Mobilizing communities to prevent domestic violence involves engaging communities in supporting, developing, and implementing prevention strategies that target change in individuals, as well as in the community and society. Potential strategies include educating the community, building support among key stakeholders for prevention efforts, developing programs that strengthen social networks, organizing community groups to challenge social norms that contribute to the use of violence, and advocating for community accountability. Community mobilizing strategies hold the potential for transforming those social norms and structures that are the root causes of domestic violence. The cultivation of grassroots community leadership can enhance the long-term sustainability of violence prevention efforts.
Empirical research on the effectiveness of community mobilization strategies to prevent violence remains limited. Community mobilization strategies to prevent domestic violence are often grounded in public health prevention models, community organizing strategies, and/or strengths-based approaches. Several initiatives have resulted in useful models and informative case studies that practitioners can use and adapt. Some of the community mobilization initiatives include The Community Engagement Initiative, The Community Engagement Continuum, The ICP Model, The Spectrum of Prevention, The Delta Project and Men Stopping Violence (Bowen, Gwiasda, & Brown, 2004; CDC, n.d.; Cohen, Davis, & Graffunder, 2006; Douglas, Bathrick, & Perry, 2008; Kim, 2005; Mitchell-Clark & Autry, 2004).
Key themes have emerged across each of these models and in different types of communities. First, these models incorporate a social ecological perspective that views violence prevention as requiring multifaceted interventions that target change at many levels: individual, family, neighborhood, social institutions, community organizations, public policy, and cultural environment. Second, in order to create social change, it is critical to engage community members and develop leadership beyond formal institutions. It is important that initiatives carefully assess the capacity of the community to support and sustain the strategies being proposed and implemented. Third, efforts that emphasize strengthening community assets are important strengths based strategies. Fourth, such efforts should incorporate different forms of violence (i.e., child maltreatment, domestic violence, and community violence), making connections amongst them in terms of causes and solutions. Fifth, there is a paucity of evaluation data by which to understand the impact of these efforts which points to the need for a number of controlled studies to adequately judge their success.