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Practice Profile

Second Responder Programs

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Domestic/intimate partner/family violence

Practice Description

Practice Goals
Second responder 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). The programs consist of home visits by a crisis response team who follow-up on the initial police response to reports of family violence. Second responder programs were developed 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. 

The purpose of the programs is to reduce the likelihood of recurring abuse by working directly with victims to provide them with information about their options so they can develop long-term solutions for their situations. The programs also try to establish greater independence for victims by connecting them to counseling and other social services that may help to lessen their dependence on their abuser. Second responder programs operate under the assumption that victims of family violence can be empowered through information about their situation, available services, and legal options. Therefore, new abuse can be reduced as victims leave abusive relationships or work with social services and criminal justice practitioners who can help them develop strategies to end the abuse while staying in the relationship (Davis, Weisburd, Hamilton 2010).

Target Population
The primary targets of second responder programs are the victims of family violence. Most programs focus on incidents of intimate partner violence, but victims of elder abuse may also be targeted. The majority of individuals that would be served by second responder programs are female. From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims (85 percent) of intimate partner violence were female (Catalano 2012).

Key Personnel
Second responder teams usually consist of a law enforcement officer and a family violence specialist. The specialist could be a victim advocate or a specially trained police officer.

Services Provided
Second responders visit homes where family violence incidents were recently reported to the police and work with victims to help them find long-term solutions to recurring abuse. Victims are provided with information about their legal rights and options, the cyclical nature of family violence, developing a safety plan, obtaining a restraining order, and seeking shelter or other relocation services. In addition, the second responder teams may try to connect victims to social services, such as counseling, job training, public assistance, civil legal assistance, and other service referrals.

As part of some second responder programs, there may even be a conversation with the abuser (if they are present at the visit) to make sure they understand that assaulting a family member or intimate partner is a criminal offense and that further abuse will result in (additional) sanctions.

The response time of second responders varies by program. Some responses may occur while the responding police officers are still at the scene of the incident. Some home visits may occur within 72 hours of a report to the police, while other responses occur 7–14 days after the incident. The amount of time second responders work with victims also varies by program, and usually depends on the victim’s receptiveness.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
When aggregating the results from eight studies that evaluated the effectiveness of second responder programs, Davis, Weisburd, and Taylor (2008) found a small effect size (d=0.08) for reports of abuse to the police. This indicated that the odds of reporting new abuse to the police were slightly higher for households that were assigned to receive a home visit through a second responder program. However, the effect size was not significant.
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Domestic/intimate partner/family violence
Davis, Weisburd, and Taylor (2008) also examined the outcomes from seven studies that used data from victim surveys. The analysis showed an effect size close to zero (d= 0.02). This indicates the second responder intervention had no statistically significant effect on victims' reports of abuse.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11992 - 2007104018

Meta-Analysis 1

Davis, Weisburd, and Taylor (2008) conducted a review of studies to assess the effect of second responder programs on repeat incidents of family violence. They used three criteria to determine the eligibility of studies: (1) studies had to be evaluations of a second responder program (defined as a program operated by or in cooperation with a municipal law enforcement agency in which, in response to a family violence complaint, the police summon family violence specialists to visit victims at their homes); (2) studies had to include an acceptable comparison group that did not receive a second response; and (3) studies had to include at least one measure of new offenses committed by the perpetrator against the same victim.

The authors conducted an extensive search of the literature, which included keyword searches on a variety of online databases, review of bibliographies of second responder studies, hand searches of leading journals in the field, and emails to knowledgeable scholars. Ten studies met the criteria. Five of the studies used experimental designs and five used quasi-experimental designs with a concurrent comparison group. Three of the studies were conducted in New York City and three were conducted in New Haven, CT. The remaining four studies were conducted in Redlands, Calif.; Richmond, VA; Miami, FL; and San Diego, Calif.

Two main outcome measures were coded from the eligible studies: (1) police data (i.e., whether a new domestic violence incident was reported to the police within six months of the triggering incident); and (2) survey data collected by researchers (i.e., whether a new domestic violence incident occurred and was reported to a researcher during an interview within six months of the triggering incident). When data was available, the selected outcome measures were coded for their means, percentage of failure, and sample sizes for each treatment/comparison group to calculate a standardized difference of means coefficient (Cohen’s d). When the data was not available, the odds ratios representing the odds of “success” (no failure) for the intervention group participants relative to the odds for control participants were calculated. The odds ratios were converted to Cohen’s d to allow for comparisons among the studies. The analysis assumed both random and fixed effects models.

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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Davis, Robert C., David Weisburd, and Bruce Taylor. 2008. “Effects of Second Responder Programs on Repeat Incidents of Family Abuse.” Campbell Systematic Reviews 15.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Davis, Robert C., David Weisburd, and Bruce Taylor. 2008. Effects of Second Responder Programs on Repeat Incidents of Family Abuse: A Systematic Review. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.

Davis, Robert C., David Weisburd, and Edwin E. Hamilton. 2010. “Preventing Repeat Incidents of Family Violence: A Randomized Field Test of a Second Responder Program.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 6:397–418.

Davis, Robert C., Christopher D. Maxwell, and Bruce Taylor. 2006. “Preventing Repeat Incidents of Family Violence: Analysis of Data from Three Field Experiments.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 2:183–210.

Catalano, Shannan. 2012. Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2010. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Stover, Carla Smith. 2012. “Police-Advocacy Partnerships in Response to Domestic Violence.” Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations 12:183–98.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Second Responders Program (Redlands, CA) No Effects - One study
The program model enlists second responders to make home visits to try to help victims find long-term solutions to help repeat incident victims of family violence including intimate partner abuse, abuse within families or households, and elder abuse. The program is rated No Effects. Overall, the evidence found no statistically significant differences between the treatment and control groups on prevalence of and frequency of new domestic incidents and time to failure.
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Practice Snapshot

Gender: Female

Targeted Population: Females, Victims of Crime

Settings: Home

Practice Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Crisis Intervention/Response, Victim Programs, Violence Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons