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Ensure coordination with other sectors as part of a multisectoral referral network

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • In addition to establishing national coordination mechanisms, police must engage with key service providers at a local level, as women and girls often require support beyond law enforcement to access key medical treatment, legal assistance, emergency accommodation and other social services. This can enable police to provide the most appropriate referrals to women and girls as part of an integrated response where timely and appropriate advice, support and treatment are available for survivors or those at risk of violence (UNODC, 2010; Barnes, 2009).

  • Police should closely coordinate with organizations or agencies (including government, non-government and community-based groups) providing the following services:

    • Health clinics, providing immediate medical care and vital treatment to survivors of violence such as emergency contraception (up to 5 days other the incident) and post-exposure prophylaxis in cases of rape (within 72 hours)

    • Emergency, transitional and longer-term shelter, reintegration and housing for survivors and their children or other dependents

    • Psycho-social support, providing immediate and longer-term counselling

    • Immediate and longer-term socio-economic support and employment or training opportunities

    • Legal assistance and advice, providing support to pursue a legal case against perpetrator(s)


Coordinated community responses or referral systems

The multisectoral coordinated approach brings security, justice, health and social service providers together to create a distinctive form of organized collaboration in responding to cases of violence. Coordinated community responses are important to ensure police and other emergency assistance to women and girls is survivor-centred and holistic. Different models for coordinated responses have been developed since the 1980’s (beginning with the Duluth model), including models led by the police (such as the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference in London).         


Promising Practice: Duluth Model of Public Intervention (United States)

The Duluth model, developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programme during the 1980’s in Minnesota, is one of the most well-known and proven approaches to coordinated community response. The model has been adapted to various contexts globally and continues to develop its methods of collaboration. The community-based interven­tion involves domestic violence advocates working directly with law enforcement, criminal justice, shelter service providers and others in the community to strengthen survivor-centred responses and improve the safety of women experiencing abuse. The model aims to end violence in each case through several key areas of work: protection for victims of ongoing abuse; holding perpetrators and service providers accountable for women’s safety; offering offenders an opportunity to change (including through punishment if it enhances victim safety); and ensuring due process for offenders through the intervention.

The Duluth coordination mechanism is characterized by:

  • clearly identifiable and largely shared assumptions and theories about the source of battering and the effective means to deter it;

  • empirically tested intervention strategies that build safety and accountability into all elements of the case processing; and

  • well-defined methods of inter-agency cooperation guided by advocacy programs.

 The Model is based around a framework where:

  • The community and abusers themselves have the primary responsibility for controlling the abuse, rather than the victim.

  • Battering is a form of domestic violence that entails a patterned use of coercion, intimidation, including violence and other related forms of abuse, whether legal or illegal (presented as the Power and Control Wheel). Initiatives must distinguish between and respond differently to cases of battering and other forms of domestic violence and adjust interventions accordingly.

  • Interventions and the system must be tailored and flexible to respond to the distinct economic, cultural, and personal histories of abused women and girls.

  • Both survivors and offenders should be treated with respect as community members, with recognition of the social factors affecting their personal circumstances.

Strategic principles of inter-agency intervention promoted by the model include:

  • Change will be required within each agency involved in case processing. Service providers and other personnel must coordinate to enhance their capacity to protect survivors and comply fully with inter-agency agreements. Participating agencies must cooperate on examining, adjusting and standardizing practices in eight core areas related to coordinating staff actions on cases of abuse:
    • Identifying the agency's mission, purpose and specific function or task at each point of intervention in each case.

    • Crafting policies guiding each point of intervention.

    • Providing tools to guide practitioners in their duties (e.g. hotline-connected computer screens, specialized police report forms, domestic violence pre-sentence investigation forms; education/counselling curricula for abusers).

    • Creating a system to link practitioners so that each person’s actions on the case contribute to the subsequent interventions by other personnel.

    • Adopting inter-agency systems of accountability (e.g. tracking and information sharing; periodic evaluations; bi-monthly inter-agency meetings to identify and address case management problems; and accountability clauses in policies.

