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What is a coordinated community response to violence against women?

Effectively implementing laws on violence against women requires community support. Drafters should include an interagency, coordinated community approach when mandating the implementation of laws addressing violence against women.

What is a Coordinated Community Response?

  • The implementation of new laws and policies is most effective when paired with the development of a community-wide strategy that ensures all members of the community respond in a consistent way to violence against women and can be held accountable for their responses. Coordinated community response (CCR) programs engage the entire community in efforts to develop a common understanding of violence against women and to change social norms and attitudes that contribute to violence against women. Law enforcement, civil society, health care providers, child protection services, educators, local businesses, the media, employers, and faith leaders should be involved in a coordinated community response. (See: Coordinated Community Response, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)

Coordinated community response (CCR) programs should:

  • Promote victim safety;
  • Hold perpetrators accountable;
  • Strengthen individual knowledge and skills;
  • Promote community education;
  • Educate service providers and the legal system;
  • Foster coalitions and networks;
  • Change organizational practices; and
  • Develop law and policy.

(See: Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention, National Sexual Violence Resource Center (2006))

  • Coordinated community response programs work to create a network of support for victims and their families that is both available and accessible. They also use the full extent of the community’s legal system to protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and reinforce the community’s intolerance of violence against women.

 

CASE STUDY – Romania

Following Romania’s passage of domestic violence legislation in 2003, a coordinated community response in one region has changed the way that a community deals with domestic violence. In Mures district, local NGOs that run a crisis center coordinate with local police and emergency medical units to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The coordinated community response program was supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), through the creation of local multidisciplinary coordinating teams. Local NGOs approached the police to engage them in improving the response to domestic violence cases. The district had begun using an integrated information system for reporting, screening, and referring cases of domestic violence. Building on that initial integration, NGO workers, health providers, and police began to discuss how to encourage women to file complaints. Women had traditionally had little trust in the police and the police had been reluctant to get involved. After a year of working collaboratively with the police, more cases began to be referred to the crisis center. In addition, police began working very closely with the NGOs – regularly taking the initiative to check up on cases, attending awareness-raising vigils, accompanying crisis center staff on home visits to former clients, and even stopping by the homes of former victims on their own to check in. In addition, because many victims didn’t want to go to the police station because it was very public and very crowded,a building has been refurbished to act as an alternative location for victims to file complaints with the police. Partners in the effort credit the local coordinating committee, the police involvement, and the initiative of local NGO workers with the program’s success. See: UNFPA, Programming to Address Violence Against Women: 10 Case Studies, 11-20 (2007).

  • Inter-agency coordination is a critical component of a CCR response. A single case of domestic violence, for example, may involve multiple laws and regulations, various levels of government, and numerous intervening agencies and groups. In the course of a day, that single case may be in the hands of multiple practitioners throughout the civil and criminal justice systems as well as service agencies. Coordination of responses and accountability of those practitioners can significantly increase the effective implementation of new laws created to protect victims, prosecute offenders, and prevent further violence. Interagency coordination involves:
    • Creating a common vision and action plan;
    • Ensuring communication, linkages, and accountability among agencies;
    • Providing clear, written mandates to each responsible agency; and
    • Establishing an entity to monitor implementation of the coordinated action.

(See: Domestic Violence: Legislation and its Implementation, 40-45, UN Women (2009))

 

CASE STUDY – Coordinated Community Response in Minnesota, USA

The US state of Minnesota has been a leader in the development of coordinated community response programs related to domestic violence. One of the first programs was in Duluth, Minnesota, a mid-sized metropolitan area with a population of approximately 250,000. In the early 1980s, eleven local agencies came together to begin planning a multidisciplinary approach to protecting women from domestic violence. These agencies included 911 (emergency services telephone number), police, sheriff’s and prosecutors’ offices, probation, the criminal and civil courts, the local women’s shelter, three mental health agencies, and a newly created coordinating organization called the Domestic Abuse Intervention Program (DAIP). The Duluth Model of coordinated community response (CCR) is recognized internationally as a leading tool to help communities prevent violence in the lives of women and children. The model focuses on stopping domestic violence through written procedures, policies, and protocols governing intervention and prosecution of criminal domestic assault cases. Four primary principles guide the model:

  • Changing basic infrastructure of the multiple agencies involved in domestic violence case processing;
  • Applying a victim-centred strategy;
  • All collaborating agencies agreeing to identify, analyze, and find solutions to any ways in which their practices might compromise the collective intervention goals; and
  • Consistently holding abusers accountable for their use of violence.

Twenty years later, the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, in coordination with Praxis International, developed a cutting edge domestic violence CCR program to coordinate the work of critical agencies. Saint Paul’s judicial district, court administration, police, prosecutors’ offices, correctional system, emergency response agency, sheriff’s office, and local advocates came together to create a “blueprint” (a highly detailed, foundational document) for how to build an effective criminal justice response to domestic violence. The resulting Blueprint for Safety provides specific guidance for every agency, including what victims need to be safe, what workers need from each other to do their jobs, and what each worker and agency must do to hold offenders accountable.  The Blueprint lays out the following foundations for its coordinated response:

  • Adhere to an interagency approach and collective intervention goals.
  • Incorporate agency-to-agency accountability.
  • Build attention to the context and severity of abuse into each intervention.
  • Recognize that most domestic violence is a patterned crime requiring continuing engagement with victims and offenders.
  • Ensure sure and swift consequences for continued abuse.
  • Use the power of the criminal justice system to send messages of help and accountability.
  • Act in ways that reduce unintended consequences and the disparity of impact on victims and offenders.

See: Praxis International, Blueprint for Safety.

  • A coordinated community response should be written into legislation and national action plans. For example, Spain’s Organic Act 1/2004 of 28 December on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence reflects a coordinated, interagency approach throughout the law. Article 32 states:

The public authorities will draw up collaboration plans which ensure the organised rollout of initiatives for the prevention and prosecution of gender violence and the care of its victims, which should involve the health authorities, the judicial authorities, national law enforcement and security agencies, social services departments and equality organisations.

Protocols will be drawn up in implementation of these plans whose procedures will ensure a global, integrated effort by the various authorities and services involved, and secure the evidence stage during the proceedings under way.

Article 19 states:
1. The female victims of gender violence are entitled to receive care, crisis, support and refuge, and integrated recovery services. The organisation of such services by the Autonomous Communities and local authorities shall reflect the principles of 24-hour attention, urgent action, specialised care and professional multidisciplinarity.

2. Multidisciplinary care shall in all cases involve:

a) Information to victims
b) Psychological assistance
c) Social assistance
d) Monitoring of women’s rights claims
e) Educational support to the family unit
f) Preventive training in the values of equality conducive to their personal development and their skilling in non-violent conflict solving.
g) Support to employment training and insertion.

3. Services shall be organised to ensure the effectiveness of their delivery by means of staff specialisation and one-stop capabilities.

4. Such services will act in coordination with each other and in collaboration with the Police, Violence against Women Judges, the health services and the institutions responsible for providing victims with legal counsel, in the corresponding geographical zone. They may also apply to the Judge for any emergency measures they deem necessary.