Coordinated Responses
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Last edited: November 20, 2018

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Coordinated responses emerged in the 1970s in local communities of North America, focusing on intimate partner violence.  One of the earliest and most internationally recognised models is the Duluth model (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project) in Minnesota, USA (see box below).  The initial emphases in coordinated responses were on improved communication between agencies, including community-based NGOs and the criminal justice arena.  Underpinning these interventions was a belief that violence against women could not be addressed effectively without communication, cooperation and collaboration among all the agencies that might come into contact with victims, survivors and perpetrators (Johnson & Dawson, 2011).

The aim of the coordinated response model is first and foremost to increase victim safety and perpetrator accountability by coordinating core services in the criminal justice, victim/survivor support and health sectors.  This is commonly referred to as coordinated community response (CCR), and increasingly extends to other organizations such as schools, traditional leaders and faith groups, who are important partners in many local contexts.  Involvement at this level makes it possible to engage directly with community members, for example through education and prevention work, to challenge the underlying beliefs and practices that lead to violence (Klevens & Cox, 2008).

This approach also recognizes that the perpetrator’s motivation for violence in all of its forms is to acquire and maintain power and control over the victim.  The Power and Control wheel was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs in Duluth, Minnesota, USA.  It depicts the pattern, intent and impact of the violence and is based on the most common behaviors or tactics shared by victims/survivors of violence during focus groups.

See a video about the power and control wheel:

 

Example: The Duluth model

Perhaps the most widely cited, evaluated and emulated model for coordinated responses is the Duluth Model, which has inspired many interventions across the world.  Set up in 1980 in Duluth, Minnesota (US), the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) – drawing on the negative experiences of victims/survivors of services that seldom cooperated and sometimes even acted in ways that were in contradiction – began to establish inter-agency agreements based on a common philosophical approach. These agreements were intended to increase the community’s ability to hold perpetrators accountable, while making the safety of women and children a core priority.  The unifying principle was that the community (i.e. community-based organisations, services and institutions) is responsible for intervening to end violence, not individual victims/survivors.  While today this principle may seem unsurprising, at the time it was not only innovative to prioritize the safety of women and children, it was also challenging to implement.

The Duluth Model provided direct services to victims/survivors (advocacy and support) and perpetrators (a re-education programme, primarily for court-mandated perpetrators). Its success in changing the response to intimate partner violence led to DAIP becoming the hub for coordination through an independent team of staff who:

  • built consensus for a coherent understanding of violence against women and a philosophical approach that placed victim safety at the centre;
  • developed policies and protocols for intervention agencies;
  • reduced fragmentation across responses;
  • built monitoring and tracking into responses;
  • created a supportive community infrastructure;
  • intervened directly with perpetrators to deter violence;
  • created responses to undo the harm that violence to women does to children; and evaluated the model from the perspective of the victim/survivor (Pence & McMahon, 1997).

Following the success of the DAIP, in 1991 the Minnesota Legislature mandated that similar intervention projects, known as Coordinated Community Responses (CCRs), be established across all districts in the state.  CCRs are now widely implemented across the US.  A 2004 survey identified that 383 CCRs were operating in 14 states (Strong et al., 2006), with that number increasing year to year. 

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.

Adaptations of the Duluth Model can also be found in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and parts of Europe and Latin America.  More recently, a number of Eastern European states, including Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia have developed and implemented such responses to intimate partner violence, drawing on the Austrian adaptation of the Duluth Model.  The most common element of the Duluth Model to be adopted is inter-agency coordination, while the direct work with victims/survivors and perpetrators is less often at the core.  The visionary at the heart of the Duluth Model, Ellen Pence, argued that by identifying the routines in practice that failed to increase women’s safety, the project was able to change institutional cultures.

The Duluth Model was the gold recipient of the 2014 Future Policy Award from the World Future Council and UN Women.

Source: Pence, E. and McMahon, M. (1997) A Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence, Duluth: Duluth Intervention Project, available in English.

More information

See the Duluth Model website.

See the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website and the Office on Violence Against Women website for a list of current US state coalitions.

In Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, the German-speaking countries and parts of Scandinavia, a multi-agency’ model of working was developed during the 1990s, primarily to respond to intimate partner violence.  Local partnerships, usually between the police and refuges (shelters), began informally in order to network and promote good practices (Hague, 2000), and some drew inspiration from the Duluth Model.  Today, domestic violence forums (though some address violence against women more broadly), such as the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC), are operating in several hundred localities across England and Wales.  These mechanisms are locally based and are tasked with the responsibility to increase women’s safety by reducing their risk. The model is being expanded under the integrated violence against women strategy introduced by the Westminster parliament (Her Majesty’s Government, England, 2010; 2011).  Violence against women partnerships are also widespread in Scotland and include regional training consortia.

In some parts of North America, coordinated responses addressing intimate partner violence are widespread.  Although less universally, coordinated responses addressing sexual violence have also been developed.  More common in the field of sexual violence, both in North America and in parts of all the other continents, particularly Africa and Asia, are a range of health-based models, in which multi-disciplinary teams provide forensic examination, investigation and various forms of victim/survivor support and advocacy. 

The aims of all of these models are to provide a more professional, timely and supportive response to victims/survivors that will be effective in achieving victim safety and offender accountability.  In addition, the goals include higher quality evidence collection to increase the chances of success in legal cases, should a victim/survivor choose to pursue it.  Increasingly, these coordinated responses involve linking victims/survivors with a variety of specialized forms of support to address a broader range of their needs, such as psychological, practical (e.g. shelter, child-related) and legal needs.

Over the last two decades, new models of coordinated response have emerged, particularly in the Global South, in the form of: