Preventing Repeat Incidents of Family Violence

Recent evaluations of “second response” programs for domestic violence victims have cast doubt on their effectiveness. These programs are designed to educate and empower victims who have reported incidents of domestic abuse to the police. The program model involves a social worker or specially trained domestic violence police officer going to the homes of victims who have reported domestic abuse some time after the initial patrol response to the call for service. The second responder talks with victims about the nature of domestic violence, helps them develop a safety plan, and informs them about help available for counseling needs, relocation, civil legal assistance, restraining orders, and other social services.

This field test, conducted with the cooperation of the Redlands, CA, Police Department, sought to vary one of the parameters thought to affect the impact of second response programs. Victims who called the Redlands police with a domestic abuse complaint were randomly assigned (a) to receive a second response within 24 hours, (b) to receive a second response within seven days, or (c) to receive no second response. A check of police records and surveys with victims six months after the initial complaint was called did not indicate any reduction in new abuse resulting from any second response condition. The current findings, coupled with earlier research results, strongly suggest that second response programs are at best ineffective in reducing the potential for new abuse and at worst may increase the likelihood of new abusive incidents. Implications for criminal justice policy are discussed.

Preventing Repeat Incidents of Family Violence: A Randomized Field Test of a Second Responder Program in Redlands, California