COORDINATED COMMUNITY RESPONSE
Benefits of Coordination
Coordination of the responses of those in the community
who come into contact with domestic violence issues can significantly
increase victim protection and batterer accountability. The primary
goal of coordination should always be increased victim safety.
Coordinating responses without focusing on victim safety can,
in fact, be harmful to victims. Coordination that is based on
increased victim safety can be beneficial in four different ways.
First, the effectiveness of many responses depends on
the effectiveness of others. For example, an order
for protection is not effective if police do
not respond to calls about violations. Police response to these
calls is, in turn, more effective when prosecutors prosecute
The effectiveness of prosecutors’ response is likewise
dependent on the quality of police work.
Second, different actors may encounter victims at different
points and in different settings. Each has opportunities others
may not have to help victims locate the resources they may need.
For example, women who may not be willing or able to contact
advocate or shelter may still seek medical assistance; consequently,
health care may be a critical avenue
through which battered women might access support or assistance.
Third, reaching out to different members
of the community to ask for their participation
in a coordinated community response can increase the effectiveness
of the response. The legal system is a critical part of any
However, other community institutions (religious, economic, medical,
media, education) may have a more powerful impact on “creating
social norms” than the legal system. From Ellen L.
Pence, Some Thoughts on Philosophy, in Coordinating Community
Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model
25, 33 (Melanie F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).
Fourth, a comprehensive community response can address
related social problems that work to prevent women from gaining
protection. Emergency shelter and criminal prosecutions are not
the only needs that battered women may have. Coordinated response
programs increasingly focus on related social problems that make
it difficult for women to seek protection from abuse, such as
and unemployment or the lack of affordable housing.
Recommendations and strategies for coordinating community
responses and preventing domestic violence that were developed
at the National Conference of Family Violence: Health and Justice
in March 1994 are available through the National Institute of
Coordinated Approach to Reducing Family Violence: Conference Highlights
(1995). Sandra J. Clark et al., Coordinated
Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond
the Justice System (1996), provides a useful discussion of
the evolution of coordinated community responses, goals of coordination
efforts, barriers to coordination, and issues in planning, implementing
and evaluating coordinated services.
Anatomy of a Coordinated Response
Although there is no one model that will work in every
context, the model used by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
(DAIP) in Duluth, often called the “Duluth model,”
is one of the most successful coordinated community response projects
and has been adapted for use in communities in many different
parts of the world.
Generally, coordinated community response programs work
to create a network of support for victims and their families
that is both available and accessible; use the full extent of
the community’s legal system to protect victims, hold batterers
accountable, and enforce the community’s intolerance of
domestic violence; and engage the entire community in efforts
to change the social norms and attitudes that contribute to domestic
violence. From American Medical Association, Family Violence:
Building a Coordinated Community Response 12 (1996).
Goals and Strategies
Broadly stated, there are eight different components of
intervention programs that successfully work to achieve these
1. Creating a coherent philosophical approach centralizing
2. Developing “best practices” policies and
protocols for intervention agencies that are part of an integrated
3. Enhancing networking among service providers.
4. Building monitoring and tracking into the system.
5. Ensuring a supportive community infrastructure for
6. Providing sanctions and rehabilitation opportunities
7. Undoing the harm violence [against] women does to
8. Evaluating the coordinated community response from
the standpoint of victim safety.
From Ellen L. Pence & Melanie F.
Shepard, Introduction, in Coordinating Community Responses to
Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model 3, 16 (Melanie
F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).
Specific elements of a direct coordinated response to domestic
violence vary, but can include:
efforts to ensure safety for victims at the scene
(police response, emergency orders for protection, emergency
crisis intervention services (hotlines, legal advocacy,
medical care, financial and housing assistance),
effective and coordinated justice system response
(appropriate and timely police response, appropriate prosecutorial
and judicial response, coordination of information between all
legal actors, victims advocates, and enforcement of orders for
appropriate response to the abuser (consistently holding
abusers accountable, arrest, appropriate sanctions),
follow-up services for victims (counseling, support
groups, services for children, abuser treatment services, exchange
of information, assistance with employment, housing, health
care and child care),
training of personnel in all systems,
coordination and monitoring of interventions (courtwatch,
data collection and reporting, accountability systems), and
active involvement from other sectors of the community
(business, religious, media and civic actors).
Prevention efforts can include outreach, education, early
intervention services, specialized services for children and youth,
and public education and media campaigns.
From American Medical Association,
Family Violence: Building a Coordinated Community Response 13-16
Community Response Participants
Early coordinated response programs focused on coordinating
the responses of criminal justice and law enforcement agencies
and service providers. Because their initial focus was on the
inadequacies of the legal system, advocates’ first coordinated
community response focused on challenging the institutions and
practices that prevented women from receiving the full protection
of the laws.
More recent efforts, however, have focused on coordinating
the work of other actors, such as health
care providers, child welfare agencies, the media,
clergy and religious leaders, employers, businesses, poverty
organizations, professional associations (e.g., of doctors, lawyers),
agencies. Some projects have relied on community education as
a way of reshaping attitudes and involving the community as a
whole in the response to domestic violence. From Ellen
L. Pence & Melanie F. Shepard, Introduction, in Coordinating
Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth
Model 3, 9 (Melanie F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).
All participants in coordinated response programs must
follow common principles for intervention that centralize victim safety and batterer accountability.
