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Many Domestic Violence-Related Deaths In Orange County May Have Been Preventable

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An Orange County Sheriff's deputy keeps a watch at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, Calif. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
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More than a decade of data analyzed by the Orange County Domestic Violence Death Review Team points to specific patterns of intimate partner abuse that often end in homicide.

A pie chart shoes the percentage of death by five causes: Gun (72%), Knife (11%), Strangulation (9%), Blunt Trauma (4%), Other (4%)
(Courtesy Orange County Domestic Violence Death Review Team)

“We did the review of each of the cases recognizing that in about half of our cases, there were known histories of domestic violence and…there could have been earlier interventions,” said Jane Stoever, team co-chair and professor at UC Irvine School of Law.

Stoever says first responders should pay attention to two major indicators: owning a gun (combined with a documented history of domestic violence) and strangulation during an assault.

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The analysis found nearly a tenth of domestic violence deaths were caused by strangulation. She says the report makes the team able to educate medical, legal and service providers about the risks of strangulation so that the effect of the abuse is not diminished.

“Far too often, when strangulation is reported, it's not taken with the seriousness that it should be,” Stoever said.

Research shows more than two thirds of abuse survivors will be victims of near-fatal strangulation by their partner, according to the report.

The team’s analysis also found that nearly three quarters of fatalities involved guns. Stoever says that too often the laws for gun retrieval and surrender ownership have implementation gaps.

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“These areas are left to the honor system,” she said. “Once there's a finding of domestic violence and to be able to work with our law enforcement with our courts to be able to follow through on the laws and actually carry out, then the law is incredibly important and life saving in these domestic violence cases.”

Access to firearms at home increases fatality rates in domestic violence cases by 500% nationally.

Stoever says the data proves the need for more investment in counseling, emergency and long term housing, and legal assistance for people experiencing domestic violence.

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