Weapons are ‘red flag’ for repeat domestic abuse

"The presence of weapons in the home is also a red flag for the women themselves and the counselors who deal with domestic violence," says Amy Bonomi. (Credit: "warning sign" via Shutterstock)

Women are up to 83 percent more likely to experience repeat abuse by their male partners if a weapon is used in the initial abuse incident, according to a new study with implications for victims, counselors, and police.

Michigan State University researcher Amy Bonomi and colleagues studied the domestic abuse police reports of nearly 6,000 couples in Seattle during a two-year period. An estimated one in four women in the United States experiences domestic violence at least once in their lifetime.


Because previous research showed that domestic abuse is more common in poor urban neighborhoods, the researchers expected to find that repeat violence could be predicted by where the couple lived.

But that wasn’t the case. Instead, the main predictor of ongoing domestic violence was the use of a knife, gun, or even a vehicle in the first incident.

In those cases, women were 72 percent more likely to make follow-up calls to police for physical abuse and 83 percent more likely to call for nonphysical abuse—such as a partner threatening to kill them.

“What this is telling police is that they are likely to be called back to this particular residence if a weapon is involved the first time they are called out,” says Bonomi, chairperson and professor in the department of human development and family studies. “It’s an indication of the danger and severity of abuse over time.”

“The presence of weapons in the home,” she adds, “is also a red flag for the women themselves and the counselors who deal with domestic violence.”

The study appears online in the research journal Violence Against Women. Co-authors of the study contributed from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle; the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch at the National Cancer Institute; and the University of Washington.

Source: Michigan State University