Policing and Mental Health: Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a serious and ongoing issue for human services in the United States. Domestic violence is a complicated issue due to many different issues that may occur simultaneously which inhibit law enforcement and human services. This broad area of risk and causes in domestic violence has inspired a variety of different agencies and programs that are dedicated to dealing with the problems and the various types of violence that occur. However, despite many different human services programs and agencies which have dedicated resources to dealing with domestic violence; the problem continues to elude a permanent solution (Roberts, 2007). As a result of these barriers, domestic violence continues to be a major problem for human services agencies and their workers. The problem is that there is lack of a comprehensive aid and legal remedy in the US and most parts of the world. In response to this issue, England instituted a multiagency approach, in the 1990s, which is slowly becoming a standard in the US and Canada (Matczak, Hatzidimitriadou, & Lindsay, 2011). This system manifests itself in the form of Police Domestic Violence Unit (PDVU).
PDVUs were formed, in England, in response to issues that make dealing with domestic violence complicated and difficult. For example, lack of legal aid, protection, financial and housing benefits reduce the ability of police to properly deal with domestic violence. Equally troublesome is the fact that human services are often incapable of helping victims due to the fact that they do not have the ability to protect or provide legal aid (Hamel, Nicholls & Tonia, 2007).
Police Domestic Violence Units were introduced in early 1990s and were consolidated at a national level (Harwin, 2006) with staff specially trained to help people experiencing domestic violence ( ̳Domestic Violence Liaison Officers‘) (Smartt, 2006). These Units are now renamed as Community Safety Units. Police officers are tasked to work closely with other statutory and non-governmental organisations to prevent domestic violence (local Domestic Violence Forums, IDVAs, CPS, ISVAs etc.) (Matczak, Hatzidimitriadou, & Lindsay, 2011).
Domestic violence is rarely without other issues involved such as drug or alcohol abuse. This problem creates issues, when developing human service and law enforcement programs, because there is a great deal of overlap with other programs. For instance, a woman who is getting help with spousal abuse may also need to be involved in outpatient or inpatient drug rehabilitation. Sadly, this situation has been linked to directly to socioeconomic situations. Often the poorest of clients may need more services than more affluent clients. In a study of human services it was found that:
Clients noted that an added benefit to them would be if SVCs [PDVUs] could offer or connect them with holistic services to address a range of issues associated with legal assistance, food, training and education, financial supports, housing, transportation, mental health, parenting, substance abuse, and domestic violence services (Williams, 2013).
As such PDVUs began the process of working with the issue of co-occurring issues. The primary issue with co-occurring issues is that most programs are limited in their ability to help people with multiple problems and this can diminish the effectiveness of the primary program (Matczak, Hatzidimitriadou, & Lindsay, 2011). For instance, if a woman cannot leave her abusive husband because there are no financial or job services in the area to help her, then a domestic violence program will be made impotent (Shipway, 2004). This is an ongoing problem which calls for a more robust domestic violence approach in poor areas. For human service workers, this situation creates a problem because workers who deal with domestic violence may go to great lengths to convince a client to seek legal remedy and when the client does they are often extremely disappointed (Roberts, 2007). Often little is done and the person may now face more severe abuse as a result of having spoken out. For human service workers and for agencies dealing with this problem, the impact of PDVUs had been a major benefit because they can now operate with greater effectiveness and confidence in the goal of reducing domestic violence (Roberts, 2007).
The human service approach in the United States is considered problematic due to the wide range of problems associated with the domestic violence. No one agency or program seems to have the capability of dealing with the problem. The PDVU approach has proven successful in England where all domestic violence situations result in multiagency action. This system allows law enforcement, human services agencies, and other groups to intervene as needed and establishes multiagency team effort. The idea behind this multiagency participation is to work with the many different problems using different perspectives and solutions for this complicated issue.
Hamel, John; Nicholls, Tonia L. (2007). Family Interventions in Domestic Violence: A Handbook of Gender-Inclusive Theory and Treatment. New York, NY: Springer.
Matczak, A. Hatzidimitriadou, E., Lindsay, J. (2011). Review of Domestic Violence Policies in England & Wales
Roberts, Albert R. (2007). Battered Women and their Families: Intervention Strategies and Treatment Programs (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.
Shipway, Lynn (2004). Domestic Violence: A Handbook for Health Professionals. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-28220-8.
Williams , D. O. (2013). Concepts in creating culturally responsive services for supervised visitation centers.