Religious leaders can be a critical part of a coordinated
response. These leaders may take positions or give advice that
condone domestic violence and undermine women’s ability
to protect themselves from violence. In researching domestic violence
in Moldova, for example, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
found that some religious leaders were taking the position that
women had a duty to endure abuse. MAHR, Domestic
Violence in Moldova 22 (2000). Correspondingly, such leaders
can make significant contributions to ending domestic violence
by speaking out on the subject, encouraging women to seek assistance,
and sending the message that battering will not be tolerated by
Every Congregation Needs to Know About Domestic Violence and
Commentary on Religious Issues in Family Violence provide
useful discussions about religion and domestic violence, as well
as specific suggestions for religious leaders and communities
interested in working to prevent domestic violence. The Toolkit
to End Violence Against Women, created by the National Advisory
Council on Violence Against Women and the United States Department
of Justice’s Violence Against Women Office, also outlines
ways in which clergy
and faith-based organizations can become involved in a community
The media is also an essential part of efforts to promote
awareness about domestic violence and to inform the public about
resources available for victims. As UNICEF explains, the media
plays a pivotal role in both influencing
and changing social norms and behaviour. Repeated exposure to
violence in the media has been associated with increased incidence
of aggression, especially in children. In the area of domestic
violence, media campaigns can help to reverse social attitudes
that tolerate violence against women by questioning patterns of
violent behaviour accepted by families and societies. Collaboration
with the media needs to focus on creating new messages and new
responses to reduce domestic violence.
Violence Against Women and Girls, 6 Innocenti Digest 1, 16
(2000). The media can also play a critical role in other types
of advocacy, such as legislative reform; positive media attention
can generate necessary public support for a reform effort.
UNIFEM’s publication, Picturing
a Life Free of Violence: Media and Communication Strategies to
End Violence Against Women provides useful information about
media strategies that have been used to combat domestic violence
throughout the world. The featured media campaigns are also available
as a virtual
exhibit. The Toolkit also offers strategies for involving
Employers, as well, can play a critical role in combating
domestic violence by, for example, establishing workplace policies
and training employees. A battered woman may require additional
health care assistance, or need extra security precautions at
work when she seeks to leave her abuser. The Toolkit discusses
ways in which employers
can become involved in a community response to domestic violence.
Different communities will need to involve different participants;
who should be involved will depend on a variety of contextual
factors. Before starting a coordinated community response program,
advocates will need to familiarize themselves with the actors
who might be involved in an intervention effort and the roles
these actors play. The DAIP staff, for example, asked these actors:
(a) What would improve the system’s response?
(b) What kind of resistance would there be to different
proposals (i.e., mandatory arrest)?
(c) Why would that resistance be there?
(d) Who are the key leaders [to convince of the value
of a new approach]?
(e) How could proposed changes backfire on the project
and on battered women?
(f) What kind of training in proposed changes would be
In these initial talks, all of the policies discussed “were
kept general and focused on what might be accomplished for the
agency and for the protection of victims.” From Ellen
L. Pence, Some Thoughts on Philosophy, in Coordinating Community
Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model
25, 35, 36 (Melanie F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).
Leadership for coordinated responses can be located in
an independent advocacy organization, the criminal justice system,
or an inter-agency local coordinating council. Melanie Shepard’s
Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence (1999),
examines these different kinds of coordinated response programs
and describes studies that evaluate the success of various programs
in the United States.
For a discussion of the ways in which collaboration with
other organizations, community groups, and government agencies
can be vital to efforts to end domestic violence, as well as strategies
for developing those collaborative partnerships, see Susan Schechter,
Challenges for the Battered Women’s Movement: Building Collaborations
and Improving Public Policy for Poor Women (1999),
Recent Developments in Coordinated
The most recent coordinated community response efforts
have focused on institutional design. DAIP, for example, moved
from asking why a judge responded as she did, to how that judge
was institutionally organized to do so. From the moment that the
police dispatcher receives an emergency call to the closing of
the case, the institutional arrangements and work practices that
predetermine the way in which domestic violence cases are handled.
Texts, in particular, can predetermine how the system responds
to violence. Texts are created constantly in a legal system; actors
record the details of an incident for use by the next actor. In
addition, these texts are rarely created anew. Rather, the texts
are forms that ask specific questions. It is in the asking of
these questions that some information is recorded and other information
Ellen Pence provides the following example. An officer
of the court making a recommendation on the sentence a defendant
should receive may base her decision on a record created by an
investigator. The form used by the investigator to create the
report might ask any number of questions—it might ask about
the history of the abuse, or it might ask about the defendant’s
criminal history. A recommendation based on a report detailing
a history of abuse could be very different from one based on a
report detailing a criminal history. In other words, the recommended
sentence is determined in part by the questions asked on the investigator’s
form. That is, the “understanding of how power works through
conceptual practices buried in a textually mediated legal system”
can be a critical part of an advocacy effort. Ellen L. Pence,
Some Thoughts on Philosophy, in Coordinating Community Responses
to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model 25, 40 (Melanie
F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).
Promoting Women in Development (PROWID) similarly explains
in its report, Justice,
Change, and Human Rights: International Research and Responses
to Domestic Violence, that “the way in which women’s
complaints (of domestic violence) are recorded can either normalize
or criminalize abusive behaviors.”
For these reasons, policies
and protocols for intervention agencies are an important part of an integrated
response. Agencies that deal with battered women need to do more
than simply change the way they think or be more aware of the
problem. Instead, the “actions of those located in different
parts of a coordinated system need to be centered toward victim
safety and organized in ways that complement rather than undermine
or subvert each other. With this goal in mind, practitioners’
decisions and actions need to be guided by sets of protocol standards
and, in some cases, direct policies.” Ellen L. Pence &
Melanie F. Shepard, Introduction, in Coordinating Community Responses
to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model 3, 17-18 (Melanie
F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).