for our employees involved in intimate partner violence. While these factors are not necessarily predictive, they are instructive.  They show us we should overwhelmingly understand that risk factors should be taken seriously and workplace safety assessments are important.  And not necessarily because there are a high percentage of these cases that take place at work (commercial or retail area was 2.1%)...but because when our employees' situations fal in line with these indicators, are employees are potentially in more danger.  And this is the case whether our employee is the potential victim, the potential perpetrator or the potential perpetrator/suicide decedent. 

For resources to assist you with your workplace program to keep employees safe, visit  

NOTE:  While many argue that women are as violent as men in domestic violence relationships, this CDC information on violent deaths clearly indicates that when it comes to domestic violence and homicide and homicide-suicide, women are the majority of the victims (64% in cases of homicide and 72.5% in cases of homicide-suicide).

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