Agency Self-Assessment and Community Assessment: Approaches to Domestic & Sexual Violence
The landscape of law enforcement is constantly evolving. Given this dynamic context, IACP's agency self-assessment and accompanying community assessment are useful tools for thinking critically about current practices and identifying areas of strength and opportunities to update and enhance services. Information gleaned from these assessments enables law enforcement leaders to candidly and thoughtfully evaluate their practices and policies to create stronger responses to reports of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and strangulation.
To download all of the tools and resources for this project, click here. For more information and printer-friendly versions of the Agency Self-Assessment and Community Assessment, see the corresponding sections below.
The agency self-assessment and community assessment seek to assist law enforcement agencies in evaluating current practices, successes, and areas that present opportunities for improvement in responses to gender-based violence in their communities. These assessments are focused on crimes of gender-based violence involving adult victims.
Domestic violence,i dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (referred to collectively as “gender-based violence”)ii are pervasive crimes in many communities across the United States,iii and the complexity and volume of these cases can present significant challenges to law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.iv
- While individuals of any gender or sexual orientation can experience gender-based violence, women and sexual/gender minoritiesv experience the highest rates of crimes that fall under the category of gender-based violence.vi
- More than one-third of adult women in the United States have suffered sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.vii
- Over half of all homicides of adult women in the United States are related to intimate partner violence,viii and more than three-quarters were preceded by the victims being stalked by the person who killed them.ix
- Strangulation is a particularly grave indicator of future lethality in intimate partner violence.x For victims who have previously been strangled by an intimate partner, the risk that they will be killed by that partner in the future increases by an extraordinary 750 percent.xi
Over the past decade knowledge and understanding about gender-based violence have expanded and improved, however some myths and misperceptions about victims and perpetrators of these crimes still exist. These misguided perceptions discourage and create barriers to reporting and allow offenders to perpetrate with impunity. A trauma-informedxii response to these crimes can help remove the barriers to reporting for victims.
Implementing comprehensive and research-driven department policies, practices, and training ensures that an agency is prepared to effectively respond to, investigate, and develop these cases for prosecution, augmenting the safety of the community.xiii
Role of Leadership
At the outset of the agency self-assessment and community assessment process, it is important to determine the individual or team who will be responsible for facilitating completion of the self-assessment. This team or individual should be overseen by a member of the agency’s senior leadership. The senior leader overseeing this process should be responsible for driving efforts around the evaluation process, action-planning, and implementation. It is helpful for this team to consist of people from various divisions and positions within the agency, if possible, as the assessment calls for information across agency practices, policies, and data. Units and personnel that provide victim services are important partners for this assessment, however, to get the most comprehensive agency-wide response, it is recommended that the assessment process not be solely delegated to victim services personnel.
The Agency Self-Assessment is composed of five sections and is intended to guide agencies in thinking critically about current practices and identifying areas with opportunities to update and enhance services provided to the community. The assessment can be completed all at once, or by individual sections.
The five components of the agency self-assessment are:
- Data Collection & Analysis
- Policies & Practices
- Training, Hiring & Promotional Practices
- Culture & Accountability
Agency leaders and project team members should answer questions openly and candidly, and not shy away from identifying both organizational strengths and opportunities for improvement.
To view and download the agency self-assessment, click here.
For a printer-friendly version of the agency self-assessment, click here.
Thoughtful outreach to community-based organizations is imperative to obtaining comprehensive feedback from a Community Assessment. Agencies should send the assessment to as many community-based organizations in the jurisdiction as possible, including but not limited to the following:
- Sexual assault and/or domestic violence coalitions
- Domestic violence direct service providers
- Sexual assault direct service providers
- Culturally specific service providers (e.g., race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity)
- Religious and spiritual organizations and leaders
- Civil legal service providers
- Shelter/housing providers
- Victim compensation office
- Forensic nurses/medical personnel
- Local colleges/universities, including Title IX coordinators
Agencies should also consider any community-based organization that provides any of the following services in the community:
- Mental health services
- Children’s advocacy
- Supervised visitation services
- Family/protection order assistance
- Housing advocacy
- Batterer intervention programming
- Substance use disorder counseling
- Elderly and aging advocacy
To view and download a template letter to accompany and give context to the community assessment, click here.
