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


The obvious strengths of the service and support system for domestic violence on the Range are Minnesota's progressive laws on the issue, strong local awareness of the issue and willingness to treat it seriously, and the cooperation in evidence among the many agencies and organizations involved in the system. The gaps in the system include, for the criminal justice system, the behavior of many local prosecutors on the Range. For the overall system of services for battered women, gaps include adequate affordable housing, legal services (for civil issues), workplace recognition and action, involvement of emergency rooms and other medical settings in recognizing domestic violence and responding appropriately, and the involvement of clergy on the issue.

RWA and RIP have been around for so long in this community, and coordination has been the "treatment of choice" almost from the beginning, that it was difficult for the people we interviewed to separate out the effects of coordination from the effects of legal changes, the retirement of older, resistant members of many agencies and organizations, and the general passage of time. Most people attributed significant impact to the legal changes that made mandatory a lot of the "good practice" things that RWA and other advocates around the state had been trying to establish. RWA's education efforts, and especially the training work of RWA and others (e.g., required judicial training) with police, probation, and judges, appears to have changed the attitudes of these actors "drastically" (in the words of several informants). People felt there was less ignorance of the issue in the community as a whole, and that women in the community knew a lot more about the resources and options available to them than had been the case before RWA began its extensive education and prevention efforts.

Efforts currently underway which will become major future endeavors include more extensive involvement of business leaders and clergy in combating domestic violence (both by changing attitudes and by making more supports and services available). The general opinion is that it is much easier for individual women to get appropriate action on a domestic violence case than would have been possible even ten years ago. However, all agree also that the overall level of domestic violence in the community has not been affected, and that there are still no predictably effective treatment options that will change battering men into men who do not need to use physical, emotional, or verbal abuse.