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EDITORIAL: All of Pa. needs domestic violence screening

York Dispatch

Sixty-nine percent.

When police officers take five to 10 minutes at the scene of a domestic-violence incident to ask the victim 11 questions, 69 percent are found to be at high risk of being killed, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Alecia Armold, left, and Karen Kuykendall Nordsick attend a press conference Aug. 8, 2017, by state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, who urged the passage of House Bill 175, which would require all Pennsylvania police departments to use the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) in PA, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.  Armold's mother, Barb Schrum, and Nordsick's sister, Laurie Kuykendall, were murdered by Laurie's estranged husband in 2015. 
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

Police in 43 counties around the state now use the 11 questions in the Lethality Assessment Program to help victims of domestic violence  see how much risk they are taking by staying with their abusers.

The questions ask about threats with or without weapons, threats to kill the victim or their children, violence against the victim and other behaviors. 

In York County, officers have asked the 11 questions 1,773 times since the LAP was adopted here in 2012, according to the PCADV. The only county with more screenings is Allegheny. 

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If a victim has a high risk of being killed, the officer will call a domestic-violence hotline, and the victim has the option of talking to the advocate, and then the person has another option to access the program's services immediately.

Since 2012, 27 percent of domestic-violence victims in Pennsylvania who have gone through the Lethality Assessment screening with police have taken the next step to stop the abuse and gotten help, according to PCADV.

That's more than 3,800 people across the state who took themselves out of situations where they could have been killed, thanks to 11 questions.

"That's a success," said Lois Fasnacht, LAP program manager and training specialist for PCADV.

In York County, domestic homicides are down in the past few years, and there have been none so far in 2018, according to Coroner Pam Gay. 

Karen Kuykendall Nordsick keeps some of sister Laurie Kuykendall Kepner's ashes in a silver and mother-of-pearl necklace.

It's been nearly three years since one of York County's most high-profile incidents of domestic violence, when Laurie Kuykendall and Barbara Schrum were killed by Kuykendall's estranged husband, who then took his own life.

State Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, introduced a bill last year which, if passed, will become Laurie's and Barbara's Law in honor of those women. 

The bill would require all police departments in the state, including the state police, to implement the Lethality Assessment Program.

When a program shows these results in getting people out of potentially fatal situations, we can't see why police departments wouldn't jump at the chance to use it or why legislators would hesitate to require police to use it. 

In 256 police departments in 43 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, officers take the time to ask these questions and get help for victims of domestic violence. It's time to expand that to every department in every county.

Sisters Alecia Armold (left) and Becky Schrum started a nonprofit organization called The Hope Shoppe after their mother, Barb Schrum, was murdered.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, help is available. In York County, call Access-York at 717-846-5400 in York or 717-637-2235 in Hanover, or go to www.ywcayork.org.

Laurie Kuykendall Kepner
Barbara Schrum