Intimate partner violence is a harmful and common event, negatively affecting 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men across the United States. The health and economic costs to individuals and communities are substantial. When victims seek and secure protection orders in court, this decreases the likelihood of future revictimization.
Legal representation, while not required, can increase the likelihood of a court order being granted, but many victims cannot afford or otherwise access legal services. Project Safeguard is a non-profit organization serving the metro Denver community, focusing on safety and justice for victims of domestic violence through direct court support, advocacy services, and legal system reforms. In 2015, Project Safeguard launched the Lawyers for Victims (LFV) program, providing attorney representation to individuals who were survivors of domestic violence, sex assault, or stalking; seeking protection orders; and who shared a child with their abuser. LFV provides domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking victims with legal services by trauma-informed attorneys via an unbundled flat-fee for service model and aims to achieve increased support to individual crime victims, to improve victims’ case outcomes, and to increase victims’ access to direct legal representation.
Based on preliminary success of LFV under the initial grant, subsequent funding was awarded to expand the program under a second grant, for LFV activities taking place April 2017-December 2018. The Office for Victims Programs, Division of Criminal Justice (OVP) provided a grant through the Civil Legal Services for Crime Victims Special Project to support the expansion of LFV at Project Safeguard and to implement their flat-fee unbundled service model in other areas of the state to test whether their service model would prove successful for agencies serving other types of crime victims for other types of unbundled civil legal needs resulting from the client’s crime victimization.
As part of the expansion grant, Mission Spark was brought on as a third party evaluator.
The Need (Evaluation)
Many crime victims have difficulty obtaining legal assistance because of cost and lack of low fee attorneys. In small and rural communities, there are complications such as attorney scarcity and language barriers. The Lawyers for Victim Expansion Project tested an unbundled, flat-fee service model in which programs could offer civil legal services provided by attorneys they had in place. The project hoped to increase support for crime victims, improve their case outcomes, and support system outcomes including less strain on the judicial system.
In 2017, Project Safeguard chose Mission Spark to research, evaluate, and provide technical assistance for the Lawyers for Victims Expansion Project, over an 18-month timeline. Mission Spark had two primary purposes: to determine the program’s effectiveness, as well as recommend strategy and implementation considerations should the model be expanded throughout the state and nationwide.
Mission Spark was sensitive to victims’ needs and experiences in selecting evaluation methods and designing tools; program directors informed and reviewed evaluation tools as well. Mission Spark designed an evaluation process that included development of a logic model; quarterly peer learning calls; stakeholder interviews (attorneys, advocates, and site leaders); and attorney and victim surveys to gather stakeholder perspectives and process insights.
With this evaluation process, Mission Spark was able to gather information on key measures such as case outcomes, access to a continuum of services, victim demographic data, and project sustainability. Through collection of both quantitative and qualitative data, Mission Spark was able to identify process insights and key themes.
The evaluation enabled Mission Spark to report the program components that were working well and key considerations/best practices for LFV implementation and operation. Mission Spark detailed considerations for programs in rural communities. Additionally, surveys, interviews, and peer learning unearthed several bright ideas and opportunities to strengthen the program.
Legal representation via the LFV program helped crime victims feel safer, empowered, and satisfied with their case outcomes. Mission Spark’s work reported the best practices and conditions for success that could be valuable not only for LFV, but for victims’ service organizations nationwide that are trying to meet the legal needs of crime victims, improving victims’ feelings of safety, knowledge of legal options, and access to support.
Project Safeguard https://psghelps.org/
Final Evaluation Report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ulEM-fcI6ozTSEBqlQtMD4MJeqDO80iS/view