Document date: February 01, 2003
Released online: February 01, 2003
This report was prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice under grant number 99-WT-VX-0010. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.
Note: The Portable Document Format (PDF) of this report includes all tables and charts.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The purpose of this evaluation was to assess whether STOP's financial support for direct victim services offered through private nonprofit victim service agencies helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault improve their safety and well-being, and work successfully with legal system and other relevant agencies. We carried out this purpose by:
In earlier phases of this project we pursued several other purposes, including
This report presents results related to victim outcomes and the service, community, and other factors that influence them. It speaks to the first two research purposes above. An earlier report (Burt, Zweig, Schlichter, & Andrews, 2000a) covered results for the last three research purposes. It described victim service agencies, their state and community context, their interactions with other relevant agencies and organizations in their communities, and the effect of local and state activities on victim service program and legal system configurations and ability to meet victim needs. A summary is included as Appendix A of this report.
WHO, WHAT, WHERE, AND WHEN?
In 1999, the National Institute of Justice funded the Urban Institute to conduct an evaluation to assess outcomes resulting from direct victim services offered through private nonprofit victim service agencies.1 The evaluation used a variety of research methods to understand how victim service programs help victims. Specifically, it looked at:
This report is the third produced by the evaluation. It presents findings on women's experiences with the service networks in their communities, and an integrated analysis detailing the roles of community context and victim service program offerings in improving women's outcomes after experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence. Previous reports described victim service programs, their use of STOP funding, community support networks for victims, and factors affecting community ability to meet victim needs (Burt et al., 2000a); and methodological challenges in obtaining interviews with women who use victim service programs (Zweig and Burt, 2002).
WHY THIS STUDY IS IMPORTANT
The STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants Program is a major federal resource for stimulating the growth of programs serving women victims of violence. The program's long-term goal is to promote institutionalized system change, such that women encounter an effective and supportive response from the criminal and civil legal systems, and from community agencies offering services and supports to victims. The program was originally authorized by Chapter 2 of the Safe Streets Act, which in turn is part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322), and was renewed and expanded in 2000 (P.L. 106-386). STOP is administered by the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) in the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs.
A great deal of federal money has been used to support violence against women services funded through the STOP program. Federal funding for the STOP program for fiscal years 1995 through 2000 totaled $672.2 million. These funds supported over 9,000 subgrants to 3,444 separate projects, many of which received subgrants for more than one year. A good deal of state and local support supplement these federal funds through the match required of projects in law enforcement, prosecution, and other public agencies.
This evaluation is designed to assess the effects of STOP-funded victim service programs on the clients and communities they serve. Little is known about how victim service program activities influence outcomes for women and how agencies hosting victim service programs interact with the legal system and other agencies to assist women victims of violence. Past research examining domestic violence and sexual assault has three limitations: (1) few studies examine the effect of a coordinated community response to violence against women; (2) most studies examine only criminal legal system outcomes (e.g., rearrests) few studies examine outcomes for women reflecting their well-being or safety; and (3) most available studies had small samples and examined only one or two service modalities from one or two programs.
This study was explicitly designed to go beyond past research efforts to cover these missing elements, and to do so on a sample of programs and women victims of violence drawn from around the nation, from communities of different types, and from communities organized in different ways to address the problem of violence against women. Findings from this study begin to fill many gaps in our knowledge, and should lead to the design of more and better approaches to helping women.
HOW WAS THE INFORMATION FOR THIS REPORT COLLECTED?
First, we selected eight states whose state STOP agency had different levels of emphasis on creating collaborative structures in local service networks to help victims. The states selected were Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
Second, we collected information about nonprofit victim service agencies receiving STOP funding to deliver direct services, their services, and their community linkages. A Program Survey completed in spring 2000 used telephone interviews with the person most knowledgeable about STOP-funded activities to obtain this information. The sample included 200 nonprofit victim service agencies that were nationally representative of all private nonprofit victim service agencies receiving STOP funds for direct services. Among the 200 programs were at least 10 subgrantees from each of the 8 focal states, with the remaining programs in the sample being nationally representative of the range of STOP-funded programs in the rest of the country.
Analysis of Program Survey data, reported by Burt and colleagues in 2000 (Burt et al., 2000a), served three purposesdescribing program service offerings, testing hypotheses, and selecting the communities in the eight focal states to include in the final stage of our design the Help Seeker and the Community surveys. Our goal was to collect data from women in 40 communities five in each of eight states.
Data revealing women's outcomes resulting from service use were collected through telephone interviews with women between June 2001 and February 2002 for two samples of womenthe Help Seeker and the Community samples. The data analyzed for this report come from women in 26 communities across the eight states (2 in Colorado, 4 in Illinois, 3 in Massachusetts, 3 in Pennsylvania, 3 in Texas, 4 in Vermont, 3 in Washington, and 4 in West Virginia).2
The Help Seeker sample consists of women recruited from nonprofit victim service and legal system agencies who had contacted those agencies for assistance related to experiences of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. The legal system agencies (e.g., police, prosecutors, or protective order courts) serving as recruiting places were selected by the victim service agency. In some cases where victim service agency staff were housed in legal system agencies, these advocates recruited women for the legal system partner. Recruitment involved an informed consent process during which agency staff reviewed with women a form describing the study and its purpose, the potential risks and benefits of participating, what they would be asked about during the interview, the confidentiality procedures, the stipend for participation, and their rights as participants of the study. If a woman agreed to participate, she provided her own contact information and contact information for up to three other people whom she was comfortable having someone contact and who would likely know where she was if she moved. The interviews lasted between one and two hours depending on a woman's circumstances. All women who completed interviews were paid a stipend of $30.00. The Help Seeker sample included 890 women500 recruited by nonprofit victim service agencies and 390 recruited by legal system agencies. They were interviewed between June and October 2001.
