Can we stop domestic violence before it turns to murder?

Holding Hands

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While Donald Trump, who has his own history of credible allegations of violence towards women, is whining about how it’s unfair to hold men accountable for domestic abuse, a group of women in Massachusetts are fighting to save women’s lives, one community at a time. In the early 2000s, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, a domestic violence shelter that serves a series of small towns in northeastern Massachusetts, developed an innovative program to prevent domestic homicide by targeting situations where abusive men showed signs that they might turn to lethal violence.

The program worked well and now the center is fundraising in hopes of teaching other communities how to use some or all of its program to prevent homicide in their own communities. With this approach, leaders of the Geiger Center also hope to help reshape the public understanding of domestic violence. They advocate for more focus on helping survivors not just escape violent situations but also get their lives back on track, and clearly putting the responsibility on abusers, not victims, to stop the abuse.

“We all read those stories that happen almost every day in our country about domestic violence homicides,” Suzanne Dubus, CEO of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, told Salon, meaning cases “where there’s a ton of history and the police know this guy’s dangerous and he goes and kills his wife and kids” — and often, as in the Texas church shootings last year, kills innocent bystanders as well. “We’re always jumping up and down on the sidelines going, wait a minute, there is a solution,” she said.

That solution is the Domestic Violence High Risk Team: A coalition of representatives from the shelter, law enforcement, health care providers, prosecutors and courts who meet regularly and share information about ongoing domestic violence situations in the community. As Rachel Louise Snyder detailed in the New Yorker in 2013, the group keeps dibs on abusers and their targets, monitoring the situation for signs that the abuser is escalating towards one of the many explosive acts of violence that leads to the deaths, on average, of three women every day in the United States.

The Violence Against Women Act, first passed in 1994, has led to a dramatic decline in both domestic violence and homicide, and the Obama administration made fighting violence against women a priority. But with a professed sexual assailant in the White House, top-down approaches can’t be

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