Relationships Between Abusive Partner Intervention Programs, the Community, and Victims
When looking at an abusive partner intervention program, it is important to examine their interactions with victims and the wider community.
Victim safety above all else
The priority of an abusive partner intervention program should be victim safety. Programs should not do anything that may increase the risk of danger or harm to the victim. Programs should consult with domestic violence service providers when there are concerns related to victim safety. Programs should have protocols in place that can help initiate consultations with victim programs once facilitators are aware of any concerns.
Early intervention and a coordinated community response can be effective tools for holding perpetrators accountable, promoting victim safety, preventing escalation of abuse, reducing the rate of domestic violence homicides and felonies, and maintaining the stability of victims’ relationships with their children. The benefits of collaboration include efficient use of resources; collective problem solving; learning from one another’s specialized skills and knowledge; more effective response in terms of accessibility; timely and targeted referrals; and proactive ways to create the social change necessary to end domestic violence.
Both public and private entities can be involved in a coordinated community response. Members may include community organizations, educators, employers and unions, faith groups and leaders, government agencies, health care providers, law enforcement, members of the legal system, the media, and most importantly victims/survivors.
The United Nations has identified various types of coordinated community responses that reflect the diversity seen from one community to another:
- Community partnering – an informal, grassroots model where a collaborative oversight body helps to coordinate activities;
- Community intervention – focused on training and capacity building for organizations working to serve women, hold offenders accountable, and prevent violence;
- Community organizing – focused on raising awareness and encouraging action community-wide;
- Interagency approach – focused on ensuring coordination between parts of the justice system and other service providers, operating from a common plan of action.
A coordinated community response will allow abusive partner intervention programs to collaborate with various community organizations and services to hold participants accountable for their behavior. As part of a coordinated community response, risk assessments obtained by the referral source or by a victim advocate can be shared with the facilitators of an abusive partner intervention program. Some programs use these assessments – obtained either from their community partners or by using their own assessment tool – to identify which group a participant should be placed in, or the level of content and contact a program will have with the participant.
A coordinated community response, no matter how different it may be from community to community, is a crucial component of holding abusive partners accountable, engaging the community, and helping programs get closer to their goal of ending current violence and preventing violence in the future.
Victim access to resources and victim agencies
It is crucial that victims be made aware of the resources available to them and the limitations of abusive partner intervention programs. A program should be cautious about contacting a victim to check on the abusive partner or to measure progress since it is likely that an answer will be given under duress (usually due to the fear of reprisal from the participant). It is also possible that the victim may give a positive response because they wish to remain in a relationship with the individual. A positive answer may be a way to ensure that the participant will make it through the program and avoid harsher sanctions. Although there are programs that check in with victims as a part of the overall evaluation of the abuser’s progress, this has many potential downsides that make it something to be discouraged, or at the very least, handled with great care, and in conjunction with a victim services program.
For more information about a coordinated community response, please visit our resources page.