Understanding Domestic Violence in Marion County

Author: Kassie Scott
Date Posted: July 23, 2019

8,956 women. 1,840 men. 10,797 total survivors of domestic violence reported in Marion County, Indiana, for 2016. Though these seem like straightforward statistics, five years ago, stakeholders could not describe the scope of the problem, even for incidents where the violence was reported and the legal system was involved. Data on domestic violence were spread across agencies and seven legal system datasets, so it was difficult to identify unique individuals across all datasets. That is until the Polis Center at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (Polis Center) linked the domestic violence data across sources from 2009 to 2016. Working with the Domestic Violence Network, the Polis Center also made key indicators publicly available on an interactive dashboard and in reports from 2014 and 2018
With the new data, the Domestic Violence Network can now track survivors and people who commit domestic violence as they move through the criminal justice system, connecting individuals to past incidents. The data allow the network to understand program effectiveness, advocate on behalf of survivors, and make the case for bringing incidents to court. 
The Baker One Initiative helps the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department identify people who have committed multiple acts of domestic violence to prevent homicide and sexual assault. Officers fill out information sheets and indicate the seriousness of the crime. The police department then identifies these people to first responders and partnering agencies who connect these community members to resources. The data integrated by the Polis Center suggest that the Baker One Initiative is effective. Since the program’s implementation in 2013, the number of legal reports involving people identified through the Baker One Initiative has dropped 53 percent. 
Survivors of domestic violence are often unwilling or unable to follow through during criminal cases. Between 2009 and 2015, 63 percent of cases were dismissed or had no charges brought, while outcomes for 8.3 percent of cases were unknown. But for the 28 percent of cases brought to court, almost all resulted in convictions. Staff at the Domestic Violence Network can use these data to encourage survivors to bring cases to court.
Data from callers to 211 Connect2Help also revealed the scope of resources needed by survivors of domestic violence. The callers most often identified housing as a need, though many needed assistance with mental health counseling and legal services. Survivors are more likely than people with no domestic violence exposure to experience substance abuse, economic instability, mental health issues, and even suicide. They need support and resources from the community.
Moving forward, the Domestic Violence Network would like to work with the Polis Center to expand the data available on sexual assault and teen dating violence. 
This story was written by Kassie Scott at the Urban Institute, drawn from documents and interviews with the Domestic Violence Network and Connect2Help. The Polis Center at Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis is the Indianapolis partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a learning network in 30 cities coordinated by the Urban Institute. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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