Domestic Violence Victims/Survivors:
Status of Current Domestic Violence Services
Services for battered women, their children, and other abuse victims are a critical component of a community's response to domestic violence. Over the last three decades, a sea change has occurred in the public’s recognition of domestic violence as a serious societal issue. In the 1970s and early 1980s, grassroots activists identified three urgent tasks: securing shelter and support services for abused women and their children; enhancing protections and safety, often by improving laws and the police and court response to domestic violence; and changing community attitudes and responses. These advocates organized the first shelters and safe homes for victim and their children, and worked hard to put basic legal protections in place, train police and health care providers, and increase public awareness.
Domestic Violence Programs: Basic Services: | Back to Top
There are current approximately 2,000 community-based domestic violence programs across in the U.S., and 1,200 of these programs have shelter facilities providing emergency housing to victims and their children not safe in their own homes. In addition to emergency shelter, these programs offer a variety of services, depending upon the needs of the local area and resources available, but the following are considered core services:
- 24-hour crisis hotlines
- Individual and group counseling for victims
- Support groups for victims and their children,
- Advocacy in a number of key areas, including legal, medical, housing, public benefits, and others
- Individual and group services for children.
Services to domestic violence victims are provided generally free of charge and are always focused on safety. Philosophy and practice reflect an empowerment based or survivor-centered model of service provision. Advocates assist survivors in restoring personal power, control and dignity. Advocates help survivors identify options, make choices, and act on their own behalf. Services are provided to both male and female victims of violence and to their children.
Most domestic violence programs maintain a full set of community referrals. These typically include listings of legal, medical, mental health and other professionals willing and able to provide assistance to victims of abuse on a pro bono or reduced rate basis.
An increasing number of domestic violence programs are culturally-specific in their approach. These programs are typically organized by and for a particular racial or ethnic community and provide a new range of culturally-relevant services to African American, Asian-Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native American survivors. They often arise from a critique that traditional interventions and services are not responding well to historically marginalized communities and new approaches are necessary.
- As funding permits, most programs also provide other services and supports for domestic violence victims and their families. Additional services may include court accompaniment; medical and social services advocacy; transportation to advocacy appointments; assistance with children's education and other issues; and community education and training. An extensive network of batterers intervention programs has been developed over the past 15 years as well, most commonly providing specialized groups for abusers within a coordinated community response and serving as a referral option for the courts.
Safety planning: | Back to Top
A key focus of advocates’ work with domestic violence victims is helping them develop and implement individualized safety plans for themselves and their children. Simply stated, a safety plan is each victim’s unique strategy to reduce the risks generated by a partner’s abuse and control. A victim’s safety plans might include strategies for staying as well as for leaving, and may have short and long-term timeframes. A short-term plan might be avoid being alone with abuser. A longer term plan might be to save $10 a week from the food money that is doled out to them until they can save enough to get a bus ticket to get someplace more safe. Or they might plan to leave their partner after they finish school or get a job. Of necessity, these safety plans change – as the abusive tactics change, so must their safety plan change. Many aspects of a victim/survivor’s safety plan may remain hidden, even from advocates, and certainly from others with whom they have not yet built a trusting relationship.
Maintaining confidentiality: | Back to Top
Domestic violence service delivery and advocacy are rooted in confidentiality and privacy, which are crucial to victims seeking safety from abusive partners. The confidentiality of a victim’s conversations with a domestic violence advocate may be protected by state statute, and federal funding for domestic violence services requires programs to safeguard the privacy of records and information about those to whom they have provided shelter and other services. Domestic violence programs take confidentiality very seriously because of its close link to victim safety.
Expanding the Network: | Back to Top
In addition to local direct service programs, domestic violence advocates have built an expanded network of advocacy organizations. State, Tribal, and Territorial coalitions have been also established, along with comprehensive training and technical assistance centers. Collaborative efforts to enhance health care, criminal justice, social services, and community responses to domestic violence have been initiated on local, state and national levels. These programs and services are funded through many different state, federal, and private foundation funding sources. For links to these organizations, click here.