• Claire Verney

Do you know the 8 Step Timeline in Domestic Abuse Homicides?

With an increase in domestic abuse homicides being reported across the globe, a light has been shed upon a crime that in 'normal' times causes the death of 2 women a week in the UK. But coronavirus does not cause domestic homicides, abusers do. This post explains the 8 step timeline that typically precedes domestic abuse homicides.

Many believe that the recent spike in the number of domestic homicides is due to a rise in one-off incidents brought about the extraordinary times we are living in. However, a 2018 study into perceived links between football and domestic abuse demonstrated that it is more likely due to families living permanently at close quarters with an increase in the frequency and the type of abuse that already existed in the relationship.

It is critical that we understand that the increase in violence and homicide is not because more men are becoming abusive or violent it is that women who were already suffering from abuse are being attacked by their partners more often. Forensic criminologist and University of Gloucestershire lecturer, Dr Jane Monckton Smith, explained the spike in fatalities as follows:

“Lockdown means that people who were already controlling and abusing their partners are now even more controlling and volatile. The lockdown has not created abuse, it has just made it more visible and dangerous” - Dr Jane Monckton Smith

In research published last year, Intimate Partner Femicide Timeline, Dr Monckton Smith reviewed 372 domestic violence killings in the UK which showed an 8 stage timeline of events before a homicide takes place.

The 8 step timeline in domestic homicides

To conduct her study, she looked at all cases on the Counting Dead Women website where the woman had had a relationship with the perpetrator. The eight steps she discovered in almost all of the 372 killings she studied were:

  • A pre-relationship history of stalking or abuse by the perpetrator

  • The romance developing quickly into a serious relationship

  • The relationship becoming dominated by coercive control

  • A trigger to threaten the perpetrator's control - for example, the relationship ends or the perpetrator gets into financial difficulty

  • Escalation - an increase in the intensity or frequency of the partner's control tactics, such as by stalking or threatening suicide

  • The perpetrator has a change in thinking - choosing to move on, either through revenge or by homicide

  • Planning - the perpetrator might buy weapons or seek opportunities to get the victim alone

  • Homicide - the perpetrator kills his or her partner, and possibly hurts others such as the victim's children

You can download the research in full here

Assessing risk

The Coronavirus crisis lockdown poses a myriad of problems for victims including a lack of opportunities to gain help, reduced contact with support systems and a much higher risk of fatal violence. Paying attention to the factors associated with increased risk and lethality can provide an early warning about cases that require more resources and specialised expertise.

Whilst a history of violence or physical aggression in a relationship is a strong predictor for future assaults, individual acts of violence rarely occur in isolation and are more usually part of a pattern of ongoing physical aggression. It is, therefore, more important, when considering domestic violence risk assessment, to take a full account of the range of physical aggression and abuse rather than just the high-risk incidents.

With regards to coercive control, a high proportion of male abusers subject their partners to coercive control, using a range of behaviours which are more likely than other forms of non-physical abuse to lead to re-assault. Children living in a tense and abusive environment fostered by coercive control can suffer significant effects, so non-violent forms of abuse must also be considered when assessing risk.

To find out more about why only domestic abuse experts should be used for domestic abuse cases please visit our post here and also how DV-ACT assessments are used to safeguard children in care proceedings.


The Coronavirus guidance section of this website gives further assistance on how to help families living with domestic abuse, including; completing safety planning with families, completing emergency safety planning with perpetrators, and keeping victims safe when using video calling.

DV-ACT experts are continuing to work throughout the Coronavirus pandemic as usual and are available to discuss cases and complete assessments on both victims and perpetrators. Visit our post how are DV-ACT completing assessments during coronavirus crisis to find out how we are currently working.

Helplines and online support

National Domestic Violence Helpline 24/7 – 0808 2000 247

Womens Aid online help for female victims (Monday to Friday 10:00am - 4:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-12:00pm) - https://chat.womensaid.org.uk

999 silent solution - when 999 is called, if the caller is unable to speak they need to press 55, but there is a procedure that needs to be followed and the limitations of this need to be made clear -https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/research-learning/Silent_solution_guide.pdf

About us

DV-ACT are a team of domestic abuse experts, available throughout the UK, providing domestic and sexual abuse assessments, consultancy and training to local authorities and the family courts. 

Our experts have decades of experience working directly with domestic abuse perpetrators and victims, as specialist assessors and as expert witnesses in the family courts.

​DV-ACT was formed with the aim of using our expertise to help safeguard children from abuse, this is at the heart of everything that we do.


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