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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
Domestic abuse: eight-stage pattern study

Awareness of criminal behaviour is one of the key aspects of self-protection. Awareness of the dynamics of abusive relationships should certainly be included in this. This new study will therefore be of interest to all here who are also involved in self-protection instruction (as well as law-enforcement). A partner having previous history of stalking or abuse, a quickly developing relationship, and the exercise of coercive control being serious warning signs that should not be ignored.


All the best,


Men who kill their partners follow a "homicide timeline" that could be tracked by police to help prevent deaths, new research suggests.

Criminology expert Dr Jane Monckton Smith found an eight-stage pattern in 372 killings in the UK.

The University of Gloucestershire lecturer said controlling behaviour could be a key indicator of someone's potential to kill their partner …

… The eight steps she discovered in almost every killing were:

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

2) The romance developing quickly into a serious relationship

3) The relationship becoming dominated by coercive control

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

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

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

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

8) Homicide - the man kills his partner, and possibly hurts others such as the victim's children

The only instance where a stage in the model was not followed was when men did not meet stage one - but this was normally because they had not had a relationship before, she said.

… Dr Monckton Smith has taught her model to lawyers, psychologists, police forces across the country and probation officers.

She hopes that now the study has been published in the Violence Against Women Journal, the model can be rolled out more widely.

"As soon as they see it, victims and professionals are able to say, 'Oh my God, I've got a case at stage three', or 'My relationship is at stage five'," she said.

"Police have been incredibly receptive, and recognise the steps in cases they are working on, because it speaks to their experience and makes an order out of the chaos that is domestic abuse, coercive control and stalking," she added.

Dr Monckton Smith said once police learn the eight stages, they will be able to keep track of certain potential perpetrators - while victims will more easily be able to articulate to professionals what situation they are in.

She also said there should be more research into ways in which victims can leave controlling relationships safely, and into what causes people to seek control in intimate relationships.