Female Victims of Domestic Violence: Which Victims Do Police Refer to Crisis Intervention?

Article excerpt

Factors associated with activation of a volunteer-based crisis intervention services program for victims of police-reported intimate partner violence (IPV) were examined to determine if those for whom services were activated were representative of the overall eligible population. The study population comprised 2,092 adult female victims of male-perpetrated police-reported IPV. Crisis intervention services were requested by responding patrol officers in 415 (19.8%) of these incidents. Activation of crisis intervention services was more likely for victims who were married to their abusive partner, pregnant, or of Latina or Asian race/ethnicity and among IPV incidents involving physical abuse, visible victim injuries, and arrest of the abusive partner. Additionally, one of the city's five police precincts was less likely than the remaining four to utilize these services. Activation of crisis intervention services was associated with factors related to need and feasibility of service delivery, but differential activation at the precinct level was also found to be influential.

Keywords: intimate partner violence; domestic violence; crisis intervention

According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, roughly 1.8 million women are victimized by a male intimate partner in the United States each year, suffering over 5 million incidents of stalking, physical assault, and rape (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). The adverse physical and psychological consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV) on victims and their children have been well described (Becker & McCloskey, 2002; Bonomi et al., 2006; Campbell et al., 2002; Coker, Smith, Bethea, King, & McKeown, 2000; Coker et al., 2002; Kernic et al., 2002, 2003; Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt, & Kenny, 2003; Kramer, Lorenzon, & Mueller, 2004; Nicolaidis, Curry, McFarland, & Gerrity, 2004; Wolfe, Crooks, Lee, McIntyre-Smith, & Jaffe, 2003; Yates, Dodds, Sroufe, & Egeland, 2003). Despite advances in our understanding of the epidemiology of IPV, evaluation research of IPV interventions is still in its infancy, and many IPV interventions are widely disseminated in the absence of evidence of their effectiveness (Wathen & MacMillan, 2003). One such widely disseminated intervention is the police department-involved crisis intervention team approach. These interventions utilize staff who respond to a police-reported incident of IPV and, in addition to providing immediate services such as crisis intervention and domestic violence counseling, also focus on educating and connecting victims to existing community services such as emergency shelter, support groups, legal advocacy, and protective order filing and advocacy.

Crisis theory (Pence, 1989; Roberts, 1996) and what Curnow (1997) refers to as the "open window phase" provide a theoretical framework for why the timing of a victim support team approach may effect change in victim behavior. Curnow and other researchers have found that battered women are more amenable to help seeking and to realistically identifying their situation as abusive following a violent incident. Numerous studies have shown the complex array of factors associated with greater likelihood of leaving an abusive relationship and the recognition of the process of leaving as transitioning and often retransitioning through a series of stages. Factors found to be associated with a greater likelihood of remaining in an abusive relationship include lack of financial resources, limited employment opportunities, lack of social support, limited awareness of available resources, and difficulties in accessing and navigating systems to take advantage of existing resources (Bell & Goodman, 2001; Patzel, 2001; Werner-Wilson , Zimmerman, & Whalen, 2000). By recognizing the need to address the broad range of resources needed for battered women to successfully leave the abusive relationship, helping to bridge connections to those services, and doing so at a time when victims are likely to be more ready to accept help, the victim support team model provides a theoretically supported model for positive change in the lives of battered women. …