A one-stop-center model to solve domestic violence cases

Domestic violence victims usually have multiple needs that cannot be adequately met by a single service provider. Accessing the different service providers may sometimes be difficult for a victim whose movement is restricted by a controlling and abusive partner. Therefore, having a one stop center where all relevant services are located can avail high quality, accessible, acceptable multisectoral care for victims of domestic violence, but this is only possible if the model is implemented as designed or intended

What practitioners say

Consistent with literature

Putting the needs of the victim at the centre of any intervention: Interventions that have enabled victims of domestic violence to smoothly navigate the justice system are those where the service provider puts the needs of the victim at the centre of any decisions and employs the do no harm principle. A victim centred approach prioritizes the safety, needs, interests, voice, and participation of the victim. Usually with this approach, the first action of the practitioner or actor is to conduct a risk assessment and together with the victim draw a safety plan, this helps to secure the victim’s immediate and long-term safety.

Ensuring that domestic violence victims obtain or have access to medical care, counselling, and psychosocial support as primary response mechanisms: The wellbeing of the victim and ability to cope with legal proceedings is greatly enhanced when at the onset of the case they receive necessary medical care, and it is followed up with counselling and psychosocial support. This works best when the practitioner or actor regularly follows up with both the victim and the counsellor to ensure that the support is ongoing and adequate.  This primary intervention is often done simultaneously with legal interventions such as giving legal advice, conducting investigations, drafting necessary court papers and representing the victim in court proceedings. It therefore, does not have to halt other urgently needed interventions unless the victim is incapacitated or unable to cope until they attain a certain level of healing. It is important for the practitioner or actor to explain the necessary procedures and how long the case is likely to take and check-in upon completion of every stage if the victim is mentally and physically prepared to move to the next stage and provide support accordingly. Practitioners and actors have noted that most domestic violence victims suffer from depression and or post-traumatic stress disorder and need continuous counselling to deal with the tedious and uncertain justice system processes. Additionally, sometimes physical injury inhibits victim participation in the justice system and ensuring that their medical needs are attended to makes them feel cared for and enhances their ability to participate.

Referring victims of domestic violence to organizations that provide economic empowerment: Economic empowerment entails equipping victims of domestic violence with income generating skills and or seed money. Sometimes it extends to connecting the victim to a market for their products or produce, access to credit and or supporting victims to register their interest in moveable and immovable property and to acquire title over the same. These interventions are usually implemented by non-government or community-based organizations. The victim’s ability to follow their case to fruition especially for a woman who financially depends on her abusive partner is greatly enhanced when she is supported to attain economic independence.

Providing legal aid or ensuring that domestic violence victims have access to legal aid services: Legal aid coupled with other services such as psychosocial support, economic empowerment, follow up and referral enables many victims of domestic violence especially women to follow their cases to fruition. Providing legal aid or connecting the victim to a legal aid service provider enhances their ability to navigate the justice system. The victim’s ability to engage with the system is also enhanced when the practitioner makes it clear that the victim can access legal aid and other support services whether they choose to pursue the case or not. Allocating a particular legal aid worker to offer support and be physically present at every level in the justice system not only builds trust between the victim and the legal aid worker but also reduces the number of times the victim will have to retell their story and reduces re-traumatization.

Continuous specialized training of service providers: When police officers, health care workers, prosecutors, judicial officers, legal aid workers, probation and social welfare officers among others, are continuously equipped with skills and knowledge on a trauma informed approach to domestic violence, provision of victim centred services, the cycle of domestic violence, tactics of perpetrators, identifying the dominant aggressor in domestic violence cases, among other aspects, revictimization is reduced and victims’ experiences in the justice system are improved. Specialized training yields better results when conducted jointly with all relevant actors, this enriches the discussion with across-the-board experiences that actors greatly learn from. Joint training also enhances communication, coordination and collaboration among actors which quickens referrals thereby improving the experience of domestic violence victims during their quest for justice.


Other suggested practices

Bringing domestic violence response services closer to the communities especially in rural areas where support services may be limited or absent: This is being done through mobile legal aid clinics often conducted by non-government organisations or law school clinics. Mobile legal aid clinics offer on spot legal advice and yield more results when conducted after an awareness session on domestic violence. Specialized units such as the family and children’s protection unit of the Uganda Police, special court sessions on gender-based violence cases including domestic violence have also enabled many victims of domestic violence who would have otherwise failed to pursue justice to navigate the system.


