Shifting the Service Referral Paradigm Using Community-Based Second Responders: Examining Weapon Use in Intimate Partner Violence


To address a rise in intimate partner violence (IPV) related homicides, Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) partnered with Women Helping Women (WHW), a community, gender-based violence prevention organization to create the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team (DVERT). Second responders are sent out to the scene of IPV police calls to better address the needs of survivors and connect them with services. The aim of this study is to assess how calls involving weapons differed from those that did not. The sample included 1253 calls from August 2018 to January 2020, which were then categorized by whether or not the incident included a weapon. A series of bivariate analyses were conducted to assess for differences between groups in perpetrator and survivor characteristics, harm incurred, criminal justice responses, and referrals for services. There were significant differences in perpetrator characteristics between weapon involvement groups. Perpetrators in the weapon involvement group were more likely to have access to weapons; history of physical violence, verbal or mental abuse; substance abuse problems, and mental illness. Black women were disproportionately more likely to have a weapon used on them. The criminal justice system did not differ significantly in their response to cases involving weapons. However, survivors of weapons related cases were overall more likely to receive service referrals. Findings suggest a need for community-based second responder programs to partner with police departments to address the multitude of needs for survivors given the lethality of these incidents.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    The NCVS includes firearms, knives, weapon type unknown, and “other weapon” in estimates of violent victimization involving a weapon.

  2. 2.

    We received IRB approval for this study in October 2018, which included a signed letter of support outlining a data sharing agreement with WHW.

  3. 3.

    Excluded cases were missing data on several variables used in analyses.

  4. 4.

    Write in options coded as firearm included any write-ins that indicating “firearm”, “gun”, and “pistol” (i.e., “.22 gun”, “handgun”).

  5. 5.

    CPD uses the terms intimate partner violence (IPV) and domestic violence (DV) interchangeably, terminology used in the data is reflective of the legal terms used by WHW and CPD.

  6. 6.

    Juris Monitors are pretrial electronic monitoring within Hamilton County Courts that will alert survivor and police if the perpetrator comes within two miles of survivor’s home or work.


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We would like to thank everyone at Women Helping Women (WHW), all of the DVERT advocates, and Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) who have given their time and support to this partnership and allowed us to take part in evaluating this program.


This work was supported in part by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services

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Correspondence to Batya Y. Rubenstein.

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Rubenstein, B.Y., Wojcik, M.L.T., Anderson, V.R. et al. Shifting the Service Referral Paradigm Using Community-Based Second Responders: Examining Weapon Use in Intimate Partner Violence. J Fam Viol (2021).

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  • Intimate partner homicide
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Community-based partnerships
  • Firearms
  • Weapon use
  • Second responders