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Supporting critical thinking, learning and victim-defined advocacy...

Victim-defined systemic advocacy implications

How can my partner’s violence be reduced or stopped?How will I meet my family’s basic needs?How can I help my children?
Who will help me get what I need to be safe?


I was in a very complicated situation, that I had no other options. I thought I had to stay in my marriage (…). [DV advocate] showed me that there are more things that can help solve my problem. And now I think I can see a light, after talking to her, and a solution for all of these problems, that now I begin to see a way out.

— Immigrant Survivor, Meeting Survivors’ Needs through Non-Residential Domestic Violence Services & Supports: Results of a Multi-State Study by NRCDV (November 2011)

Victim-defined systemic advocacy implication

As victim-defined systemic advocates a challenge is to accurately reflect the range of violence, life experiences, culture, and safety plans. Leaving is an essential option for some victims but is unavailable or will make things worse for others. All victims deserve advocacy, options and resources that will make life better and safer for them and their children. The needs and perspectives of all victims should be integrated into systemic analysis and advocacy, including victims who stay, victims who leave, and victims who remain in contact, both adults and children.

Ideas:

  • Preserve each victim’s right to make decisions about her relationship: Victims have the right to choose their intimate partner and how they relate to their family. They too will deal with the consequences of those decisions. If they are parents, they are also responsible for the effect of those decisions on their children. Do policies allow victims to decide? Do they force victims to make certain decisions?
  • Expand meaningful options for victims to leave: Currently, leaving options are the primary focus of many domestic violence responses. Yet, some victims still do not have the resources or support to leave. How might current responses be expanded?
  • Increase safety strategies and resources for those who will stay or remain in contact: Although most advocates and others responding to domestic violence will assist these victims, options and safety strategies are limited. Emerging strategies should be tested and new ones developed. What responses are currently available? What do these victims need? What would make them safer and their lives better?
  • Review the impact of eligibility standards and other domestic violence policies on victims who leave, and in particular on victims who stay or remain in contact: Are victims who stay or remain in contact excluded from services? From the full range of services?
  • Convey a more accurate and complete view of domestic violence and its victims
    • Increase the knowledge and understanding of system players and the public about why victims stay or remain in contact: Victims who don’t leave are often unfairly judged to be making poor decisions, viewed as “not being serious” about stopping the violence, or as somehow responsible for not preventing it. Effective responses to domestic violence require a complete and accurate understanding of the circumstances, and often extremely limited options, that inform victims’ decisions about their relationship.
    • Accurately describe the range of violence that victims face: Each victim is different. The level of violence they face is different. Some victims experience constant physical attacks and injury. Other victims endure less control and little or no physical violence. A smaller number face life-threatening danger. Descriptions, messages, and policy analysis must hold all there realities.
  • Advocate for expansion of strategies and resources to reduce or stop violent behavior and improve parenting of person who is abusive: Whether victims stay, leave or remain in contact a reduction/cessation of violence will make them safer.
  • Collaborate with people and programs that play a role in enhancing safety whether victims leave or stay in contact: Advocates are likely already working with systems that assist with leaving. New partners and collaborations may be necessary to assist those victims who remain in the relationship or in contact. These might include: children’s advocacy organizations, parenting, fatherhood programs that acknowledge and address violence, community based family support, and violence intervention programs.
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