Establishing Specialized Programs and Protocols

Health centers, schools, social work centers and other service providers should establish special programs that focus on identifying and supporting victims of violence in compliance with newly passed laws. These programs can be highly variable based on the specific issue they confront and the context in which they are created. However, victim safety and holding offenders accountable should be at the center of any special program. Moreover, programs should be effectively integrated with existing institutional structures and take care to garner buy-in and investment from staff in these systems.

Often special programs focused on violence against women take the form of one-stop centers. These centers may be a key part of a coordinated community response program and include counselors, lawyers, health professionals, and social service support all in one location


In Mumbai, a partnership between a health policy NGO and a municipal public health department led to the first hospital-based domestic violence crisis center in the country. Known as Dilaasa, the center is based near the casualty ward at the K.B. Bhabha Municipal General Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai. Dilaasa, designed as a one-stop center, is staffed by a social worker, a part-time doctor, and a part-time clinical psychologist. A lawyer also visits the center once a week.

The project began with a needs assessment conducted by the Dilaasa NGO partnership, which examined the operational structure of the hospital’s response to victims as well as the knowledge and perception of staff about domestic violence. A checklist of signs of domestic violence was developed and distributed throughout the hospital. After the needs assessment, the project began a train-the-trainer program for hospital staff. Twelve staff from the hospital then trained the rest of the medical and paramedical staff at the hospital on their role in identifying and responding to women presenting at the hospital who they suspect might be victims of violence. The needs assessment also led to a new program at the hospital to provide emergency shelter for women who cannot be admitted to other local shelters. Women who qualify are admitted to the hospital for emergency shelter for 24 hours.

Dilaasa is considered a department of the hospital, which allows for important integration. Information about the center is available throughout the hospital on posters and pamphlets. Doctors all have access to checklists to help them identify victims of domestic violence. When women are referred to the center, they meet with a counselor who can assist with shelter and safety planning. They also receive information about their legal rights. Women who want to take legal action are referred to Dilaasa’s lawyer. Women who choose not to file a formal police complaint are encouraged to file a non-cognizable complaint, which allows a police officer to record a victim statement without initiating formal action against the offender at that time. Dilaasa’s referrals have increased steadily, from 111 in the first year of operation to 340 in the fourth year.

(See: Establishing Dilaasa: Documenting the Challenges, CEHAT (2005))

CASE STUDY – Philippines

In order to effectively implement its national laws, as well as the international agreements that it has ratified, relative to violence against women, the government of the Philippines has created performance standards and assessment tools for each of the various sectors that address violence against women, including:

Standards were also designed for the police and psychosocial services. The performance standards address policy, physical facilities, personnel, resources, services and protocols, information and advocacy, and monitoring and evaluation for the provision of services to victims of violence against women. The standards are linked to national law and international agreements, so as to assist service providers in understanding their legally mandated roles. See: Performance Standards and Assessment Tools for Services Addressing Violence Against Women in the Philippines (2008), UN Secretary-General’s database on violence against women and girls.

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