Involving prosecutors in domestic violence case investigations or prosecution led investigations: These have proven to enhance collection of sufficient and reliable evidence in addition to supporting its preservation and expediting trial processes in domestic violence cases. Prosecution led investigations also enhance victim safety as prosecutors play a crucial role in devising means to protect witnesses which improves the victim’s experience of the justice system.

Resources and Methodology

Recommendation 1

One Stop Center (OSC) model

Standalone OSCs are usually established by non-government organizations while the first two are often state funded facilities (Olson et al, 2020). It is important that domestic violence support services are state aided and provided holistically because it is the duty of the state to protect victims of crime, this will also enhance sustainability of the services. 

This intervention was chosen because of the numerous challenges identified by victims of domestic violence while seeking support from the traditional nonintegrated system. Due to the multidisciplinary needs of these victims and yet services are often scattered in different locations, victims find themselves retelling their stories of trauma at every service point which contributes to secondary revictimization (Colombini et al, 2012). The OSC model seeks to address these challenges. 

Multi-sectoral approach

This approach entails coordination, collaboration and communication between the relevant support providers within the informal and formal justice system, the social sector and the health sector. A multi-sectoral approach yields better outcomes for victims of domestic violence as a result of improved service delivery and provision, in fact it is said to reduce domestic violence (Murphy and Fanslow, 2012). 

The multi-sectoral approach is characterized by collaboration among actors such as the village local councils, community-based organizations, police, prosecutors, judicial officers, legal aid service providers, psychosocial support providers, shelter workers, probation and social welfare officers, health care providers, peer support groups, among others. 

With this approach, the responsibility of each agency is derived from its core mandate and competence for example police should investigate domestic violence cases and conduct arrest in preparation for prosecution while social workers and health care providers should facilitate disclosure, offer necessary support to victims and collaborate with the police to ensure that the cases are reported and documented. All agencies should always maintain open communication and collaboration, in several jurisdictions, this has materialized through case conferences where all agencies meet and devise best ways to handle domestic violence cases and support victims (Hagemann–White, 2019).

This intervention was chosen because research shows that where this collaboration exists, victims gain more support and information and are empowered to make informed choices about whether to engage the justice system or not (Murphy and Fanslow, 2012).

For a victim of domestic violence looking to smoothly navigate the justice system, is support through a multi-sectoral approach or a one stop shop center more effective for their safety and wellbeing?

The databases used are: JSTOR, OECD, NCJRS, Research gate, BMJ global health.

For this PICO question, keywords used in the search strategy are: Domestic violence, victims, effective interventions, effective support, navigating, criminal justice system, civil justice system.

The main sources of evidence used for this particular subject are:

  • Marianne Hester and Nicole Westmarland, Tackling Domestic Violence: effective interventions and approaches:  Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate (2005).
  • Carol Hagemann–White, “Redress, Rights, and Responsibilities – Institutional Frameworks of Domestic Violence Intervention in Four Countries.” In Interventions against Child Abuse and Violence against Women: Ethics and Culture in Practice and Policy, edited by Hagemann-White Carol, Kelly Liz, and Meysen Thomas, 87-103. Opladen; Berlin; Toronto: Verlag Barbara Budrich, (2019)
  • Lori L. Heise, What Works to Prevent Partner Violence? An Evidence Overview: Report for the UK Department for International Development (2011)
  • Daniel P. Mears, Research and Interventions to Reduce Domestic Violence Revictimization. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, vol. 4, no. 2, (2003)
  • Women’s Access to Justice for Gender-Based Violence. A Practitioners’ Guide, International Commission of Jurists, (2016)

Quality of evidence and research gap

The study by Hester and Westmarland provides an overview of material from evaluations of 27 Crime Reduction Programme (CRP) domestic violence projects. The key aim of the evaluations of the CRP domestic violence projects was to identify ‘what worked’ to support victims and tackle domestic violence via an assessment of project design, implementation, delivery, outputs, impact and cost. The evaluation teams used a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods, which included: 518 interviews with project staff and partner agencies; 174 interviews with domestic violence victims/survivors; 22 focus groups; and 2,935 questionnaires. Quantitative data (gathered mostly through the police) were collected on 80,350 domestic violence victims/survivors, 35,349 domestic violence perpetrators, and 5,687 children living in domestic violence situations. According to the HiiL guideline approach, this is graded as moderate.

