Individuals – Hovell et al. (2006)

Study Reference:

Hovell, M. F., Seid, A. G., & Liles, S. (2006). Evaluation of a police and social services domestic violence program: Empirical evidence needed to inform public health policies. Violence Against Women, 12, 137-159.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Moderately rigorous; Backfire effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study evaluated a Family Violence Response Team (FVRT), which involved police officers first responding to a domestic violence report and stabilizing the scene to ensure safety, and then calling for the services of an FVRT member that joined the officer within about 15 minutes. FVRT members were trained to provide social services to victims and children following a police call for domestic violence. The team member provided crisis intervention, emergency treatment, and referrals for services to adult and child victims. Within 1 week of the violence call, a case manager completed services that the FVRT team could not complete at the scene, including follow-up phone calls, home visits, and accompaniment to court.

How was the intervention evaluated?

This was a quasi-experimental design with a historical prospective control group. Control group cases were defined as the residences of families with children to whom police had responded to domestic violence incidents during 1997, the year prior to the start of the community-wide FVRT intervention. Cases for the intervention group were drawn from FVRT case files of families who had completed the joint police and social services intervention. Police records were followed for 327 FVRT clients and 498 control clients. Follow up interviews were attempted at roughly 6 and 12 months subsequent to case closure. The length of investigator follow-up—the period in which there would be an opportunity for police data files to capture repeat violent incidents—lasted until July 2000.

What were the key findings?

This strategy had a significant backfire effect: families receiving FVRT experienced 1.7 times greater levels of violence than the control families. An analysis was computed using data from participants in both groups only for the first 12 months of follow-up, for those followed for at least that long. This showed that families receiving the FVRT experienced 1.3 times greater levels of violence than the control families (this does not reach statistical significance).

What were the implications for law enforcement?

While a possible reason for the backfire results may be increased reporting among FVRT families, these results raise concerns regarding domestic violence interventions. The solution may be to tailor interventions to the particular needs of each family.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?