Community Response Participants
last updated February 1, 2006

Early intervention programs focused on coordinating the responses of criminal justice and law enforcement agencies and service providers and on challenging the institutions and practices that prevented women from receiving the full protection of the laws. Subsequent efforts, however, have also focused on coordinating the work of other actors, such as health care providers, child welfare agencies, the media, clergy and religious leaders, employers, businesses, poverty organizations, professional associations (e.g., of doctors, lawyers), and government agencies. Some projects have relied on community education as a way of reshaping attitudes and involving the community as a whole in the response to domestic violence. From Ellen L. Pence & Melanie F. Shepard, Introduction, in Coordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model 3, 9 (Melanie F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999). All participants in the coordinated community response must follow core principles of intervention that centralize victim safety and batterer accountability.

Religious leaders can be a critical part of a coordinated response. These leaders may take positions or give advice that condone domestic violence and undermine women's ability to protect themselves from violence. In researching domestic violence in Moldova, for example, The Advocates for Human Rights found that some religious leaders were taking the position that women had a duty to endure abuse. From MAHR, Domestic Violence in Moldova 22 (2000). Correspondingly, such leaders can also make significant contributions to ending domestic violence by speaking out on the subject, encouraging women to seek assistance, and sending the message that battering will not be tolerated by the community.

What Every Congregation Needs to Know About Domestic Violence and A Commentary on Religious Issues in Family Violence provide useful discussions about religion and domestic violence, as well as specific suggestions for religious leaders and communities working to prevent domestic violence. The Toolkit to End Violence Against Women, created by the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women and the United States Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office, also outlines ways in which clergy and faith-based organizations can become involved in a community response.

The media is also an essential part of efforts to promote awareness about domestic violence and to inform the public about resources available for victims. As UNICEF explains, the media

plays a pivotal role in both influencing and changing social norms and behaviour. Repeated exposure to violence in the media has been associated with increased incidence of aggression, especially in children. In the area of domestic violence, media campaigns can help to reverse social attitudes that tolerate violence against women by questioning patterns of violent behaviour accepted by families and societies. Collaboration with the media needs to focus on creating new messages and new responses to reduce domestic violence.

From UNICEF, Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls, Innocenti Digest, vol. 6, 1, 16 (2000). The media can also play a critical role in other types of advocacy, such as legislative reform; positive media attention can generate necessary public support for a reform effort.

UNIFEM's publication, Picturing a Life Free of Violence: Media and Communication Strategies to End Violence Against Women, provides an overview of selected media strategies that have been used to combat domestic violence throughout the world. The Toolkit also offers strategies for involving the media.

Employers, as well, can play a critical role in combating domestic violence by, for example, establishing workplace policies and training employees. A battered woman may require additional health care assistance, or need extra security precautions at work when she seeks to leave her abuser. The Toolkit discusses ways in which employers can become involved in a community response to domestic violence.

Different communities will need to involve different participants, and who should be involved will depend on a variety of contextual factors. Before starting a coordinated community response program, advocates will need to familiarize themselves with the actors who might be involved in an intervention effort and the roles these actors play. The DAIP staff, for example, asked these actors:

(a) What would improve the system's response?
(b) What kind of resistance would there be to different proposals (i.e., mandatory arrest)?
(c) Why would that resistance be there?
(d) Who are the key leaders [to convince of the value of a new approach]?
(e) How could proposed changes backfire on the project and on battered women?
(f) What kind of training in proposed changes would be effective?

In these initial talks, all of the policies discussed "were kept general and focused on what might be accomplished for the agency and for the protection of victims." From Ellen L. Pence, Some Thoughts on Philosophy, in Coordinating Community Responses to Domestic Violence: Lessons from the Duluth Model 25, 35, 36 (Melanie F. Shepard & Ellen L. Pence eds., 1999).

Leadership for coordinated responses can be located in an independent advocacy organization, the criminal justice system, or an inter-agency local coordinating council. Melanie Shepard's article, Evaluating Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence (1999), examines these different kinds of coordinated response programs and describes studies that evaluate the success of various programs in the United States. Linda McGuire recommends locating leadership of the coordinated response in a group not directly involved in the criminal justice system. This approach can help ensure that internal hierarchies and structures within the criminal justice system do not hinder the implementation of needed reforms, and that the response remains focused on the victim's safety. From Linda A. McGuire, Criminal Prosecution of Domestic Violence.

For a discussion of the ways in which collaboration with other organizations, community groups, and government agencies can be vital to efforts to end domestic violence, as well as strategies for developing those collaborative partnerships, see Susan Schechter, New Challenges for the Battered Women's Movement: Building Collaborations and Improving Public Policy for Poor Women (1999). Also see the 2008 United Nations expert group report entitled "Good practices in legislation on violence against women" which includes recommendations on community response.  For the Russian version of the recommendations of "Good practices in legislation on violence against women," click here.