The research project “Cultural Encounters in Intervention Against Violence (CEINAV)”1 listened to the voices of professionals and of victim-survivors in four countries – England and Wales, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. Collaborating across disciplines and in cooperation with practitioners for three years, from September 2013 until November 2016, the research sought a deeper understanding of how and why different professionals intervene and how intervention is experienced when women are confronting intimate partner violence, trafficking for sexual exploitation or physical child abuse and neglect. Within the frame of Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) and the overarching programme of Cultural Encounters, CEINAV took a dual approach. They aimed for a deeper understanding of how the diverse legal-organisational frameworks as well as the socio-cultural backgrounds affect practices of intervention, and they reflected how belonging to a majority or minority group or being seen as such plays out on the level of intervention practice. The research crafted an empirical methodology as well as a theoretical foundation that would make comparative analysis possible. They built on previous collaborative research which explored the legal and philosophical foundations for interventions in Europe. According to the HiiL guideline approach, this is graded as moderate.

The study by Heise is a review of empirical evidence of what works in low- and middle-income countries to prevent violence against women by their husbands and other male partners. The purpose of the report is to inform the future direction of DFID programming on violence against women with an eye towards maximizing its impact and ensuring the best use of scarce resources. The review focuses on efforts to prevent partner violence, rather than evaluating services that are available for victims. In focusing on prevention rather than mitigation or response, the review concentrates on interventions designed to reduce the overall level of violence in the medium to long term, rather than on interventions to meet the immediate needs of victims. This shifts the focus of inquiry away from interventions designed to improve services towards programmes and policies designed to influence the underlying determinants of partner violence. Finally, the review prioritizes programmes that have been evaluated using rigorous scientific designs, emphasizing formal impact evaluation. According to the HiiL guideline approach, this is graded as high.

The article by Mears reviews research on domestic violence and focuses particular attention on interventions aimed at reducing revictimization among individuals known to have been abused. It also provides a conceptual framework for practitioners and policy makers to situate existing evaluation research and highlights the need for better data to understand and assess efforts to reduce domestic violence revictimization. The author concludes by discussing directions for future research and recommendations for practice and policy. According to the HiiL guideline approach, this is graded as high.

The guide was written and researched by Lisa Gormley with substantive contributions and legal review provided by Ian Seiderman, Briony Potts and Alex Conte. The two Annexes to this Guide on international mechanisms and international legal remedies were taken directly from the ICJ’s Practitioners Guide No. 6 on Migration and International Human Rights Law. These annexes were researched and written by Massimo Frigo and Roísín Pillay. Chapters II, III, IV and V are based on a review of key global and regional legal standards including the universal human rights treaties 12 and regional treaties addressing women’s human rights from the African, American and European systems, and a brief reference to regional developments in the Arab Charter on Human Rights and ASEAN human rights systems. 

These chapters also contain condensed references to international and regional jurisprudence on gender-based violence, and some examples of good practice in jurisprudence at the domestic level. Chapters VI, VII and VIII address the practical situation faced by women survivors of gender-based violence, and the steps that States need to address in order to secure their access to justice in practice. This requires that the justice process deals with women’s need for safety and access to services, including medical services, ensuring women’s empowerment and access to information about their right to justice (Chapter VII). Chapter VIII deals with women’s experience of the criminal justice system, ensuring that victims and witnesses can give their evidence in safety and dignity. 

The substantive and procedural criminal laws must also reflect the rights of victims and are applied in such a way that impunity is addressed effectively. These chapters also contain a summary of some leading academic literature and civil society organization commentary and research, particularly references and signposting to existing resources that take an in-depth look at relevant issues, for example, guides on protection of the safety of women human rights defenders and access to asylum for women facing persecution in the form of gender-based violence. Included into these accounts is commentary and reflection from legal advocates and women human rights defenders on their experience of seeking justice for women, and their recommendations to legal advocates doing this work. According to the HiiL guideline approach this is graded as high.

This is a systematic review which aims to identify enablers and barriers to implementation of the one stop center (OSC) model and to achieving its intended results for women survivors of violence in low- and middle-income countries. The methods used included searching PubMed, CINAHL and Embase databases and grey literature using a predetermined search strategy to identify all relevant qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies. Overall, 42 studies were included from 24 low- and middle-income countries. They used a three-stage thematic synthesis methodology to synthesize the qualitative evidence, and the CERQual (Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research) approach to assess confidence in the qualitative research. According to the HiiL guideline approach, this is graded as high.

Most findings used in this PICO question are based on systematic reviews and program evaluation and assessments. This classifies the strength of the evidence as moderate according to the HiiL methodology: Assessment of Evidence and Recommendations.

