Domestic violence (DV) continues to be a threat to the physical and psychological well-being of victims and their families. Being cyclical in nature, DV has a high likelihood of recurrence if an effective disruption of the cycle is not provided. A number of interventions, including mandatory arrests and interventions providing social services, education, and efforts to increase feelings of social support have been developed to combat recidivism in these cases. Unfortunately, limitations of arrest-based interventions and low-levels of engagement by victims in provided services have led to mixed results.
The intervention evaluated in these studies involved a home visit to provide support and education about available services. This visit took place within a week of the initial DV incident by a team comprised of law enforcement and an advocate. The initial hypothesis of the study was that an increase in services and support for victims of DV would reduce the number of calls for service (CFS) for subsequent DV events. The follow-up study added an evaluation to determine the reasons subsequent CFS levels rose or fell.
Primary Research Question(S)
Do victims selected for the DVHVI program have lower repeat DV victimization and higher levels of engagement with victims’ services in the 12 months following a DV incident
Participants from both the intervention group and the control group volunteered to participate in follow-up evaluations. Of the 430 DV victims, 107 victims volunteered for the follow-up evaluation (52 DVHVI and 55 controls). These volunteers from both the control and the intervention groups participated in follow-up interviews at six weeks after the initial incident and then again within six to 12 months post-incident. Additionally, subsequent CFS in the 12-month follow-up period were counted.
One of the limitations of the pilot study was a lack of information gathered directly from the victims after the initial incident. This resulted in a lack of context for changes in subsequent CFS, the study’s measure of recidivism.
One of the limitations of the follow-up study was that volunteers for the follow-up evaluation were not randomly selected and were very similar to one another in terms of marital status and socioeconomic status. Researchers believe that there were more unmarried women willing to participate for one of two reasons; either married women were in a more stable environment and there truly was not as great a need for services or married women were more likely to be living with the perpetrator and did not feel safe seeking further outside involvement.
Call for Service:
- Contrary to the initial aim of the study, the intervention group had higher odds of calling police for subsequent DV events than the control group.
- The calls from the intervention groups tended to include calls for less severe offenses.
- Intervention group participants who were evaluated demonstrated significantly more positive feelings towards police after the positive interaction of the home visit.
Engagement in Services:
- No difference between groups in the use of therapy resources by adults.
- Significant increase in the number of children who engaged in therapeutic services. However, there was no significant improvement of trauma symptoms in those children.
- Significant increase in the number of court services utilized by victims in the intervention group.
This intervention provided victims with a personal link to law enforcement, as well as immediate access to social services and support. While the intended outcome of this study and related studies was to reduce recidivism, the actual outcome appeared to be empowering victims to call sooner. Results showed that recipients of the intervention had a higher call rate after the initial incident than the control group. However, evidence suggests that the increase call rate was not because of a difference in recidivism, but rather it was because of a difference in victim willingness to seek help. For policy makers and practitioners, this supports continued efforts of police legitimacy and cooperation between social services and law enforcement.
Pilot Study: Casey, R.L., Berkman, M., Smith Stover, C., Gill, K., Durso, S., & Marans, S. (2007). Preliminary Results of a Police-Advocate Home-Visit Intervention Project for Victims of Domestic Violence. Journal of Psychological Trauma, 6(1), 39-49.
Follow-Up Study: Stover, C.S., Berkman, M., Desai, R., & Marans, S. (2010). The Efficacy of a Police-Advocacy Intervention for Victims of Domestic Violence: 12 Month Follow-Up Data. Violence Against Women, 16(4) 410-425.