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Buncombe County is the safest place in the universe, with resilient communities free from domestic violence, sexual violence and child maltreatment.

Domestic Violence Homicides - Buncombe


Data Description & Source

Description: This is a count of domestic violence homicides by victim residence for Buncombe County. Domestic violence homicides are defined by homicides with the one of the following relationships between victim and perpetrator:

      • Current or former spouses
      • Persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together
      • Related as parents and children, including others acting in-loco parent is to a minor child, or as grandparents and grandchildren
      • Have a child in common
      • Current or former household members
      • Persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship (A dating relationship is one wherein the parties are romantically involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary fraternization between persons in a business or social context is not a dating relationship.)

Source: NC DOJ Domestic Violence Statistics. Available at

Story Behind the Curve

N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence released its 2011 homicide report indicating Buncombe County had one of the highest rates of domestic violence (DV) related homicides in the state. Compelled by this data, a group of cross-sector stakeholders convened and eventually formed the Women and Children's Safety Coalition, now called the Safety Coalition, to develop a coordinated strategy to address violence against the county’s women and children. They completed a service-mapping project which revealed that a family seeking help for co-occurring DV and child maltreatment must complete 65 forms and talk to 21 people in the three days following their initial contact with service providers or law enforcement. Furthermore, the family might receive varied, occasionally conflicting messages from different agencies. Using this information, the coalition is developing solutions to minimize the burden placed on survivors through streamlining the help-seeking process and creating consistent cross-system messaging. Fruits of this coalition's efforts include:

  • eNOugh Campaign to increase public awareness (launched May 2014; based on work by NC Council for Women & NC Domestic Violence Commission)
  • Lethality Assessments for first responders (implemented September 2014; based on work by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, John Hopkins University and Maryland Domestic Violence Network)
  • Mountain Child Advocacy Center (opened summer 2016)
  • Buncombe County Family Justice Center (opened August, 2016)
  • Shifts in culture--more community conversations about DV, improved service SYSTEM coordination, engaged additional partners such as faith communities, health care providers, etc., increased focus on overall wellness and moving upstream

Though Buncombe has made huge progress toward addressing domestic violence, sexual violence and child maltreatment, the coalition recognizes the challenges it still faces. The scope of the problem can be overwhelming, with the recognition that many perpetrators have high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores and rarely access mental health services. Also, community norms in several populations, including Latino communities and many faith communities (among others), still perpetuate these behaviors. Also, systemic realities, like the fact that assaults against women are currently only misdemeanors, and that more convictions are needed, persist. Finally, more resources are needed, including more interventions for perpetrators.

Buncombe County’s experience highlights several important lessons for other communities:

  • Plan for capacity issues that arise as awarenes grows and help-seeking increases.
  • Provide coalition members continued opportunities for meaningful involvement.
  • Ensure diverse participants coalesce around a shared agenda. Ms. Burgess-Johnson stresses the importance of identifying the groups’ “common denominator.” In this case, that is the belief that all people have a basic human right to safety.
  • Let the Health Department do what it does best: approach health issues and data from a broad community level, move the coalition from planning toward evidence-based solutions, spread the message to diverse constituents, and tie into key community efforts, such as poverty reduction, to ensure social and environmental determinants of health are addressed in all violence prevention strategies.
What Works

Preventing serious injury and death from intimate partner violence takes coordination, quick response, and sufficient services in place for survivors and perpetrators. Unfortunately, because of difficulties in researching this particular population/phenomenon, there are relatively few truly evidence-based interventions, but in Buncombe County, the following have been put in place:

Domestic Violence Shelter (and connected interventions): A systematic review of the literature (relying on 17 studies where outcomes were self-reports of shelter residents) notes that shelter stays are significantly related to moderately or severely battered women ending their relationships, and the more types of services residents engage in while in the shelter, the more likely they are to live independently after the stay. Women rate the most helpful aspects of shelter stay as 1) safety, 2) emotional support/counseling, and 3) housing assistance. Several studies concluded that residents' trauma-related mental health symptoms decreased from the time they entered the shelter to the time they left.

Family Justice Center: Buncombe's FJC is modeled after the San Diego Family Justice center and with consideration of FJC best practices outlined by the US Department of Justice. After a reduction of nearly 95% in domestic violence homicides over the last 15 years, the San Diego Family Justice Center is hailed as a national and international model of a comprehensive victim service and support center.

Healthcare IPV Screening & Referral:

Lethality Assessment Program: A quasi-experimental study concluded that victims who were involved with the Lethality Assessment Program were more satisfied with the police response than the comparison group, that they were more likely to engage in protective behaviors and seek community resources than members of the comparison group.

Other interventions that are promising or are based on reliable theories of change include:

  • Promoting change in community cultural norms around acceptance of violence (bystander programs, addiction services, schools, faith communities, men's groups, etc.)
  • Address ACE scores in adult DV perpetrators and survivors
  • Increase access to mental/behavioral health providers

For information on more "upstream" primary prevention strategies, please click on the IPV Community Indicator titled "Community Attitudes Toward Violence."

Action Plan

Cross-sector actions to improve survivor services and perpetrator prosecution and/or rehabilitation are ongoing, as outlined in the Coordinated Community Response, largely led by the Family Justice Center. Elements of this plan are (from Buncombe Sherrif's Office website):

  • Cross System Dialogue: improving communication within and across partner agencies to improve our response to domestic and sexual violence.
  • Community Engagement: increasing community awareness, developing skills and preventing violence.
    • The eNOugh Campaign - public education campaign aimed at increasing awareness and community engagement.
    • Primary Prevention - creating new and utilizing existing programs to prevent domestic and sexual violence in our community. Programs include Our VOICE’s Bar Outreach and Triple P
    • Community Training - from training healthcare providers how to screen for intimate partner violence to training service providers on the long term impacts of violence on children.
  • Survivor Services: improving services to victims and survivors to support their healing
    • Buncombe County Family Justice Center — co-locating and integrating victim services providers to create a comprehensive, one-stop model to meet victim needs and increase safety
  • High Risk Interventions: identifying and intervening in higher risk domestic violence situations
    • Danger Assessments — determining the level of danger an abused women has of being killed by her intimate partner
    • Lethality Assessment Program - identifying victims of domestic violence who are at the highest risk of being seriously injuring or killing partners, and immediately connecting them to the local domestic violence service program
    • High Risk Team - offender and victim interventions for situations with the highest risk of lethality
  • Offender Accountability: engaging individuals in behavior change to reduce violence
    • Batterers Intervention Programs — counseling, educating, and connecting domestic violence offenders to needed resources to stop domestic violence
    • Electronic Monitoring — court ordered monitoring of high risk offenders to improve victim
    • Focused Deterrence — working with offenders to engage in services and prevent reoffending
  • Scorecard Result Program/Strategy Community-level Indicator Performance/Shared Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R CI S PM A @System.Threading.Thread.CurrentThread.CurrentUICulture.DateTimeFormat.ShortDatePattern.ToLower().Replace("yyyy", "yy") m/d/yyyy