Reducing Domestic Violence: What It Really Takes

Executive Director
New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence

What causes violence? Why has stopping it proven so challenging? These are questions that arise over and over and for good reason. Domestic violence is a pervasive and serious problem in New Mexico.

There are undoubtedly multiple causes of domestic violence, but the most important question isn’t what causes violence. It’s how to prevent it. Fortunately, we have  good answers to the question of how to reduce violence. But how do we put these solutions into practice and what gets in the way?  

Proven solutions

  • A community that does not tolerate domestic violence

In places where violence is not tolerated, in either word or deed, violence is less common. Community education and general awareness, known as primary prevention, is key. Sadly, prevention is either underfunded or unfunded entirely. That needs to change.

  • Coordinated justice system that emphasizes accountability

A criminal justice system that is coordinated, and that holds people who violate the law accountable, will result in decreased violence. The opposite is, of course, also true. Where there is little, or no accountability, and consequences are too few or altogether absent (known as punishment avoidance) violence will increase. There is no mystery to that finding. 

In this state, the rate of domestic violence case dismissals (charges not prosecuted after arrest) is approximately 80%. Average conviction rates are less than 10%. Neither of those statistics suggest accountability and neither can be expected to lead to anything other than increased violence. 

In order to improve that dismal record, the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NMCADV) has been directed, through Senate Memorial (106), to study the feasibility of developing coordinated community responses (CCR) to domestic violence. A report and recommendations that arise from this study will be available by June 30, 2020.

  • Services that are well funded and effective

Domestic violence programs are the backbone of their communities in many areas across the state. In some places, where services are sparse, they are the only safety net available. 

They have historically been underfunded given the task before them. Increases in funding over the years have not kept pace with costs-reimbursement rates from the state and went largely unchanged over the last 20 years while costs grew. This year we commend the state for proposing needed increases and for recognizing that an investment in domestic violence prevention and services will pay off. 

National research, some conducted in New Mexico domestic violence programs, shows that domestic violence program staff are well positioned to create positive outcomes for victims and children. New Mexico families are safer as a result. 

We know what to do and we should do it. But let us remember that no one group can make this happen alone. Reducing violence requires a full system approach and the involvement of our communities. It’s all hands on deck. That’s how change will occur. In fact, it’s the only way.