Action Planning Guide
The Action Planning Guide can assist the agency in creating a plan to address areas of opportunity identified through the self-assessment. This guide walks through the steps of goal development, implementation, and sustainment so that agencies can set and achieve both short-and long-term objectives.
To view and download the action planning guide, click here.
Additional Considerations and Resources
After deploying the assessment to identify strengths and areas for enhancement, and using the action planning guide to set priorities and set goals, agencies can turn to the Additional Considerations and Resources to bridge the gaps between assessment, action planning, and implementation.
To view and download the additional considerations and resources, click here.
i For the purposes of this document, an intimate partner is generally defined as a person with whom one has a close personal relationship that could involve ongoing contact, emotional connection, sexual behavior, identity as dating partners, and/or familiarity with each other’s lives, such as current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, dating partners, or sexual partners. For the purposes of this document, status as an intimate partner is not dependent upon marital status or cohabitation. The legal definition of an intimate partner may vary by jurisdiction; agency representatives should make themselves aware of applicable legal definitions in their area and consider those in the development/revision of any related policy; Matthew J. Breiding et al., Intimate Partner Violence Surveillance Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2015), https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/ipv/intimatepartnerviolence.pdf.
ii Throughout this document, all descriptions and recommendations regarding gender-based violence, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, are specific to crimes involving adult victims.
iii Sharon G. Smith et al., The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010-2012 State Report (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2017), https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/NISVS-StateReportBook.pdf.
iv Nick Breul and Mike Keith, Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters: Analysis of U.S. Law Enforcement Line of Duty Deaths when Officers Responded to Dispatched Calls for Service and Conducted Enforcement, 2010-2014 (U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, August 3, 2016), https://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=794863.
v “Sexual/gender minorities” generally refers to individuals who identify as members of LGBTQ+ communities, including but not limited to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, queer, and intersex.
vi Smith et al., The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS); Mike L. Walters, Jieru Chen, and Matthew J. Breiding, The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2013), https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_sofindings.pdf; Matthew J. Breiding, Jieru Chen, and Michele C. Black, Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence in the United States – 2010 (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2014), https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/cdc_nisvs_ipv_report_2013_v17_single_a.pdf; Black et al., The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report; Callie Marie Rennison, Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention, 1992-2000 (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 1, 2002), https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsarp00.pdf; Shannan Catalano, Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence: Attributes of Victimization, 1993-2011 (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 21, 2013), https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ipvav9311.pdf; Michael Planty et al., Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010 (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, March 3, 2013), https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvsv9410.pdf.
vii Michele C. Black et al., The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report (Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, November 2011), https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf.
viii Emiko Petrosky, Janet M. Blair, Carter J. Betz, Katherine A. Fowler, Shane P.D. Jack, and Bridget H. Lyons, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Homicides of Adult Women and the Role of Intimate Partner Violence – United States, 2003-2014,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 66, no.28 (July 21, 2017): 741-746, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6628a1.htm.
ix Judith M. McFarlane et al., “Stalking and Intimate Partner Femicide,” Homicide Studies 3, no. 4 (November 1999): 300-316, http://ncdsv.org/images/HomicideStudies_StalkingAndIntimatePartnerFemicide_11-1999.pdf; The co-occurrence of stalking and intimate partner violence is widely recognized among experts from the field, and many risk and lethality assessment tools include questions about stalking behaviors of offenders. However, the specific connection between stalking and femicide limited current research due to the challenges researchers have in gaining access to comprehensive risk factors in recent femicides.
x Gael Strack and Casey Gwinn, “Strangulation and Domestic Violence: The Edge of Homicide,” Domestic Violence Report 19, no. 6 (Civic Research Institute, August/September 2014): 81, 90, 93, https://www.civicresearchinstitute.com/pdfs/DVR1906.pdf.
xi Nancy Glass et al., “Non-fatal Strangulation Is an Important Risk Factor for Homicide of Women,” Journal of Emergency Medicine 35, no. 3 (October 2008): 329-335, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2573025/pdf/nihms71435.pdf.
xii “Trauma-informed” services understand and recognize the physical, psychological, and behavioral effects of trauma, and create and provide services that are sensitive and responsive to those effects.
xiii DOJ, Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
xiv Pursuant to 34 U.S.C. § 12291(a)(7), culturally specific services are community-based services that include culturally relevant and linguistically specific services and resources.