The Danger Signs
Signs that someone is in danger of being killed by their partner are often missed by friends, family and others until it is too late.
- Controlling behaviour
- Threats to kill
- Strangulation and 'choking'
- Worsening violence – more severe, more frequent
- Intense jealousy or possessiveness
These danger signs are either not seen, or dismissed as not serious - yet we know that certain signs mean that a victim is highly likely to be killed by her partner. We all need to know these danger signs so we can keep people safe.
Each incident or episode may not seem serious on its own. A pattern of controlling behaviour will become obvious over time.
About half the homicides in NZ each year are family violence related. One woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every month. About half of those victims will be murdered during or following separation from their partner.
Never assume that a victim is safe because she is planning to leave or has just left a violent relationship. Victims commonly underestimate the danger they are in believing “I can handle it”.
Friends and family who have lost someone in a domestic violence death often noticed a change in the victim’s personality:
- “She was different around him”
- “She couldn’t make any decisions”
- “She became quiet and withdrawn”
The behaviours listed below are danger signs. If someone is using one or more of these, the victim is in real danger and needs urgent help:
- Coercive control – behaviour used to control and frighten a partner. Coercive control takes many different forms. A controlling person will use a variety of tactics to make their partner do what they want. Some examples are:
- telling a partner what to wear, who to see, when to be home
- controlling finances
- limiting or controlling contact with friends and family
- Intimidation – behaviour to scare a partner such as
- stand-over tactics
- driving fast, sharpening knives, smashing holes in the wall, coming close with a fist, standing close and shouting in her face
- threats to kill their partner or themselves. A controlling person may threaten to kill themselves to make someone do what they want saying “you’ll be guilty” "it’ll be your fault when I’m dead”
Mark Longley (father)
- Strangulation/"choking" – putting hands around someone’s neck is an attempt to kill by cutting off their air supply.
- Increasing physical and sexual violence:
- the violence increases in severity
- the violence happens more frequently
Karen Edwards (mother)
- Violently and constantly jealous – ‘owning’ their partner. This includes:
- not letting a partner talk to other men
- accusing a partner of cheating on them
- deciding who they will talk to and spend time with
John McGrath (brother)
- physical stalking
- stalking on social media such as gaining access to Facebook, looking in a person’s phone, reading their messages
David White (father)
These signs are deadly serious. One or a cluster of these behaviours towards a partner mean that she is at risk of being killed.
The risk increases during or following separation. Don’t assume a victim is safe because she is planning to leave or has just left a violent relationship, many murders happen at this time.
If you know someone this is happening to don’t ignore it. Do NOT let the victim be alone with the violent partner.
If this is happening to you, get help immediately.
- Contact Police on 111 or the Police Family Violence Coordinator in your district
- Contact a crisis service – phone the It’s not OK information line on 0800 456 450
- Help others to know and recognise the danger signs
- Support both victims and perpetrators to get help.
Take action – you may be the only one who does.
Trust your gut!
“Looking back you will kick yourself forever that you didn’t do more” (friend of murdered woman).
This information is gendered in language to emphasise that deaths related to intimate partner violence are mostly due to men killing female partners (or ex-partners). Where men are killed in family violence, a male relative is usually responsible.
Who to contact for help
If you are concerned about violence, there are people who can help, including the Police on 111:
See our free resources section for ordering:
The Danger Signs brochure (packs of 25)
The Danger Signs A2 Poster (packs of 10)
The Danger Signs A2 Poster (single poster)
The Danger Signs A4 Poster (packs of 10)
The Danger Signs A4 Poster (single poster)