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


Given Carlton County's close proximity to Duluth, the community's coordinated response to domestic violence has been greatly influenced by DAIP. The community has at least five groups with missions that include domestic violence, either specifically or as part of a broader focus on violence. Leadership for Carlton County's efforts has come from Rural Women's Advocates (RWA) and Mending the Sacred Hoop (MSH), which have recently joined forces to coordinate their efforts where possible. RWA was started by several women in the community, some of them former victims, to help women in rural and isolated Carlton County. MSH grew directly out of DAIP and specifically targets victims and offenders on the Fond du Lac reservation.

Several coordinating bodies have grown out of the efforts of both MSH and RWA. MSH initiated the Non-Violent Council and the Domestic Abuse group. RWA conducts monthly meetings with RWA advocates and volunteers and MSH advocates. The Non-Violence Council, a monthly meeting of advocates, law enforcement, probation, prosecution, judges, batterer intervention service providers, and the victim witness advocate, serves to address issues related to domestic violence on the Fond du Lac reservation, within the Native American community, and in Carlton County as a whole. The Domestic Abuse Group also meets monthly to discuss individual probation cases in an effort to increase compliance among domestic assault offenders in Carlton County.

There are several other groups in Carlton County that also address violence; some of these groups are solely focused on domestic violence while others address violence more broadly. These groups include the Rural Violence Committee which was recently funded by the Blandin Foundation, the Carlton County Violence Prevention Council, and the sheriff's breakfast meetings. The Blandin Foundation's Rural Violence Committee will focus on a specific domestic violence issue which has not yet been defined. The group hopes to examine domestic violence in Carlton County and focus on the area needing the most immediate attention. The Carlton County Violence Prevention Council, which brings together law enforcement, courts, and the community including local school districts, is currently conducting an incident-based reporting survey. They have developed a reporting form for violence that is completed by the agency having the initial contact with the violent situation. The sheriff's breakfast meetings bring together law enforcement, the courts, and county commissioners to talk about law enforcement and violence. This group is oriented toward solving problems and issues raised by group members, all of whom are at a decision-making level in their organizations and have the ability to make policy and procedural changes.

Due to its rural nature and small population size, Carlton County's coordination efforts differ in two basic ways from those of larger communities. The small size of Carlton County's population and the limited number of staff in the various law enforcement agencies precludes staff specialization for domestic violence (which accounts for only about 10 percent of all cases). To date, there are no specialized domestic violence units in any of the agencies we interviewed. Furthermore, Carlton County has only 4 prosecutors; the largest law enforcement agency employs less than 20 officers; there are only a handful of probation officers and one victim-witness advocate. Thus, it is not feasible to have even one person specialize in domestic violence within these agencies. The advocates from MSH and RWA, many of whom are volunteers, are the only specialists in the community.

The nature of the inter-agency interaction in Carlton County is relatively informal, except for a memorandum of understanding that was signed by all participants in Mending the Sacred Hoop. In a small rural area, many people know each other personally, which facilitates informal relationships. Also there is less bureaucracy in agencies, which gives agencies more flexibility to interact.