Coordinated Community Response
last updated February 1, 2006


Coordinated community response is an intervention strategy developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) in Duluth. This strategy, often called the "Duluth model," is a "system of networks, agreements, processes and applied principles created by the local shelter movement, criminal justice agencies, and human service programs that were developed in a small northern Minnesota city over a fifteen year period. It is still a project in the making." From Ellen Pence & Martha McMahon, A Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence, The National Training Project, Duluth, Minnesota.

DAIP found that when different members of the community coordinated their efforts to protect battered women and hold batterers accountable, these efforts were more successful. Coordination helps to ensure that the system works faster and better for victims, that victims are protected and receive the services they need, and that batterers are held accountable and cease their abusive behavior. A critical first step toward coordinating responses is developing a common understanding of domestic violence.

Law enforcement agencies, advocates, health care providers, child protection services, local businesses, the media, employers and clergy can—and ideally should—be involved in a coordinated community response. Health care providers, in particular, can be important participants. Doctors, nurses and emergency room workers may see and treat women who do not or cannot seek other kinds of assistance. Coordinated community response programs often work to create a network of support for victims and their families that is both available and accessible. Coordinated community response programs often use the full extent of the community's legal system to protect victims, hold batterers accountable, and enforce the community's intolerance of domestic violence. Coordinated community response programs also often engage the entire community in efforts to change the social norms and attitudes that contribute to domestic violence. From American Medical Association, Family Violence: Building a Coordinated Community Response 12 (1996).

For recommendations on creating violence against women laws incorporating community response, see the 2008 United Nations expert group report entitled "Good practices in legislation on violence against women". For the Russian version of the recommendations of "Good practices in legislation on violence against women," click here.

The involvement of each participant in the coordinated community response must be guided by core principles of intervention designed to protect the victim from further harm. Each actor should also build into its response opportunities to seek input from survivors of domestic violence. Such input can help participants ensure that the intervention is adequately responding to women's needs and assess whether changes should be made.

Coordination can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the community's response to domestic violence. As Linda McGuire emphasizes, the implementation of new laws and policies, for example, is most effective when preceded by the development of a community-wide strategy of reform that ensures that all members of the community respond in a consistent way to domestic abuse and can be held accountable for their responses. McGuire notes that in Duluth, Minnesota, the Duluth Police Department implemented a mandatory arrest policy only after important groundwork had been laid. "Before implementation, a coordinating group of police, prosecutors, the court, probation, and advocates determined how, under the new approach, each would respond in a manner that held batterers accountable and protected battered women." McGuire notes that

[b]y contrast, in some states, a mandatory arrest policy was adopted as law before such a coordinated response was developed. The criminal justice system was unprepared for it and the response to the new law was counterproductive. For example, the implementation of a mandatory arrest law, without the simultaneous requirement and funding of police training, resulted in arrests being made without adequate investigation by officers, creating cases that prosecutors could not take to trial. In other jurisdictions, mandatory arrest laws resulted in an unwarranted number of dual arrests, that is, arrest of both parties without regard for whether one party acted in self-defense.

From Linda A. McGuire, Criminal Prosecution of Domestic Violence.

For links to research and reports on the coordinated community response model, click here.