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

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Date Published
This field trial conducted in Redlands, CA, examined outcomes for various timings (immediate, delayed, or none) of an intervention in domestic violence cases in which social workers visited homes where domestic incidents were recently reported to the police, in order to help the victim find long-term solutions to recurring domestic abuse ("second responder" program).
The study found no evidence that the second-responder intervention reduced subsequent abuse. None of the seven principal outcomes measured showed a reduction in abuse for second-responder participants. The outcomes measured were the prevalence and frequency of new abuse; time to failure; survey measures of physical abuse, threats, and controlling abuse; and satisfaction with the police response. In fact, the evidence suggests, albeit not definitively, that the second-response intervention increased abusive incidents. On all seven principal measures of new abuse, second-response cases performed worse than controls, who did not receive the second-response intervention. No firm conclusions were drawn about why the second-response intervention did not reduce subsequent abuse. One suggestion is that chronic abusers react to the intervention by abusing the victim as a warning against further participation in an intervention. The authors advise that the findings of this study, along with similar findings in studies of second-responder interventions in New York State, suggests that these programs are at best ineffective and at worst may place victims at risk of greater harm. The Redlands study conducted a randomized experiment in which households that reported a domestic incident to the police were assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions: a visit within 24 hours (75), a visit 1 week after the call (77) or no second-response intervention (148). 3 tables, 1 figure, and 17 references
Date Created: January 28, 2021