Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Outcomes, Issues, and Future Directions


The coordinating bodies and the advocates' efforts have created open communication among all the players. Previously, people were unaware of problems and, therefore, were unable to respond to issues that arose. Now everyone has a better understanding of how their actions and behavior affects others in the system and the system as a whole. Before the coordinated effort began, people were reluctant to do anything about domestic violence because they thought that even if they did (i.e., make an arrest, prosecute, put in jail, etc.) the system would break down at the next step (i.e., they would not get prosecuted, the judge would let them off, etc.). However, the multiple coordinating committees with related and overlapping missions at address domestic violence or violence more broadly may lead to duplication of efforts.

Though much work has been done and many policies have been changed and informal agreements made, the system is far from perfect. Many law enforcement officers, prosecutors, probation officers, and judges within Carlton County have changed their attitudes about and responses to domestic violence. However, some agencies have improved more than others and some individuals within agencies have improved more than others. Ongoing training is necessary to reinforce Carlton County's response to domestic violence.

The length of probation causes a problem for compliance with court orders. The standard sentence is one year probation, and many offenders must first complete substance abuse treatment before attending the batterer intervention program. Since the groups are not open-ended, an offender may have to wait several weeks for a new group to start after enrolling. If an offender waits to enroll, his probation period may end before he has completed all of the terms, including the batterer intervention program. Lengthening the standard probation period or developing an ongoing program that a probationer can begin at any point would help to ensure that all of the orders can be completed within the probation period.

The RBC is committed to working with MSH and addressing domestic violence on Fond du Lac. It supports a women's advocate at Min No Aya Win in the Human Services Center to work with the larger domestic violence community. It has taken some time for the reservation- based service providers and the service providers in the rest of the county to begin to work together. The women's advocate has recently started attending the Non-Violence Council and the Domestic Abuse group meetings. There has also been movement to open a safe house. These efforts on the part of the reservation are viewed as positive by the outside domestic violence community.

Transportation is a major problem in a rural area where things are very spread out and some services are not available in the immediate area. Victims must travel to Duluth for shelter services, which is at least 30 miles away and may be difficult if the victim does not have a car (or if the car is controlled by her batterer). Offenders whose licenses are suspended for DWI may also have difficulty attending the intervention groups if they live in isolated areas of the county. To address problems in the rural community, a judge suggested cellular phones to enable isolated women to call for help. Funds for transportation would also be helpful.