“Intimate partner violence” and “group violence” are often thought of as fundamentally different kinds of violence. “Group violence” typically refers to violence by gunfire by a small number of specific people within deeply disadvantaged communities. “Intimate partner violence,” meanwhile, is seen as the multi-layered violence that takes place between spouses and partners, usually within the privacy of their own homes. As a result, each kind of violence would seem to call for a completely different solution.
However, over the past several years, NNSC has been working with the concept that its approach of “focused deterrence” may be effective in stopping more than one kind of violence. This is because while David Kennedy initially developed the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy in order to stem the tide of group violence that is perpetuated by a tiny number of individuals within a community, since then, NNSC has used its underlying concepts to intervene in everything from the drug markets to prison violence. At its core, the strategy is always the same: a partnership is formed between community members, law enforcement, and social service providers, and engagement is focused on small groups of people who commit multiple acts of violence. Then, the partners communicate strong community norms against violence, offer opportunities for help, but also make clear that any future violence will be met with strong enforcement sanctions.
One place where NNSC’s expansion into different fields is thriving is within the development of its Intimate Partner Violence Intervention (IPVI) strategy. This is because a considerable body of evidence shows that the gravest intimate partner violence tends to also be driven by people who commit a wide variety of crimes at high rates. Without focused attention, ineffective criminal justice responses can inadvertently signal to people who commit intimate partner violence that they will not be held accountable, which places an enormous burden on victims to either change their lives in ways that are also harmful or to continue to endure the abuse. In this way, the IPVI strategy changes the dynamics of the entire domestic violence field, by focusing its attention on the abuser’s behaviors, while ensuring that victims have consistent access to structures of safety and support.
This week, data came out in strong support of the effectiveness of the IPVI strategy in Kingston, New York, which has partnered with NNSC to implement the IPVI strategy over the past two years. As The Hudson Valley One reported, “[R]ecidivism rates for intimate partner violence in the city average 23 percent. Nationwide studies, by contrast, commonly show a recidivism rate between 50 and 60 percent.” This actually matches previous data from a pilot IPVI implementation by NNSC in High Point, North Carolina, where the number of IPV homicides went from 18 in 2002-2008 to three in 2009-2016.
As a result of the successes of the IPVI program in Kingston, the District Attorney has now publicly stated that he wants to take the program countywide, saying that it makes sense from both a “prevention standpoint” and from a “community justice standpoint.” As Rachel Teicher, Director of IPVI at NNSC remarked, “We are impressed by the commitment of our Kingston partners to this work and encouraged by DA Dave Clegg’s commitment to expanding this strategy throughout the country.”
Overall, although group violence intervention and intimate partner violence intervention may sound very different to the common ear, the ultimate goal of both strategies is the same: it is to get someone to change his or her behavior through a combination of help, messaging, and where necessary, sanctions. That combination is clearly working to reduce intimate partner violence in Kingston, New York, and ideally, it will then do so throughout the rest of Ulster County.