Building Capacity and Infrastructure for Domestic Violence Coalitions

Gloria TerryI represent a state domestic violence coalition made up of over 100 direct service providers that serve the needs of 254 counties in Texas. We recently completed a three year commitment to a CDC initiative called DELTA PREP. DELTA PREP was a capacity-building project for state domestic violence coalitions which provided modest funding but more importantly provided in-depth training and support to build a strong foundation for enhancing and implementing primary prevention strategies.

Texas MapBefore I can adequately convey the tremendous value of the DELTA PREP, I need to present the landscape of this issue in my state. Two Texas women immediately come to mind: Tiffany Galvan, 17 from the border community of Brownsville, and Christine McClendon, 78 from Lufkin, a small rural community in east Texas. Tiffany, a typical teenager, was looking forward to school, friends, prom. Christine, a quiet woman, reflected on life in her quaint community. Two women so significantly different in age and culture it is hard to imagine what they could have in common. In 2010, both women were killed; Tiffany by her 18-year-old former boyfriend and Christine at the hands of her 86-year-old husband. These are only two of the 142 women killed in Texas by a former/current boyfriend/husband. Texas Council on Family Violence’s annual Honoring Texas Victims highlights the most serious cases of violence that affect Texas women. In the report, a map provides a visual illustration with purple representing counties free of fatalities, while white represents those counties where we must redouble our efforts and learn from those tragic outcomes.

In addition to this tragic statistic, we know that over 79,000 adults and children sought services at a domestic violence program in Texas. That means 79,000 individuals, primarily women and children, were not safe in their own homes. I am also acutely aware that in a single day, there were 1,212 unmet requests for services. I can cite statistic after statistic, but this provides a snapshot of the prevalence of domestic violence in Texas. Unfortunately, I am certain you will find parallel information in every state. In the past 35+ years, tremendous progress has been made in creating safe havens, increasing legal protections and establishing remarkable transitional services. However, domestic violence persists.

Delta Prep CoalitionBack to the significance of DELTA PREP, the experience itself was invaluable and will benefit not only the coalition itself for years to come but the many families impacted by violence. DELTA PREP allowed us to employ a public health approach to violence prevention by building on the core principles of the domestic violence movement. The three year tutelage by CDC “forced” us to think carefully and deliberately in outlining our primary prevention priorities. We began by looking at our organizational capacity. We assessed our board and executive leadership, our internal policies and communication, and our readiness. We bolstered areas in the process. Most importantly we determined that although we had a Prevention Team, prevention was the responsibility of every staff person whether they worked on policy or provider support team. We evaluated all major communication pieces for prevention messaging. We also resolved that every major conference and training would have a strong prevention component. Lastly we were able to prioritize resources in this direction. I would be remiss if I did not report that we had a commitment to primary prevention before DELTA PREP. Our approach unfortunately was scattershot, our direction broad and wide.

DELTA PREP helped us define a sharp focus to our work; to identify outcomes then develop a list of finely defined action steps needed to achieve those outcomes. We have placed a priority on leveraging communities of influence:

  • Communities of faith: Faith leaders touch the lives of thousands of Texans and hold a place of honor in communities, making them instrumental in conveying change. 
  • High school coaches: Builds on the unique influence that coaches have on young male athletes, and that young male athletes, in turn, have among their peers. This coaches’ leadership program informs coaches on how to proactively incorporate themes of honor, respect, and intolerance for violence against women into the character-building aspects of their coaching activities. 
  • Health care providers: During the past 20 years, health care professionals have increasingly recognized intimate partner violence (IPV) as a highly prevalent public health problem. Because most Americans will interact with health care providers at some point in their lifetime, health care settings allow for early detection and prevention of abuse. 

Another key component of our work is in creating a community of practice that connects isolated prevention workers with their peers; fosters regional prevention networks; and offers more proactive technical assistance. Our strategies are now instinct and embedded into our agency culture.

I owe a debt of gratitude to CDC. DELTA PREP allowed us to build a strong foundation of organization capacity on which to build strong prevention programming. We have also learned to measure and evaluate our efforts.

For me, it's a YES AND approach. YES, we will work earnestly to prevent domestic violence AND we will continue to support intervention services that are still sorely needed.

I mentioned our Honoring Texas Victims report. In the report, a map provides a visual illustration with purple representing counties free of fatalities, while white represents those counties where we must redouble our efforts and learn from those tragic outcomes. We message a challenge to all of Texas to Go Purple and strive for a state where no woman loses her life as a result of family violence. In that sense, the purple Texas at the top represents this aspiration.

The DELTA PREP (Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliances) (Preparing and Raising Expectations for Prevention) Project is a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. DELTA PREP focused on strategies to prevent first-time occurrences of intimate partner violence (IPV). The five-year program ending June 2012 funded 19 state domestic violence coalitions to build their organizational capacity for IPV primary prevention work. Participating coalitions expanded and enhanced their organizations' ability to lead and support efforts to stop IPV before it begins and to facilitate and promote primary prevention capacity at the state and community levels. The program was made possible by a $3.2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the CDC Foundation.

CDC's Public Health Ground Rounds
Breaking the Silence – Public Health's Role in Intimate Partner Violence Prevention
View Presentation

Gloria Terry is president of the Texas Council on Family Violence, a DELTA PREP partner.