About the Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT) Model

Research has shown that many intimate partner homicides are predictable; and the JGCC believes that if they are predictable, they are preventable. The DVHRT Model leverages that predictability by incorporating research-based risk assessment into a community's domestic violence response system to identify the most dangerous cases. These cases are monitored by a multidisciplinary team that shares case information and implements coordinated intervention plans to mitigate the danger.  Our nationally recognized model focuses on increasing both victim safety and offender accountability while closing systemic gaps.


Domestic violence incidents that result in homicide represent a small percentage of cases overall but present a significant threat to the entire community - the intended victim, family members, and first responders. By focusing on the highest risk cases, a DVHRT intervenes in incidents with the most severe potential consequences while strengthening the entire response system.


In addition to bringing partner agencies together and ensuring that risk assessment information is shared across system partners, the DVHRT Model maintains a victim-centered focus in several ways: DVHRTs are led by the community’s local domestic violence agency;  social service and criminal justice agencies provide an enhanced response to both victims and offenders; and the model helps communities offer a socially just alternative to shelter for those victims who cannot or will not enter shelter.


The systems set up to respond to domestic violence - victim services, law enforcement, prosecution, probation, parole, corrections and court ordered batterer intervention programs -  often operate separately and have limited ability to transfer case specific information. This lack of cohesion creates gaps, and it is within those gaps that the homicides occur. The DVHRT creates a mechanism for the transfer of critical information in the most dangerous cases and provides a practical forum to identify and close systemic gaps. This serves to improve the quality and cohesion of the entire domestic violence prevention and response system.


Research tells us who is at greatest risk of being killed by an intimate partner and when their risk is highest. Victims in the process of leaving a relationship or pursuing a legal separation are at highest risk, particularly in the first 3 months. Studies have also determined that the majority of victims, perpetrators (up to 83% of the cases), or both, had contact with criminal justice, victim assistance, and/or health care agencies in the year prior to the homicide.* This indicates that multiple opportunities for prevention exist in which victims at risk can be identified through risk assessment and offered appropriate intervention.

How the DVHRT Model Works

The DVHRT Model is designed to impact the following three areas: (1) victim safety, (2) offender accountability, and (3) the domestic violence response system. The model is grounded in the work of Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, a leader in the research of intimate partner homicide. Dr. Campbell's research has demonstrated that the escalation of domestic violence to lethal levels often follows predictable patterns with predictable indicators.

The DVHRT Model is a framework composed of four fundamental strategies:

1. Risk Assessment

Early identification of high-risk cases through the use of risk assessment is key to the successful operation of a DVHRT. Domestic Violence Agencies and Law Enforcement - as DVHRT partner organizations - incorporate research-based risk assessment tools into their current response. Domestic Violence Agencies adopt Dr. Campbell's Danger Assessment Tool and, as best practice, Law Enforcement Agencies adopt the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement (DA-LE). Cases identified as high-risk using these assessment tools are referred to the DVHRT.

2. Multidisciplinary Team

The DVHRT is led or co-led by a non-governmental domestic violence agency with core partner organizations  from law enforcement, prosecution, probation, a pretrial assessment agency (where applicable), parole, and corrections. The DVHRT should have partner organization membership that is adequately representative  and inclusive of the community demographics and make up. When possible, the court-ordered batterer's treatment program and community heath care center(s) and/or emergency department(s) are also partner organizations. To interrupt the continuing escalation of violence and prevent a lethal or near-lethal assault, information gathered by the partner organizations concerning a case, including risk assessment, is shared within the DVHRT and used to develop individualized intervention plans with each individual organization deciding what role they can play that will increase the victim’s safety and hold the offender accountable.

3. Ongoing Monitoring and Management

The information collected and shared by team partner organizations informs their decision making as they act outside the team concerning issues such as criminal charges, bail, and conditions of release. This is especially important during the pretrial phase of the case and experienced DVHRT members, through a common language of risk assessment, are better prepared to manage high-risk cases even outside the confines of the team.

​4. Victim Services

Research tells us that only 4% of victims who have been killed by an intimate partner had ever availed themselves of the services of a domestic violence service provider.  The ability to provide comprehensive victim services is a critical protective strategy in intimate partner homicide prevention.

How the DVHRT Model Changes Your System

A community that implements the DVHRT Model experiences several positive changes both immediately and over time:

  • Victims at highest risk are offered socially just alternatives to shelter.
  • The quality of the system response to domestic violence improves with the adoption of research-based risk assessment. 
  • Communication between key response agencies improves as risk factors are more widely understood.
  • Gaps in the system response become evident and easily identified through information sharing and data collection.
  • As high-risk cases are identified, homicides and re-assaults decrease.

Please visit Impact for more information about the impact a Domestic Violence High Risk Team can have on your community.

About the Domestic Violence High Risk Team

The DVHRT holds regularly scheduled meetings, at least once every month, to accept new cases, review the status of current cases, and oversee active intervention plans.  In emergency cases that arise between meetings, the team has a fast-track process for case acceptance and intervention planning.

During these meetings the team shares risk assessment and other relevant information among partner organizations concerning identified high-risk cases of intimate partner violence. Partner organizations update the team during meetings on their follow-up actions, case activity, and any other relevant information they have on ongoing cases.

The DVHRT tracks data from each high-risk case, including criminal justice outcomes, which is used to report results back to the community. The report acts as a snapshot of the domestic violence response system, indicating improvements and identifying gaps that prevent the best possible outcome.

For more information on Domestic Violence High Risk Teams, please visit Start a Domestic Violence High Risk Team.


♦ This project was supported by Grant No. 2014-TA-AX-K032 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.  The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.