Coordinated community response (CCR) refers to communitywide efforts to bring together relevant stakeholders to address complex social problems (e.g., intimate partner violence, sexual assault, child abuse, substance abuse). Efforts to coordinate responses to social problems developed out of an awareness that (a) many stakeholders (such as parents, friends, neighbors, social service agencies, law enforcement, educators, religious leaders, employers, government officials) interact with those affected by social problems and have a potential role to play in addressing such problems and that, (b) unless these stakeholders work together in a coordinated way, there will be gaps and duplication in the community response. Importantly, a coordinated effort emphasizes that it is the entire community, rather than isolated agencies or stakeholders, which is responsible for responding to social issues. While coordinated efforts exist in response to a wide variety of social problems, the phrase coordinated community response was coined regarding the response to intimate partner violence.
Attempts to coordinate the community response to intimate partner violence have become widespread in the United States and elsewhere. Goals for these efforts usually include victim safety, batterer accountability, and community education and prevention. While many CCRs initially focused on reforming policies and protocols in the criminal justice system (e.g., police, prosecutors, judges, probation), there is increasing recognition that stakeholders in other arenas must be included in such efforts (e.g., health care, education, human service and social services systems, all levels of government, religious organizations, and businesses).
To date, there have been few examinations of the efficacy of CCRs, but early evaluations and anecdotal evidence suggest that where these efforts exist, greater strides are being made toward addressing the complex issues that arise when responding to intimate partner violence. For example, one study found that when police action was coordinated with other systems, perpetrators were less likely to reoffend. In fact, this study found that arrest alone—in the absence of coordination— increased perpetrators’ use of violence against women. Similarly, another study found that batterers who were arrested but not mandated to attend batterers’ intervention were more likely to recidivate than those arrested and mandated to attend treatment.
The development of a CCR to domestic violence has taken three forms: (1) free-standing organizations responsible for encouraging cooperation and institutional change (e.g., the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, or DAIP, in Duluth), (2) programs within existing organizations that are responsible for encouraging coordination and institutional change (e.g., new policies and protocols within a prosecutor’s office), and (3) domestic violence coordinating councils (i.e., free-standing committees formed to lead the coordinating effort). While there is no empirical evidence determining which of these three strategies is most effective in facilitating a CCR, domestic violence coordinating councils have become very popular and are increasingly formed as a way to meet the collaboration requirement to receive federal and state funding.
Importantly, coordinating councils are not uniformly effective; these councils must foster an inclusive climate that incorporates input and active participation from the wide array of stakeholders who have a role to play in the community response to domestic violence. Further, it is essential that the dual goals of survivor safety and batterer accountability are central in coordinated efforts. Finally, it is important that coordination is not viewed as an end unto itself. That is, the goal is not simply coordination across stakeholders, but coordination that increases survivor safety and batterer accountability.
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