Thursday, September 17, 2009

Domestic Violence Program Evaluation and Current Research

As an advocate who's program receives Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funds I am mandated to attend an annual training on program evaluation, outcome measures and collecting and reporting data. Though the subject may sound dry and tedious we are fortunate here in Michigan to have a trainer who can present the content in such a way that those in attendence walk away with a clear understanding of how and why accurate reporting is essential, not only to the funders who demand the data but to the crime victims that the program is in place to serve.
Anyone who follows my blog knows I take exception with those on the outside who criticize domestic violence programs for their lack of accountability in this area. Some "father's rights" activists and otherindividuals like to claim that dv programs just suck money from the government, pay administrators big salaries and have no accountability for how money is spent or how victims are treated. Anyone who has worked for any length of time in a domestic violence program would find this laughable...but people are entitled to their opinions.
Back to our training, the presenter for these sessions is Dr. Cris M. Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan is Professor of Ecological/ Community Psychology at Michigan State University and Director of Evaluation for the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She has serves as a consultant on the local, state and national levels including the NRCDV, NNEDV, Dept. of Health and Human Services, the DOJ OVW and the Battered Women's Justice Project. Dr Sullivan has been an advocate and researcher since 1982 and remains passionate about ending violence against women.

Dr Sullivan has given permission to use the following summary of current research to assist in grantwriting and working with funders. It is also very valuable in your own program evaluation:

The Impact of Domestic Abuse Victim Services on Survivors’ Safety and Wellbeing:
Research Findings to Date

Cris M. Sullivan, Ph.D.
Michigan State University

More and more, funders and others are asking if victim service programs are engaging in
“evidence-based practice.” To help domestic violence programs answer that question, I have reviewed
the current research and summarized what we know about the evidence that our services make a
difference for survivors. It can also be helpful to programs to know what research studies have found
about the effectiveness of our efforts, so that we can feel confident we are measuring the appropriate
short-term outcomes that will lead to desired long-term outcomes for survivors. It is not realistic for nonprofit
programs, with little money devoted to evaluation, to measure the long-term impact of their work –
that’s what research is for. We can, however, examine the short-term changes that have been found to
lead to long-term success.
Shelter programs have been found to be one of the most supportive, effective resources for
women with abusive partners, according to the residents themselves (Bennett et al., 2004; Gordon, 1996;
Sullivan et al., 2008; Tutty, Weaver, & Rothery, 1999). For example, Berk, Newton, and Berk (1986)
reported that, for women who were actively attempting other strategies at the same time, a stay at a shelter
dramatically reduced the likelihood they would be abused again.
One research study used a true experimental design and followed women for two years in order to
examine the effectiveness of a community-based advocacy program for domestic abuse survivors.
Advocates worked with women 4-6 hours a week over 10 weeks, in the women’s homes and
communities. Advocates were highly trained volunteers who could help women across a variety of areas:
education, employment, housing, legal assistance, issues for children, transportation, and other issues.
Women who worked with the advocates experienced less violence over time, reported higher quality of
life and social support, and had less difficulty obtaining community resources over time. One out of four
(24%) of the women who worked with advocates experienced no physical abuse, by the original assailant
or by any new partners, across the two years of post-intervention follow-up. Only 1 out of 10 (11%)
women in the control group remained completely free of violence during the same period. This low-cost,
short-term intervention using unpaid advocates appears to have been effective not only in reducing
women's risk of re-abuse, but in improving their overall quality of life (Sullivan, 2000; Sullivan & Bybee,
Close examination of which short-term outcomes led to the desired long-term outcome of safety
found that women who had more social support and who reported fewer difficulties obtaining community
resources reported higher quality of life and less abuse over time (Bybee & Sullivan, 2002).
Remainder of the report HERE (PDF)

1 comment:

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