Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention
Skills and Characteristics of Mental Health
Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention: Skills and Characteristics of Mental Health
In Washington DC, domestic violence has its own unit. This specialized unit works as a liaison between victims, community, police, US Attorney’s office and other criminal justice agencies. The domestic violence unit is highly specialized with its own investigators, and provides training to officers who encounter domestic violence. This unit consists of police officers who work conjunction with human service workers in to coordinate a cases and provide legal as well as social support for the victims of domestic violence.
Besides educational material, the domestic violence unit provides services for domestic violence such as the domestic violence intake center:
The DVIC provides a single access point for victims of domestic violence by conducting intake evaluations, providing counseling, safety planning, assisting victims in drafting pleadings and other documents necessary for acquisition of protective orders and free legal representation (Metropolitan Police Department, 2017).
This unit also links with human services agencies that provide housing and financial support for victims and families. These services are varied and can include: welfare, social services, Medicare and Medicaid (Metropolitan Police Department, 2017). Other agency involvement includes legal aid, private advocacy groups, and a variety of volunteer workers such as doctors and psychologists. The unit is deeply involved with human services agencies and this case involvement allows for multiple issues that normally occur in domestic violence cases to be dealt with more efficiently.
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).
This multiagency and multidiscipline approach was adopted by the Metropolitan Police Department due to the need to work with multiple problems that occur in these cases. For example, domestic violence is almost always connected with drug or alcohol abuse. These problems were not properly dealt with by police alone and the development of special human service based units allowed for better long term outcomes:
Clients noted that an added benefit to them would be if SVCs [multiagency appraoch] 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).
In order to deliver services, the police units work directly with Domestic Violence Intake Centers which are managed by personnel who are human service workers who can facilitate services such as legal aid or victims compensation (Metropolitan Police Department, 2017). The workers in these centers are advocates and they perform many different functions in conjunction with law enforcement during a crisis intervention:
- safety planning;
- legal information;
- immediate crisis shelter;
- help securing the victim’s home
- emergency financial assistance for food, bus fare, and supplies for babies and children;
- access to the Emergency Temporary Protection Order (ETPO) process; and
- next-day follow-up from a DC SAFE Advocate(Domestic Violence Intake Center, 2017).
Workers in the unit must be licensed social workers and have a bachelor’s degree or higher (Domestic Violence Intake Center, 2017). Law enforcement and human services workers in these units require understanding of the many issues that victims of domestic violence face, they are not trained mental health professionals in most instances. These advocates must have an understanding of the issues but there are distinct differences between the workers and counseling professionals. While both workers and mental health professionals are both fundamentally focused on helping people, there are inherent differences between the two practices. The most obvious distinction between these two fields can be seen in cases of clients suffering from organic or inorganic cognitive defects. Only a counselor can provide therapeutic advice to these individuals. Advocates and law enforcement are not legally qualified to provide this form of assistance (Domestic Violence Intake Center, 2017). There is often a fine line between the advocates and counselors at times. Advocates need to be extremely careful to recognize this difference. For example, if a client is exhibiting strange behaviors or seeking to overcome problems that seem like cognitive issues, (such as hearing voices), the advocate would need to recommend this client to a counselor or doctor.
Advocates tend to look for solutions or answers to domestic violence issues which often has the client incapable of being able to separate from the abusive party. For example, an advocate might suggest housing or drug treatment programs or find the individual job assistance.
The domestic violence units in DC are a specialized system comprised of human service advocates and law enforcement. This approach is relatively new in the United States. These units answer the problem of dealing with multiple issues in domestic violence but more importantly they reduce the chance of negative outcomes such as continued abuse or homicide (Metropolitan Police Department, 2017). It is likely that in the future these units will be the standard for dealing with domestic violence in the US.
Domestic Violence Intake Center. (2017). DC SAFE. Retrieved from Domestic Violence Intake Center
Matczak, A., Hatzidimitriadou, E., & Lindsay, J. (2011). Review of Domestic Violence Policies in England & Wales. Retrieved from Review of Domestic Violence Policies in England & Wales
Metropolitan Police Department. (2017). Domestic Violence Intake Center. Retrieved from Metropolitan Police Department