I think every case is an individual case and it’s all different. Some people can count on their family, some people can’t count at all on their family. Some can count totally on their friends, some don’t have friends or very little because they’ve been so abused and put into their little house and can’t go anywhere, they really don’t have any. It’s just a really hard situation for every abused person and everyone is a different situation.
— Older Adult Survivor, Meeting Survivors’ Needs through Non-Residential Domestic Violence Services & Supports: Results of a Multi-State Study by NRCDV (November 2011)
Understanding victims’ needs and perspectives is the foundation of victim-defined advocacy. If you don’t know what victims think you can’t be victim-defined.
How: There is a wide range of ways to gather and analyze information. Do not let the process or time keep you from finding out what victims think. Just ask! Ask a specific question at intake, or during support groups, or as part of community outreach. You might also ask advocates and others who regularly work with victims what they are hearing. Gather information from as many victims as possible, those you regularly serve and those you don’t. Know who is missing from your data. Is it women of color, immigrants, victims living in poverty, LGBT victims or other marginalized group? Make an effort to find out what they think.
Then think and talk about what you’re hearing. Information used in this process should be generalized to protect victims’ safety and privacy. If resources are available conduct formal research, inquire about a broader range of issues, or track information over a longer term. Do what you can, but do something.
What to ask victims about helping leaving, staying, remaining in contact:
Ask what is relevant to the priorities and context of your advocacy. Ask some open ended questions that will give you information about victims’ priorities. Do victims think that your advocacy will make life better for them and their children if they leave? Stay? Remain in contact? What do they need? What do they think you should do?
Sample questions to help you frame the ones you’ll ask:
What made you decide to stay, leave, remain in contact? How did/do they assess the violence they face? What other factors are important? When is violence not the most important factor they have to consider? What options, resources, strategies would make life safer and better for them and their children? What did/do they do to be safer while in the relationship or in contact? What did/do they do for their children?