This paper reports on the evaluation of advocacy services for battered women in Detroit, with "advocacy" defined as services provided to support victims during the legal process or to enhance their safety.
Although the study focused on advocacy services provided by the police department and the prosecutor's office, other aspects of coordinated community responses to domestic violence were also investigated. The evaluation used official records to explore issues that were important to criminal justice personnel. Researchers examined whether advocacy at the precinct and/or prosecutor's level was associated with a higher rate of completed prosecutions of batterers, a higher rate of guilty findings against batterers (or guilty pleas), or decreased rates of subsequent violence. The evaluation also investigated victims' assessments of their safety, their views of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in meeting their needs, and help-seeking patterns. The evaluation used a quasi-experimental comparison of domestic violence cases that originated in precincts with and without special police domestic violence teams that included advocates. The domestic violence teams that participated in the study included specially trained police officers, police department advocates, legal advocates, and, in one precinct, an onsite prosecutor. Three types of advocates assisted victims by offering information about the legal system, referrals, and safety planning. The precinct legal advocates, employed by local domestic violence programs, worked in two precincts and focused on helping women obtain protective orders. Researchers analyzed 563 police incident reports (PCR's) from precincts with onsite advocates and 494 PCR's from precincts without onsite advocates. Telephone interviews with victims provided information on their perceptions of services and their help-seeking patterns. As a measure of recidivism, researchers continued to collect PCR's from the five precincts for 6 months after the intake of their last focal PCR. Overall, between 60 and 100 percent of the victims interviewed rated all three types of advocates as "very helpful" or "somewhat helpful." The most common reasons women rated advocates as helpful were that they received information, were emotionally supported, and believed advocates actively did something to help. Those women who gave advocates low helpfulness ratings (between 20 and 40 percent) described them as not doing enough, unavailable, unsympathetic, or not giving enough information. Using only the first interview because it had the most respondents, 41.7 percent of the 242 interviewees reported that the criminal justice system did not decrease abuse, help them leave their partners, keep the abuser away from them, or give them information or referrals. The most common ways the criminal justice system did help were to decrease abuse (32.6 percent) and help the respondent leave her partner (27.7 percent). Implications of these findings are drawn for researchers and for practitioners. 7 references