Desirable outcomes

One Stop Center (OSC) model Multi sectoral approach
Because all services in a one stop center are located in one space it makes reporting, medical examinations, coordination of investigations and support services easier for victims and support workers (Daly and Bouhours, 2011)

A one stop center may avoid revictimization caused by victims having to retell their stories at every service point, provides better psychosocial support and may allow for better multisectoral collaboration. It may also be better equipped with infrastructure to provide a full range of multi-disciplinary services (Daly and Bouhours, 2011).

A one stop center also enhances safety as victims don’t have to move from one point to another and it facilitates referrals (International Commission of Jurists, 2016).

Coordinated and collaborative responses to family violence result in better outcomes for victims and perpetrators, enhanced processes in and between agencies, improved service delivery and provision and reduced violence (Murphy & Fanslow, 2012).

Research shows that having a coordinated response enables victims to engage with a wider range of agencies for much longer periods. This gives them more support and information from trained advocates. Therefore, as a result of the coordinated approach victims of domestic violence are empowered and able to make informed choices about whether to engage with the justice system (Murphy & Fanslow, 2012).

Undesirable outcomes

One Stop Center (OSC) model Multi sectoral approach
A one stop center may be expensive and less feasible in rural areas. A one stop shop center based in a health facility is feasible, but this may be difficult where such facilities are scarce (Olson et. al, 2020). 

A stand-alone OSC that donors phase out from may increase the risk of survivor stigmatization and may not meet medical needs of survivors, especially when it comes to emergencies and specialty needs. The sustainability of a NGO-based stand-alone OSC is uncertain because they are donor driven especially if it is NGO based, this may have a negative impact on victims of domestic violence who may need these services after donors phase out (Olson et. al, 2020). 

Without clear processes to resolve tensions between service providers, the ability of professionals and their agencies to work cooperatively to meet clients’ needs may not be possible. For a multi-sectoral approach, members of different agencies may hold different professional values and world views and are likely to work with different codes of practice. This can result in misunderstanding of other agencies, and disagreement or uncertainty about what is expected of members and the nature and aims of a coordinated network (Murphy & Fanslow, 2012).

Some agencies may focus on their own agendas to the detriment of the victim’s well-being. This results in lack of a coordinator and role demarcation, lack of mutual trust and respect, power imbalances between actors, lack of buy in and commitment, communication and information sharing issues, missing linkages with diverse multi-sectoral partners e.g., community networks that may not have a clear legal mandate (Murphy & Fanslow, 2012).

Lack of unified outcomes or agreed upon objectives across sectors/agencies may inhibit collaboration and attainment of the victim’s justice outcomes and put the victim at risk of further harm (Murphy & Fanslow, 2012).

Balance of outcomes

In determining whether adopting a one stop center model is better than a multisectoral approach for the well-being of victims of domestic violence who are navigating the justice system, the desirable and undesirable outcomes of both interventions must be considered.

Evidence suggests that adopting the one stop center model avoids re-traumatization caused by victims having to retell their stories at every service point, provides better psychosocial support, may allow for better multi-sectoral collaboration and may be better equipped with infrastructure to provide full range of multi-displinary services. It also enhances victim safety as they don’t have to move from one point to another and makes referral easier.  

On the other hand, it may be expensive and less feasible in rural areas where many vulnerable domestic violence victims may be situated and may increase the risk of survivor stigmatization and may not meet medical needs of survivors especially emergencies and specialty needs, especially when it is a stand-alone facility also, this kind of OSC is often donor driven and therefore not sustainable.

Taking the multisectoral approach has limitations such as members of agencies may hold different professional values and world views and are likely to work in services with different codes of practice. This can result in misunderstanding of other agencies, and disagreement or uncertainty about what is expected of members and the nature and aims of a coordinated network. Without clear processes to resolve these tensions, the ability of professionals and their agencies to work cooperatively to meet clients’ needs is heavily impaired. Some agencies may focus on their own agendas to the detriment of the bigger picture, lack of role demarcation, lack of mutual trust and respect, power imbalances between actors, lack of buy in and commitment, communication and information sharing issues, lack of a clear coordinator, missing linkages with diverse multi sectoral partners e.g., community networks that may not have a clear legal mandate.

Accordingly taking the one stop center model is recommended.


Taking into account the evidence and the balance of outcomes towards the one stop center model, the following recommendation can be made: For victims of domestic violence trying to navigate the justice system, the one stop center model is better than the multisectoral approach for their wellbeing.

 No  Yes

 No  Yes