Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Changing the Environment


Over the past two decades, there has been a dramatic shift among the professions that deal with domestic violence and the community-at-large. Many people felt that this was an important factor in their community's ability to implement changes in their response to domestic violence and to make these changes a permanent part of the way the community addresses domestic violence.

The domestic violence field has seen a growing professionalism among criminal justice agencies and service providers around this issue. For example, in general, law enforcement officers are less likely to suggest that a batterer "walk around the block" than they would have been twenty years ago. Because of changes in the law and better education about the dynamics of domestic violence, police are more likely to arrest an offender. In many communities, standard policies and practices have changed to improve the way people routinely respond to domestic violence as part of their jobs.

This has been reinforced by domestic violence training for professionals in many fields. Ongoing training is important to maintain the improvements over time by reinforcing the protocol for these cases and keeping awareness raised about this issue. Ongoing training is also necessary to maintain the improvements because turnover among people working in the domestic violence field tends to be high. Also, while some people in an agency have "gotten the message" about domestic violence, there are others who could benefit from additional training.

Changing community norms about domestic violence also contributed to the stability of the community's response. Shifting public attitudes have made some communities much less tolerant of domestic violence and of weaknesses in the community's response. Several communities were actively involved in public awareness campaigns to raise awareness about this issue. San Diego's DV Council recently launched a major public awareness campaign that includes billboards and bus kiosk posters. Including the community as part of the overall response is a strategy used in some sites. In San Francisco, the Family Violence Prevention Fund has several effort designed to mobilize communities to be part of the domestic violence response. For example, one project seeks to reframe cultural norms within the Filipino community through culturally-appropriate messages. The goal of these efforts is to promote community sanctions for domestic violence.