Hopkins partners with VA to offer free training on 'gold standard' risk assessment tool for intimate partner violence

The Danger Assessment, created by Johns Hopkins professor Jacquelyn Campbell, is used to determine the risk of an abused woman to be injured or killed by her intimate partner

An instrument that assesses the risk of intimate partner violence is now being offered to all Veterans Administration clinical staff, thanks to a licensing agreement between the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the VA.

Jacquelyn Campbell

Image caption: Jacquelyn Campbell

Created by Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Professor Jacquelyn Campbell in 1986, the Danger Assessment includes a calendar assessing the frequency and severity of battering in the past year and a 20-item questionnaire that uses a weighted system to score yes/no responses to risk factors associated with intimate partner violence and homicide. Factors include past death threats and partner's employment status and access to a gun.

While the assessment is freely available to the public, the weighted scoring instructions are reserved for individuals who have been trained and certified. Online training and certification typically costs $150 per person but is now offered for free for all VA clinical staff.

"The VA recognizes the Danger Assessment as the gold standard of lethality assessments," says LeAnn Bruce, national program manager of the VA's Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program. "This training partnership will result in the development of a cadre of clinicians throughout all VA medical centers who are extensively trained to effectively support the mission to provide ongoing education and have the means to identify those who are at risk so safety planning and intervention can be provided."

In November, Campell led a training session on how to use the assessment tool at the VA offices in Baltimore. More than 800 members of the VA's clinical staff attended or livestreamed the session, which was recorded and posted on the organization's internal training system. VA employees will be able to access Campbell's training to obtain certification and increase the number of staff competent in the use of this evidence-based tool.

Research comparing the prevalence of domestic violence/intimate partner violence between the general population and veterans is limited, but Campbell notes that studies suggest combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD have a higher prevalence of intimate partner violence than those who have not been diagnosed. The possibility of incorporating the Danger Assessment into VA training became a reality in recent years after the VA launched the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program and began to implement routine screening for such violence.

"It's just an awesome opportunity," she says.

Bruce says the concern with intimate partner violence among veterans is not just about the prevalence but also with its potential to exacerbate other problems that veterans face, including physical and mental well-being, homelessness, and risk of suicide and homicide.

"We recognize that helping veterans secure and maintain safe, healthy relationships also helps to reduce a variety of other negative consequences," she says. "We are committed to ensuring that our staff are well trained to screen, assess, and offer early intervention, support, and safety planning."

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures handled the licensing agreement between the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the VA.