A variety of strategies have emerged: Communities have expanded and strengthened social services; police departments are more likely to take offenders into custody when there are indications that a domestic assault has occurred; risk assessment tools have been improved; judges routinely remand offenders to mandatory counseling.
The most effective approaches, experts say, combine many or all of the above, yielding system-wide responses that combine focused attention on individuals with recognition and remediation of contextual factors. In St. Paul, Minn., a coordinated response integrates shelters for victims, criminal justice reform including an initiative to lodge charges against offenders faster, and more often. Its success is testimony to a joint effort by the advocate community and law enforcement officials, along with legislative initiatives that enshrine reforms in law.
In High Point, N.C., a strategy of focused deterrence has shown results: It’s an approach that was effective in reducing gang violence, translated to domestic situations. Authorities target a specific criminal behavior that is most often caused by a few chronic offenders, and then offer those offenders help in the form of carrots (more education, for example) and sticks (threats of sanctions and punishment). In New Haven, Ct., a collaboration between the New Haven Department of Police Services and the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center joins clinicians and cops to help address domestic violence by specifically taking care of kids in violent homes.
Some systemic approaches have many partners, and disagreements among them may reduce their effectiveness. As in other interventions to alleviate violence, the strategies may work well in one place but not well in others. The difference may have to do with leadership, with context, or with demographic specifics. There are separate questions concerning shelters. When a woman leaves an abusive spouse and moves into a shelter, that shelter is not a permanent solution: What happens next? And what can ensure longer-term successes?
Rape should be in its own category or referred to in separate categories. It is a complex topic. Some rapes are “domestic” while others are not. It fuels bias and is polarizing to continue to clump the complex types into one.
A report from 2000 by the United States Department of Justice reports cites that 22.1 percent of women and 7.4 percent of men reported being physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime. If you take into account the population of the US, that means that over 14 million women have been assaulted by someone they knew.