Background and Purpose: Domestic violence and sexual assault practitioners and policymakers have been engaged in reflections on directions within the field challenging violence against women. Among contemporary concerns are the “over-reliance on criminal legal remedies” and the dearth of community-based prevention initiatives. Community-based approaches involving the building of social capital or the engagement of social networks have been theorized as promising arenas for practice and policies regarding violence against women. The recent focus on prevention efforts with youth, faith communities, men and boys, and community bystanders challenges these oversights. However, community or social network involvement in secondary and tertiary interventions to violence, after some level of violence has occurred, has remained outside of the scope of most initiatives. This presentation submits a formative evaluation of one domestic violence and sexual assault organization that conducted a three-year pilot of a social network model of intervention through a collaborative project with several immigrant violence intervention organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The project was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other health-related foundations. The Creative Interventions community-based intervention model offers a unique alternative to conventional domestic violence and sexual assault remedies by encouraging the active involvement of social networks in intervention responses.
Method: This presentation is based upon evaluation data from a formative qualitative evaluation of the three-year pilot study conducted with 8 providers involved in the pilot project, representing 5 immigrant violence-related organizations. Data collection took place at Years 1 and 3 with one additional focus group. The evaluation is also based upon in-depth semi-structured interviews with 10 individuals who sought assistance from the organization.
Results: Findings from the pilot phase include: (1) the prominence of micro-level subjective responses rather than macro-level outcomes; (2) the importance of some sense of personal connection to the facilitator and/or to the organization; (3) high levels of satisfaction based upon the availability of alternatives to conventional services; and (4) difficulties in reaching social network consensus regarding goals and strategies leading to successful engagement with the perpetrator of violence. Threats to safety beyond those generally attributable to the originating situation of violence were not reported. An evaluation of providers involved in the project found reluctance to lead or facilitate these interventions accompanied by a high level of commitment to the continued development of provider skills and knowledge.
Conclusions and Implications: The social network violence intervention approach is a promising model particularly for immigrant communities retaining strong collectivist values, interdependent ties within social networks and reluctance to use criminal justice systems. The need to develop and promote such models appears greater given a climate of immigrant targeting for detention and deportation in the post 9/11 era. The results of this pilot project including its documentation and evaluation provide a solid foundation for continued practice, policy development and research in the effective and safe use of social networks in the prevention and intervention of violence against women.