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

Implications for victim-defined advocacy

How can my partner’s violence be reduced or stopped?How will I meet my family’s basic needs?Will life be better if I stay or if I go?
Who will help me get what I need to be safe?


My kids are not ready to open up yet. The staff is very respectful & understanding to their feelings and needs.

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

Implications for victim-defined advocacy

Talk about how the children are doing

Ask questions about the children and find out what their mother thinks. As with all aspects of victim-defined advocacy, this conversation must be respectful and culturally responsive.

How a child is doing will be determined by the combination of their strengths and all the risks they face – not just the domestic violence. Identify the positives in the child’s life – family, school, individuals, interests, resiliency, and culture. Talk about the risks – the violence and other factors that are a risk to the children’s development. These might include living in poverty, health issues, family dysfunction, parenting challenges, abuse, or inadequate schools.

Sometimes your views will differ – from other advocates and from the mother’s. Check your understanding of her view and the accuracy of your own. Work to get on the same page.

Support her parenting

Children benefit when advocates provide information, conversation, and resources that support a victim’s parenting. The parent also benefits. Build support from the cultural context of the victim’s family and parenting approach.

Sometimes violence and other life hardships damage the relationship between the child and the victim-parent. When warranted, offer the parent concrete suggestions for repairing and strengthening that connection.

Offer strategies and resources that improve child well-being

What you offer will depend on the child. As with adults, strategies must be customized to their needs, culture, and current resources.

  • Violence prevention and intervention: No more violence and help for the effects of the violence they’ve already experienced. That’s what will make things better for children.
  • Mother’s safety plan:Include safety strategies for children in their mother’s safety plan. Children’s needs are usually central to their mother’s safety planning and decision-making. Sometimes children, particular when older, can benefit from age appropriate strategies they can use.
  • Child contact with person who abuses: The strategies to offer will depend on the relationship between the child and the person who batters and the amount of contact. Does the child still live with him? Is he the child’s father? Is he the mother’s partner or ex-partner? What contact do they have? Are the interactions positive? Are protections necessary? Is the child in danger? Does the child experience negative emotional effects after the contact? Do those effects warrant a reduction or change in the contact? What support would help the child cope with negative effects?
  • Contact with their father who abuses: Even if their mother leaves their father who is abusive, the children are likely to continue contact with him. Safe contact for some children might require supervision or protected settings. Other children might need little or no intervention to benefit from contact with their father. A child will benefit if a father who batters stops his use of violence and improves his parenting.
  • Reduce other risks, increase resources: Does the family need help to meet the child’s basic human needs? Would the child benefit from access to child advocacy or behavioral health programs? What culturally specific programs might make things better for the child? What school based resources or advocacy might help?

Take action if the children are not safe or OK

Advocacy with parents may not be enough to protect their children from serious harm. Additional steps are then necessary. For example, involve other family members, connect the family to other social services, or offer intensive parenting intervention plans. Some circumstances may even require child protection involvement.

Coordinate advocacy for adult and child victims

This is particularly important in programs that might provide a different advocate for the victim-parent and the child.

Collaborate with programs and people that work on children’s issues

They may have resources that will help the children you’re working with. The domestic violence specific knowledge and resources you have will help the children they are working with. Potential collaborations may be found with the following kinds of programs: child advocacy, child behavioral health, child health care providers, parenting programs, schools, kids clubs, fatherhood programs that acknowledge and address family violence, early childhood programs, child poverty, child welfare, family support, child protection, law enforcement, and juvenile court.

This website is funded through grant # 90EV041001 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau. Neither the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse this website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).