Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Evaluating the Impact of Coordinated Community Response


There are several levels on which these efforts to coordinate community responses to domestic violence could be assessed or evaluated. The first is similar to what we have done in this study—conduct a qualitative assessment of system change, system gaps, and system opportunities by talking to key stakeholders, understanding the history of actions in the community, and gathering everyone's subjective sense of how things have changed. Beyond such qualitative assessments, one could also articulate several goals that would have been the underlying motivation for coordinating efforts and see what types of data one would need before one could say with confidence that the goals had been achieved or performance toward them had improved. Among these motivations were the desire:

  • to make the various systems work faster, better, more smoothly, and less painfully for victims;
  • to assure that victims receive the services they need;
  • to assure victim safety; and
  • to assure that batterers are held accountable (arrested, charged, in compliance with court orders) and/or stop being violent, threatening, or otherwise abusive.

None of the communities we visited have data systems in place to gather information that would reflect progress toward any of these goals. The State of Minnesota will come close to one part of the first goal when its automated statewide court tracking system is in place (which either has already happened or is imminent). This system will let judges know about other pending and completed court actions (civil and criminal, all court levels) involving either of the principals in a domestic violence case, wherever such actions occur within the state. But even this system will not start with arrest or a protection order and follow the case through the system. Therefore it will not be possible to use the system to reflect on speed, proportion of cases reaching different stages in the system, or whether victims find the system to be "better for them."

Several communities are working on developing new systems. In San Diego, the DV Council is developing a system to be used by victim services providers which would speak to the issue of getting victims the services they need. In Carlton County, a community council on non- violence involving law enforcement, criminal justice, advocates, and schools is working on a system where the first agency that comes into contact with a violent incident reports it on a standard form into a central data bank. This system would cover both domestic violence and other forms of violence, and would serve to document levels of violence in the community, of various forms, known to any agency participating in the system. To our knowledge, none of the communities we visited did systematic assessments of victim satisfaction with services, of victim safety after system contact, or of the effectiveness of batterer intervention programs except by batterer self-report.

Clearly, the status of data gathering and evaluative information in these communities indicates massive gaps. The development and distribution of even minimal performance monitoring protocols for these systems would be an extremely useful contribution to communities seeking feedback about whether their efforts are having the desired effects, and certainly to assure that they were not having perverse or negative effects.