About the Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT) Model

Research has shown that intimate partner domestic violence homicides are often predictable; and if they’re predictable, they’re preventable. The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center's Domestic Violence High Risk Team (DVHRT) Model leverages that predictability by incorporating evidence-based risk assessment into a community’s domestic violence response system to identify cases at high risk of lethality.  Once identified, individual cases are then monitored by a multidisciplinary team that shares case information and implements case-specific intervention plans to mitigate the danger. Our nationally recognized model focuses on increasing both victim safety and offender accountability.


Domestic violence incidents that result in homicide represent a small percentage of cases but present the most significant threat to the entire community—the intended victim, family members, and first responders. By focusing on the highest risk cases, the DVHRT intervenes in incidents with the most severe potential consequences while improving the quality and cohesion of the entire domestic violence prevention and 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 and the availability of comprehensive Domestic Violence services is essential for the Model to work effectively.  Additionally, 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 program—often operate separately and have limited ability to transfer case specific information. This lack of cohesion creates gaps, and it is in 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.


The DVHRT 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. With that, Dr. Campbell developed the Danger Assessment as a tool to determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner.

How the DVHRT Model Works

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

1. Early Identification

Early identification of high-risk cases through risk assessment is key to the successful operation of a DVHRT. The DVHRT Model uses two tools to identify high-risk cases, both of which are derived from Dr. Campbell’s research.  Domestic Violence Agencies adopt the Danger Assessment Tool and Law Enforcement Agencies adopt the Risk Screen for First Responders. 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-profit, nongovernmental domestic violence agency with core partners from law enforcement, prosecution, probation (or pretrial assessment agency), parole, and corrections. When possible, a court-ordered batterer intervention program and hospital may also participate on the team. To interrupt the continuing escalation of violence and prevent a lethal assault, information gathered by the partners concerning a case, including risk assessment, is shared across team disciplines and used to develop individualized intervention plans with each individual agency deciding what role they can play that will increase the victim’s safety and hold the offender accountable.

3. ŽIndividual Agency Response

The information collected and shared by team partners informs decision making by those partner agencies 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.

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 routine risk assessment as risk factors are more widely understood.
  • Communication between key response agencies improves.
  • Gaps in the system response become evident and easily identified through information sharing and data collected on DVHRT performance and outcomes.
  • As high-risk cases are identified, homicides and re-assaults decrease.

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

About the Domestic Violence High Risk Team

The DVHRT holds regularly scheduled meetings, usually 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 agencies concerning identified high-risk cases of intimate partner violence. Partner agencies 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. 2012-TA-AX-K008 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.  The opinions, findings, conclusions and receommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Deparment of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.