Effects of second responder programs on repeat incidents of family abuse

Additional Info

  • Authors: Robert Davis, David Weisburd
  • Published date: 2008-11-03
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Title, Protocol, Review, User abstract
  • Volume: 4
  • Issue nr: 15
  • Category Image: Category Image
  • Title: Effects of second responder programs on repeat incidents of family abuse
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Second responder programs are based on the premise that family violence recurs and that victims are likely to be especially receptive to crime prevention opportunities immediately following victimization. A team, usually consisting of a police officer and a victim advocate, follow-up on the initial police response to a family violence complaint, provides the victim with information on services and legal options and may warn those perpetrators present at the follow-up of the legal consequences of continued abuse. The purpose of the intervention is to reduce the likelihood of a new offense by helping victims to understand the cyclical nature of family violence, develop a safety plan, obtain a restraining order, increase their knowledge about legal rights and options, and provide shelter placement or other relocation assistance. A secondary aim of the intervention with victims may be to establish greater independence for victims through counseling, job training, public assistance, or other social service referrals. The intervention has spread widely, with support from the U.S. Department of Justice.


To assess the effect of second responder programs on repeat incidents of family violence.

Selection criteria

Three criteria were used to define studies eligible for the review: (a) studies had to be evaluations of a second responder program; that is 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; (b) studies had to include an acceptable comparison group which did not receive a second response; (c) studies had to include at least one measure of new offenses committed by the perpetrator against the same victim.

Search strategy

Search strategies included: (a) keyword searches on a variety of online databases, (b) reviews of bibliographies of second responder studies that were located, (c) hand searches of leading journals in the field, (d) a search of the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women website, (e) e-mails to authors of papers that described second responder programs, but whose methods did not meet our criteria for inclusion, and (f) e-mails sent to knowledgeable scholars.

Data collection and analysis

Narrative reviews were drafted for the 10 studies that met the criteria for inclusion. Both fixed and random effects models were used in meta-analyses that examined effect sizes for all included studies and for only experimental studies.

Main results

The second response intervention increased slightly the odds that a household would report another family violence incident to the police. No effect of the intervention was found on reports of new abuse based on victim surveys.


The results suggest that the second response intervention does not affect the likelihood of new incidents of family violence. However, the intervention slightly increases victims' willingness to report incidents to the police, possibly as a result of greater confidence in the police.

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