    • Establishing a cooperative fundraising plan to seek appropriate resources.

    • Agreeing on assumptions, theories and concepts used in policies and administrative practices.

    • Developing/delivering inter-agency training on policies, procedures and concepts.

  • The overall strategy must be survivor-safety centred. Independent victim advocacy services play an important role in programming for offenders. Independent monitoring organizations should be set up to coordinate working groups, operate the tracking system, and help organize periodic evaluations and research. Advocacy organizations should be central in all aspects of designing interventions.

  • Agencies must participate as collaborating partners. Each agency should agree to identify, analyze, and respond to any internal practices which might compromise the collective intervention goals. Small problem-solving groups, training committees, evaluations, and regular meetings can help coordinate interventions, via a single lead agency (as with the Duluth Abuse Intervention Project).

  • Abusers must be consistently held accountable for their use of violence. Effective intervention requires a clear and consistent response by police and courts to all acts of abuse, including:

    • Mandatory arrest for primary aggressors

    • Emergency housing, education groups and advocacy for survivors

    • Evidence-based prosecution of cases

    • Jail sentences in which offenders receive increasingly harsh penalties for repeated acts of aggression

    • Court-ordered educational groups for batterers

    • Using a coordinating organization to track offenders, ensure that repeat offenders/ non-compliant perpetrators are held accountable and ensure victim-safety is central to the response

The Duluth model has been widely successful in offering greater victim protection and reducing repeat acts of violence in many different communities, and a variety of resources have been developed to support its replication and adaptation as follows:

Evaluations and research on the Duluth Model and more about the approach.

Guidance adapting the Model (Advocates for Human Rights-StopVAW)

Agency-specific guidance for implementing coordinated community responses focused around the criminal justice system: St. Paul Blueprint for Safety: An Interagency Response to Domestic Violence Crimes (Praxis International)

Sources: Domestic Abuse Intervention Program. “What is the Duluth model?”; and Praxis International. St. Paul Blueprint for Safety: An Interagency Response to Domestic Violence Crimes. Praxis International. St. Paul.


Case Study: The Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference between London police, local authorities and service providers (United Kingdom)

The Multi-agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) is a monthly meeting of agencies such as the local police, health and housing practitioners, shelter workers and other government and non-governmental specialists, including Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) providing services to domestic violence survivors identified as being at the highest risk (defined as a pattern of abuse which presents a risk of serious harm or femicide). The first MARAC conference was organised in 2003 by Cardiff’s Women Safety Unit (a multi-agency initiative dealing with domestic abuse) in Wales, and has since spread to over 200 MARACs across the United Kingdom.

The Conference operates at the local borough level, with meetings chaired by the police. Each meeting deals with 20-30 very high risk cases at a time. The IDVAs are central to the MARAC process are, as they are responsible for representing the views of the victim/survivor at the meeting, and liaising between the woman or girl and partner agencies to ensure that the proposed course of action is safe and appropriate. 

The aims of the MARAC are to:

  • Share information to increase the safety, health and well being of survivors
  • Determine whether the perpetrator poses a significant risk to any particular individual or to the general community
  • Work together to develop and implement a risk management plan that provides professional support to all those at risk and that reduces the risk of harm
  • Reduce repeat victimization
  • Improve agency accountability
  • Improve support for staff involved in high-risk domestic abuse cases

The MARAC model has helped the police in the United Kingdom to develop a more comprehensive response to domestic violence. Although there has been an increase in safety for domestic violence survivors, including a reduction in the escalation and severity of abuse and a reduction or even cessation in repeat incidents of abuse, more research is needed determine the contexts in which the MARAC is the most effective mechanism of coordination. See the full Case Study.

Sources: Social Development Direct interview with Metropolitan Police Service, 2010; CAADA. 2010; Coy and Kelly. 2011. “Islands in the stream: An evaluation of four London independent domestic violence advocacy scheme.” Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit. London.

For additional information and guidance, see the Coordinated Responses module.