Program Goals/Target Population
Second Responders programs were originally developed in the 1980s to help victims of repeat incidents of family violence (including intimate partner abuse, abuse within families or households, and elder abuse). Second Responders programs follow from the understanding that incidents of family violence are often recurring and that victims are likely to be receptive to opportunities to prevent recurrence immediately following victimization. Second responders (usually social workers and police officers) visit the homes where family violence incidents were recently reported to the police. They work with victims to help them find long-term solutions to recurring abuse.
This model was adopted for use with the Redlands (California) Police Department. The goal of the Redlands Second Responders program was to ensure that victims had information about and access to available resources and services, to answer any questions victims may have had about the complaint or the justice process, and to encourage a sense of trust in the police and criminal justice system as a whole.
The Redlands Second Responders team consisted of two police officers, including a trained female domestic violence detective. The response team would visit households either within 24 hours or within 7 days of a domestic complaint. Depending on the victim’s receptiveness to assistance from the team, visits typically lasted 30–45 minutes.
A written protocol would guide the response team making the home visits. The officers began the visits by talking to victims about the recent incident of family violence and any immediate safety concerns the victims may have had. The officers would discuss with the victims the nature of the domestic violence and the possibility that the incident could recur if no action is taken. They would also ask the victim a series of questions about the relationship with the abuser, history of abuse, and the presence of children and weapons in the home.
After the preliminary discussion, second response officers would provide victims with information about resources and services available to them. Officers would provide them with a written description of local resources to assist domestic violence victims, including housing relocation, counseling, domestic violence shelters, medical help, civil legal assistance, information about the criminal justice process, aid in applying for an order of relief, and emergency financial assistance. In addition, officers would work with victims to develop safety plans and instruct them in how to document future abusive or stalking behaviors.
The second response team would make two attempts at home visits. In cases where the complainant was not home, literature was left and/or phone contact was made with the household.
Overall, when examining the results of the randomized experiment assessing the Redlands (CA) Second Responders program, Davis, Weisburd, and Hamilton (2007) found no statistically significant differences between the treatment and control groups on any of the outcome measures. Although the outcomes suggest that the second response intervention may have increased abusive incidents for victims in the treatment groups, the results must be interpreted with caution because they did not reach statistical significance and therefore the possibility that the group differences were due to chance cannot be ruled out.
Prevalence of New Domestic Incidents
There were no significant differences between the groups in the proportion of cases resulting in new incidents. The 1-day response group generated somewhat more new incidents (32 percent) than did the 7-day response group (23 percent) and the control group (24 percent).
Time to Failure
Although the cases assigned to the two second response conditions failed somewhat sooner than control cases (the average survival time was 72 days and 59 days for 1- and 7-day response groups, compared with 79 days for the control group), the differences did not approach statistical significance.
Frequency of New Domestic Incidents
The average number of new incidents for the 1-day response group was 0.64, compared with 0.42 for the 7-day response group and 0.46 for the control group. Although the cases assigned to the 1-day response group had more new incidents than cases assigned to the 7-day response or the control condition, the difference did not rise to the level of statistical significance.