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


The coordinated community response to domestic violence in Baltimore centers around the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee (DVCC). While the DVCC has existed since 1985, funding in 1995 and 1996 from a federal Violence Against Women Demonstration Program and Technical Assistance (VAW) grant has enabled the committee to intensify its efforts in recent years. DVCC members include senior staff from criminal justice agencies and judges. Two social service agencies also serve on the DVCC. The House of Ruth, which is the only domestic violence shelter and service provider in Baltimore, has been a DVCC member for many years. Last year, the Sexual Assault Center, which provides counseling and other services for victims of sexual assault, also joined the DVCC. The DVCC has several subcommittees and ad hoc committees to address specific issues including protection orders, training, and the proposed Domestic Violence Court. There is also a DVCC workgroup that provides a forum for frontline workers, particularly police and probation officers, to keep them informed of legal and policy changes and to identify impediments to coordination between agencies.

The criminal justice response in Baltimore is characterized by special units and staff to handle domestic violence cases. Currently, the Baltimore Police Department, Pretrial Release Services, the State's Attorney's Office and the Department of Parole and Probation have designated staff and implemented procedures to handle domestic violence cases. The specialized staff often serve as a resource for other staff within their own agency and provide a link to other criminal justice agencies and domestic violence service providers as well.

In Baltimore, the House of Ruth is widely recognized as the only agency that specifically provides domestic violence services. Since the House of Ruth provides comprehensive services for battered women, coordination between other social service, mental health, and health care providers is not well-developed in Baltimore, and there is no domestic violence coordinating body primarily for social service or health care providers. Instead coordination between these agencies typically occurs on a case-by-case basis. For example, when another agency has a client who is a domestic violence victim, they tend to also refer the person to the House of Ruth for domestic violence services. When a battered woman needs services beyond what the House of Ruth provides, the House of Ruth coordinates with other agencies to obtain the services. In addition, the House of Ruth provides training and outreach programs to community centers and other agencies.