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The DV AWARE Project: Helping Courts Implement Protocols for DV Analysis, Warning, Action, Recovery, and Engagement



DV Aware legal scales

The DV Aware Project

The DV AWARE Project is designed to support juvenile and family court systems around the country to anticipate, identify, and mitigate incidents in their courthouses associated with domestic violence. Resources in this Toolkit will provide court staff with the knowledge and resources needed to respond to domestic violence-related threats and emergencies when they take place and to help courts and communities recover from violence with trauma-informed and healing strategies.

NCJFCJ and SJI recommend to all courts that, before they begin to implement elements of the DV AWARE project (policy improvements, communication protocols, and/or training), they check to make sure that basic court security protocols and partnerships are in place.

The DV AWARE Project is supported by funding from the State Justice Institute (SJI). SJI was established by federal law in 1984 to award grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts and foster innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts. SJI is a non-profit corporation governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. (State Justice Institute, n.d.)

The DV AWARE Project addresses the following SJI priority areas:

  • Emergency Response and Recovery – Courts must be prepared for natural disasters and public health emergencies and institutionalize the most effective and efficient practices and processes that evolve during response and recovery. SJI supports projects that look to the future of judicial service delivery by identifying and replicating innovations and alternate means of conducting court business due to public health emergencies such as pandemics, and natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires.
  • Training, Education, and Workforce Development – State courts require a workforce that is adaptable to public demands for services. SJI supports projects that focus on the tools needed to enable judges, court managers, and staff to be innovative, forward thinking court leaders.

DV AWARE Guiding Principles

Juvenile and family court-centered collaboratives will effectively address the risks and harm posed to courts and communities by perpetrators of domestic violence when they:

  1. Proactively collaborate with key stakeholders, including representatives of those who have direct contact with litigants at the courthouse and in the course of their family law cases, as well as those who are responsible for safety of the court and its people, to coordinate safety protocols and prioritize safe access to justice.
  2. When crafting strategies, practices, and policies to ensure safe access to justice, consider the history of litigants’ and the public’s experiences with and trust in the justice system, including intersectional oppression and the availability of full, safe access for those who have been traditionally underserved or harmed by the courts.
  3. Think systemically and operationalize safety protocols, including stakeholder education, risk assessment, risk reduction, and communication.
  4. Introduce and practice safety protocols consistently, beginning before a security incident occurs and continuing in the aftermath, revising and refining protocols according to lessons from any such incidents.
  5. Promote gathering of data on safety threats and the cases in which they arise to inform development and refinement of protocols for risk assessment, risk reduction, safety, and response.
  6. Approach systems improvement informed by the impact of trauma on families and the impact of trauma on court staff, taking appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate retraumatization and linking to helpful resources.
  7. Respect the expertise, limitations, and opportunities inherent to the role of various stakeholders and seek to support their leadership and identify who holds decision-making authority.

Project Goal

As a result of the DV AWARE Project, juvenile and family court systems around the country will anticipate dangerous incidents in their courts associated with domestic violence and respond in a manner that mitigates these tragedies.

Court staff will have the knowledge, skills, and resources to anticipate and prevent many domestic violence-related threats in their courts, respond quickly and safely to these emergencies when they take place, and recover from violence in their courts with trauma-informed healing strategies for the court and the community.

About the Toolkit

The purpose of the Toolkit is to improve strategies in courtroom safety for families and staff in cases of domestic violence by researching, collecting, and organizing existing resources for courts specific to the needs of DV AWARE Leadership Teams.

It also includes resources specifically for judicial officers, court managers, and court security.

This online Toolkit is designed in three sections.

  1. Analysis and Warning: this section of the Toolkit addresses safety and security and includes resources for: Domestic violence fundamentals training; Tools and strategies for courthouse safety; Tools and strategies for court security assessments; Sample checklists and protocols to aid safety and security; Examples of communication of risk and threat; and Prevention strategies.
  2. Action: this section of the Toolkit addresses emergency response and de-escalation and includes resources for: Internal emergency response; Informing the public of threats or danger; Emergency exercises and drills; Equipment testing; Role specific guidance; and Sample policies and protocols.
  3. Recovery and Engagement: this section of the Toolkit addresses post-incident investigation, trauma response, collaborative debrief plans, and post-incident public messaging and includes resources for:
    1. Building and facility repair;
    2. Temporary locations;
    3. Staff counseling; and
    4. Lessons learned.
  4. Sustainability: this section includes resources for communicating with funders, plans for gathering public support, plans for staff turnover and training, and much more.
  5. Judicial Safety and Security Resources: this section includes resources specifically for court administrators, judges, and law enforcement/security staff.
  6. State-Specific Resources: this section includes resources compiled by state. This section provides some state-specific examples and is not exhaustive.

Other DV AWARE Resources


This resource provides a short summary of the DV AWARE Project, highlighting its purpose as well as the Project’s resources developed to help courts and leadership teams looking for information  that will help them understand, anticipate, identify, and mitigate incidents in their courthouses associated with domestic violence.”


The DV AWARE Blueprint is for courts and communities across the country that are interested in implementing improvements in their handling of potential threats arising from cases involving domestic violence. It is intended to provide a brief guide that local leadership teams can use to form a DV AWARE Leadership Team and to guide that team in its development of training, policies, and procedures.


Developed with input from our partners, the Curriculum is designed around the DV AWARE Guiding Principles and the elements of AWARE – Analysis, Warning, Action, Recovery, and Engagement. Using adult learning techniques, the Curriculum’s objectives are to help multidisciplinary teams understand the elements of effective planning for and response to domestic violence-related dangerous incidents in courts, analyze their readiness and capacity to respond to domestic violence-related dangerous incidents, and create and apply policies, practices, and procedures aimed at improving court/system readiness and response.



Slide Deck


For information about the DV AWARE Project and products, please write to or call 775-507-4777.