Domestic Violence Outcomes Measures Project

by Bill Byrnes; Christine C. George; Leah Durst-Lee; Rannveig Sigurvinsdottir; Stephanie Riger

Jan 9, 2019

The Domestic Violence Outcome Project had a two-fold purpose: first, to identify the long-term outcomes and needs of those who receive services from domestic violence agencies, and second, to establish procedures for on-going evaluation within agencies. Working closely with 15 agencies that are members of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, the researchers developed a survey to evaluate services and identify client needs. The services evaluated included court advocacy (e.g., assistance from an advocate in obtaining an order of protection), legal services (assistance from a licensed attorney with divorce or other court proceedings), emergency shelter, and counseling.

Development of the survey benefited greatly from extensive feedback from service providers and clients and from previous evaluation research. The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network and the participating agencies administered the survey, which had both an on-line and paper option. Agency staff recruited participants, maintained contact with them over about 6 months, and then had them complete the survey. Here we present findings from analysis of data provided by 450 participants. We also include a discussion of the challenges encountered in sustaining ongoing evaluation in agencies.

One of the key findings of this report is that emergency safety needs (i.e., emergency shelter and getting an order of protection) are no longer the most prominent issues of concern for participants. Fewer than 5% of the sample reported currently needing shelter and fewer than 10% reported needing help getting an order of protection. In contrast, counseling/therapy is now the primary need reported by about 46% of participants. In addition, about a quarter of participants reported a need for help with those things that enable one to sustain a stable and independent household, which is critical to maintaining safety: economic assistance, either in the form of emergency cash, help with credit history, financial planning/literacy, food/clothing, health care, or work. Also, a sizeable minority of participants reported needs (both new and continuing from when they initially sought services) regarding divorce, child support, and visitation. These legal issues are likely to be related to the one outstanding safety concern reported by a substantial minority of survivors, managing contact with the abuser. Few differences among reported needs existed by race/ethnicity, parenting status, or level of socioeconomic resources.

This report begins with a brief introduction to how the project came about and a description of our research methods. Next we present the current needs reported by participants and consider whether there are differences in needs among participants by race/ethnicity, education and income resources, and whether or not they have children. We then examine the relationship of past services to current needs and satisfaction with past services. After that, we consider outcomes of receiving services (e.g., "As a result of receiving services, I feel safe from violence in my home"). Finally, we describe difficulties encountered in sustaining ongoing evaluation in agencies, such as high staff 7 turnover rates and the need for a program coordinator to maintain staff motivation. We conclude with a summary of the findings.