The Community sample is a random sample of women in their communities who are 18 to 35 years of age. The sample was selected using random digit dialing (RDD), screening for women aged 18 to 35 in the victim service program catchment area from which we drew the Help Seeker sample. We attempted to complete interviews with any women in the correct age range living in the household called. Interviews with women who had no domestic violence or sexual assault experiences usually lasted about 30 minutes, and no payment was involved. If a woman disclosed either domestic violence or sexual assault, she was asked if she was willing to answer a more extensive set of questions, equivalent to those asked of the Help Seeker sample. These women were paid a $30.00 stipend for completing the full interview. The Community sample included 619 women, interviewed between November 2001 and February 2002.
The total sample thus includes 1,509 completed interviews from women living in the 26 study communities. The women's data were linked to Program Survey data from their own community, to provide the contextual variables that comprise most of the independent variables in our analysis.
Service Use Patterns
Knowledge and Perceptions of Victim Services
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
The findings suggest a number of ways that community agencies working to address domestic violence and sexual assault can improve their efforts. First, victim service and legal system agencies, as well as other relevant community agencies, should work together to address violence against women. When agencies work together, women find their services more useful and legal system outcomes occur more frequently. Additionally, in earlier results from the current evaluation, program representatives reported that community interaction among private nonprofit victim service programs and other community agencies can improve services by increasing the amount of services provided in conjunction with other agencies and by improving a community's ability to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault (Burt et al., 2000a). Work together can take many forms and can vary in intensity from informal communication between staff members of agencies to institutionalized written protocols for joint work. It can include cross training of agency staff, cross referrals between agencies, integrated case management, joint planning or strategizing to address violent crimes against women, and/or institutionalized commitments to work together. Findings from the National Evaluation of the STOP Formula Grants documented the ways in which agencies within communities can work together to improve their response to domestic violence and sexual assault (see Burt, Harrell, Raymond, Iwen, Schlichter, Katz, Bennett, & Thompson, 1999; Burt, Zweig, Schlicther, Kamya, Katz, Miller, Keilitz, & Harrell, 2000b).
Second, agency staff should work to increase the positive ways and reduce the negative ways they treat women. Providing women with information, listening to their stories, respecting them, and contacting them about their safety and well-being are among the behaviors women find helpful. Women who are treated more positively by agency staff find the services more useful and effective.
Third, agency staff should work to increase the amount of control women feel when receiving agency services. They should work to listen to the women and consider their opinions before acting in situations. Women know best about their own safety and well-being; when they have a greater sense of control while working with agencies, they find the services more helpful and effective.
Fourth, agency staff should examine what types of outreach they do and compare these to reports of how women learn about the availability of services. Some of the most common strategies may not actually reach many women in the community. In addition, although we found that word of mouth is a useful outreach strategy that brings many women to services, relying on word of mouth may still leave large groups of women without certain knowledge that help is available in their community.
IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
This report's findings suggest that state STOP administrators and the Violence Against Women Office should continue to support local communities in their efforts to develop victim services, and especially to develop collaborative service networks among agencies. Funding policies that require collaboration should be continued or created, and technical assistance should be offered to increase collaboration and, since collaboration takes administrative time, grants should cover the services of a coordinator. We have made these recommendations in past reports based on program staff's perceptions that collaborative work in communities improves outcomes for women (Burt et al, 2000a; 2000b; 2001). The present findings increase our confidence that collaborative work is critical to addressing domestic violence and sexual assault as women themselves report that services are more effective when agencies work together to meet their needs.
IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH
More research should be conducted to further our understanding of victim services and their effects on the women they serve. An important direction for future research is to identify what factors increase women's knowledge about available services in their community and bring reluctant victims to agency doors. At this point we do not know what factors increase knowledge; it would be useful for programs to know more so they can target relevant actions when conducting outreach activities.
Another important direction for future research would be to follow women who used victim services over a period of time using a longitudinal design. At this point we have a better understanding of the circumstances under which women find services helpful and effective. It would also be useful to know how services change the lives of women over time and if using services assists women in living violence-free lives.
A final possibility is to conduct a study such as the present one in communities that may have more complexity to their service structures than many of the ones we included in this study. Although we did have several communities of 500,000 or more (the largest was 1.5 million), many of our communities were of a size that could be organized community-wide if the commitment were there to do so. There was no relationship in our 26 communities between level of community coordination and community size, but it remains more difficult to organize really large cities and counties. These might be where the biggest payoffs for good service planning, coordination, and follow-through will be found.
1 This project is supported by Grant No. 99-WT-VX-0010 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or of other staff members, officers, trustees, advisory groups, or funders of the Urban Institute.
2 For a variety of reasons detailed in this project's second report (Zweig and Burt, 2002), we were not able to retain all 40 communities in the final sample.
3 These very high rates of domestic violence occur because 60 percent of our sample were drawn deliberately from among women who were known to have experienced victimization and sought help for it.
This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).
The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of the state coordinators and research assistants who worked with us to make this evaluation happen. We appreciate the hard work provided by Anna Belle Burleson, Vonni Edwards, Judith Joseph, Pamela Kelley, Beth Morrison, Cindy Morrow, Joan Rappaport, Adrian Unell, and Emily Rosenberg. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of our partner, Westat Inc., specifically Doreen De Leonardis, Helen Jewells, and Steve Dietz. Finally, we would like to express sincere gratitude to all the agencies that assisted us in finding women who were willing to talk with us about their experiences and to all the women who participated in the study and shared with us about their lives.
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