Domestic Violence Advocates

Resources for Domestic Violence Advocates

Additional Resources and Manuals for Working with Survivors

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Domestic Violence Shelters: Best Practices

Physical requirements

  • Housing space open to women and their children only
  • Private spaces available for clients
  • Minimum duration stay of six months

Program requirements

  • 40-hr domestic violence and sexual assault trained advocates
  • Staff is able to respond effectively to individual clients regardless of the client’s culture, ethnicity, religion and/or partner’s gender
  • Program makes services culturally and linguistically available through their own programming or with support from partner organizations or programs to support the needs of the community served
  • Program consults, coordinates and partners with nonprofit/nongovernmental sexual assault and domestic violence victim services programs as well as community-based programs to provide holistic services, including:
    • Support groups or group therapy
    • Individual therapy
    • Child therapy
    • Substance abuse support
    • LGBT support
    • Child care
    • Safety planning
    • Legal services
    • Housing assistance
    • Job support/re-entry services
    • Transportation support (i.e. bus passes, staff-operated shuttle)
    • Educational support
    • Medical/dental support
  • Program must coordinate and partner with nonprofit/ nongovernmental sexual assault and domestic violence victim services programs to ensure the following:
    • Phone support (primary and auxiliary support services not limited to over-the-phone)
    • Staff available 24 hours a day

Safety Requirements

  • Confidential location
  • Confidential services
  • Staff or partner staff on-site 24 hours a day or available 24 hours a day
  • Protocol implemented for responding to persons of concern appearing on site

Follow-up Requirements

  • Termination and follow-up protocol
  • Continuing support services

Additional Requirements

  • Policies do not allow abusive partners or family members to stay or live in the space. Though court orders may require domestic violence victims with children to allow visitation with an abusive partner, visitation must occur off-site and not extend to overnight stays or unplanned visits;
  • Programs do not utilize or require mediation, alternative dispute resolution or joint counseling as a response to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

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Best Practices: Legal Advocacy Programs for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Physical Requirements

  • Walk-in office available
  • Physical, private space for appointments

Program Requirements

  • Program provides holistic legal services for survivors, including but not limited to protection order support, representation in legal proceedings directly related to a client’s experience of violence, such as child support, child custody, legal separation/divorce, unemployment compensation, immigration matters, financial matters and/or housing
  • Attorneys and legal staff are 40-hr domestic violence and sexual assault trained
  • 40-hr domestic violence and sexual assault trained advocates are available
  • Staff is able to respond effectively to individual clients regardless of the client’s culture, ethnicity, religion and/or partner’s gender
  • Program makes services culturally and linguistically available through their own programming or with support from partner organizations or programs to support the needs of the community served
  • Organization consults, coordinates and partners with nonprofit/nongovernmental victim services programs including sexual assault and domestic violence programs as well as community-based programs
  • Program reflects (through mission statement or similar statement) an understanding that the violence perpetrated against victims is grounded in an abuse of power by an offender and reinforced through intimidation and coercion
  • Program should provide services that promote the agency and self sufficiency of victims by improving their access to resources

Safety Requirements

  • Confidential services
  • Protocol implemented for responding to persons of concern appearing on site
  • Safety planning conducted with all clients
  • A clear conflict of interest policy to avoid serving perpetrators

Additional Requirements

  • Programs do not provide services to perpetrators of domestic violence;
  • Organizational policies do not require mediation or counseling involving offenders and victims physically together, in cases where sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or child sexual abuse is an issue;
  • Programs do not support activities and/or policies that jeopardize victim safety or allow perpetrators to avoid responsibility for their actions. These policies include:
    • Policies or practices that discourage accepting cases for victims who do not have physical evidence;
    • Mediation, alternative dispute resolution or joint counseling as a response to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking;
    • Representation on the condition that victims seek protection orders, counseling or other course of action with which they disagree.

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Cultural Competency

  • Cultural competency refers to the process by which advocates and service providers:
    • Combine general knowledge with specific information provided by the individual,
    • Incorporate an awareness of their own biases, and
    • Approach the definition of culture with a self reflective and open mind.

Recognizing that that individuals have different perspectives based on their diversity is the first step in a lifelong process of becoming culturally competent.

  • When working with domestic violence survivors, a successful, culturally competent intervention incorporates:
    • An understanding of the definition of cultural competency;
    • An awareness of one’s own biases, prejudices and knowledge concerning
      survivors and their culture; and
    • A recognition of professional power (such as the power differential between
      advocates and the individual) in order to avoid imposing one’s own values on the
      patient.

From Domestic Violence: Practical Applications Session. Trainer’s Manual For Health Care Providers, Family Violence Prevention Fund (1998)

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Self-Care

Working with survivors of intimate partner violence can be incredibly rewarding, but it can take a tremendous emotional toll and may create a state of emotional exhaustion, and reduced personal accomplishment known as burnout. Burnout appears to be a response to chronic stress rather than to occasional crisis. Giving to others must be balanced with giving to ourselves. Some suggestions for self-care include:

  • Taking mental health days
  • Relaxing your body at work
  • Get enough sleep
  • Taking walk breaks or walks a meetings
  • Engage in leisure activities
  • Keep a journal
  • Relaxation techniques (meditation, deep breathing, visualization)

Adapted from Wilson, K.J. (2005). When Violence Begins at Home. Chapter 15-Loving Ourselves: Self-Care for Helpers. Hunter House Publications.

Further Resources