Three things you need to understand to keep you and your children safe when you’re thinking of leaving 3 risks of murder Clare Murphy PhDMen who murder their female partners are often motivated by a need to save face by regaining a sense of power and control if the woman threatens to leave, or does leave. Many mental health and legal professionals do not take women’s experience of psychological abuse and control seriously. But men’s perpetration of psychological abuse against female partners is serious. Very controlling men pose a very serious danger to women who threaten to leave or do leave. Jacquelyn Campbell PhD devised the Danger Assessment Instrument to aid in assessing the level of risk to women for being murdered by their controlling partner. One of the risk factors noted in this instrument includes whether the woman had left her partner after living together during the previous year.

1. Pattern of Coercively Controlling behaviours are a risk of future violence or murder

There are several signs of psychologically abusive and controlling behaviours listed in Campbell’s Danger Assessment Instrument. These include: whether the man has threatened to kill the woman or harm her children; whether he has ever forced the woman to have sex against her will; whether he has a history of controlling her activities, who she sees, how much money she can use and when she can use the car; whether he has spied on her, left her threatening notes, made unwanted phone calls or left threatening phone messages; whether he has destroyed her property; and, whether he has displayed constant jealousy saying things like, “If I can’t have you, no one can.”

2. Other factors that can place a woman at risk of murder

Other risk factors listed on Campbell’s Danger Assessment Instrument include whether physical violence increased in severity or frequency over the previous year; whether the man owns a gun; if he has previously used a weapon against the woman or threatened her with a lethal weapon; whether he has previously tried to choke her or has beaten her while pregnant; whether he has avoided being arrested for domestic violence; whether he is unemployed; whether the woman has a child that is not his; whether he uses illegal drugs or is an alcoholic or problem drinker. Another two factors include whether the man has threatened or tried to commit suicide and whether the woman has previously threatened or tried to commit suicide.

3. Women’s perceptions of risk must be taken seriously

Several research studies have found that an important source of assessing whether the woman is in danger of being murdered by her partner is whether the woman believes he is capable of killing her. Jacquelyn Campbell PhD importantly includes this question in her Danger Assessment Instrument. If you know a woman is afraid for her life you must take her fear seriously and help her devise a safety plan. Research shows that women can accurately assess whether their partner will use physical violence, whether he will psychologically abuse her in the future, and whether he will kill her. However, women are not always accurate. Some women minimise the psychological abuse and physical violence that their partner uses, therefore may minimise future risk. If you, as a professional, friend, or family member believe the woman might be in danger, it is important that you use a risk assessment instrument with her to check for any signs of possible danger. Jacquelyn Campbell’s Danger Assessment Instrument can be downloaded for free from her website, along with her permission statement and guidelines for the use of the Instrument. You will see on her website that she recommends that people seek training from her to enhance safe and adequate use of the Instrument. The correct use of the instrument is vital.


This blog post must not be used to gauge risk to women. The purpose of this post is to name some of the issues and guide you to Jacquelyn Campbell PhD’s website at . . . The use of any risk instrument should always be used in conjunction with women’s perceptions. Campbell’s Instrument does this.


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Clare Murphy PhD is the founder of SpeakOutLoud. Her website is dedicated to providing in-depth research about coercive control and psychological abuse. Clare mentors, supervises and trains professionals to recognise and work safely with domestic violence. She offers one-on-one counselling and consultation to those who are ready to make sense of coercive control and abuse, and to Grow and Flourish Beyond Trauma.