They Called it a Murder/Suicide Intimate Partner Domestic Violence and Suicide: A Compound Tragedy

Posted on: Mon, 01/22/2024 - 12:56
By: Sandra McBeth, LCSW , The Zero Suicide Committee


They called it a ‘murder/suicide’.  It was on the news, social media, and in the minds of all who lived in this a small suburban town in New Jersey that I call home.  A father killed his 16-year-old son, his wife, and then himself.  This horrific event was, in fact, an act of domestic violence.

This blog was written with the intention of bringing awareness to the correlation between Intimate Partner Domestic Violence (IPDV) and Suicide. 

Suicide and domestic violence can lie within, yet are often times not explored as co-occurrences. Both are incredibly devastating, tragically impactful to one’s family and communities alike. In many cases those most closely impacted will seek counseling or therapeutic care to heal. This blog will share insight on these co-occurrences and ultimately offer awareness and resources for those struggling in a DV situation or needing to heal from exposure to a situation alike. 

When a perpetrator of domestic violence takes the life of their partner intentionally and then themselves, it is called Intimate Partner Homicide-Suicide (IPHS). IPHS accounts for an estimated 2% of suicides. Close to 600 murder-suicides happen yearly in the United States accounting for approximately 1,500 deaths. Often times these incidents involve two people in a relationship or former relationship. Meaning the two parties have since separated making the victim even more unsuspecting. Violent acts are most often perpetrated by intimate partners and evolve out of relationship dissatisfaction, substance use or mental illness. 

This compound tragedy of IPDV and suicide can be observed from the IPHS angle or from the angle in which a victim takes their life after no longer able to bare the situation taking place between themselves and their partner. The loss of life in either scenario is tragic and can impact those around the deceased with trauma and feelings of guilt. The feeling of guilt can appear as typically those dealing with a DV situation keep it private until it is too late leaving those close to the victim left with a feeling of what if. 

Help is available. Through many different resources nationally and through services offered at Center For Family Services. Mental health resources and domestic violence resources can be found by visiting our website. 

  • Center For Family Services’ SERV Program - Services Empowering Rights of Victims (SERV) offers services for children, adults, and families who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence, including case management, advocacy, counseling, safe housing, safety planning, and police and court accompaniments. 

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and needs to talk, our hotline is a free, 24-hour phone service that will pair you with a SERV advocate. 866-295-7378

  • Counseling and Behavioral Health Services can be found through Center For Family Services – Private, confidential counseling services for a variety of causes 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 

  • The 988 Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.

Anyone who reads this blog can help just by taking in this information and allowing your mind to create a space to recognize that this can be happening to your neighbor, your co-worker, your family member or perhaps even yourself.  You can ask the questions “Are you okay?” and “Are you safe?”. You may not get a direct answer in response, but you just may have planted a seed that could create movement at some point. 

One thing is for sure, that suicide and IPDV are both steeped in shame and secrecy. You can help by reaching out.  You can help just by asking the questions. In conclusion, there is a great deal of underlying and outright violence in intimate relationships, which is exacerbating the risk of suicide. 


For more information on this topic please see below a link to a study shared in 2019 published to the National Library of Medicine.



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