Take Action: Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, is a willful single occurrence or a pattern of abusive behavior employing coercion, threat, intimidation, isolation, power, or fear that results in physical, psychological, or emotional trauma. In the 1960s and 1970s, second wave feminism and the Battered Women's Movement brought the issue into the public sphere. Activists in the movement advocated for greater public attention to domestic violence perpetrated against women by their male partners, and began providing services to victims by offering their homes as early versions of shelters. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 85% of all domestic violence victims are women. Recognizing the urgency of adequately addressing this issue, over the last 30 years, the federal government has increasingly taken action to reduce domestic violence and provide services for its victims.

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Source: Root Cause

 

Experts recommend that nonprofits use the empowerment approach, grounded in the belief that victims of domestic violence should have access to information, education, and other necessary social and economic support to make informed decisions that best reflect their interests and needs. The four components of the empowerment approach, outlined below, should be available to all victims in all communities. High-performing nonprofits that provide all four of the components of the recommended approach, either singularly or in partnerships, place the agency of change in the victims' hands by helping them access knowledge and resources to reduce harm, cope with abuse, and plan for safety.

Community Awareness and Advocacy
Awareness and advocacy initiatives include a variety of programs to improve community response to reduce domestic violence, increase public attention, and inform victims of their options. Initiatives take many forms and seek to support, strengthen, and encourage victims to seek out assistance and knowledge while reducing shame and taboo associated with victimization.

Crisis and Pre-Crisis Services
Crisis and pre-crisis services are necessary to respond quickly and effectively to the physical and emotional trauma. A confidential 24-hour toll-free hotline provides information and referrals for victims or women who are in danger of becoming victims. High-performing hotlines offer guidance on safety planning, referrals, legal rights and advocacy, and resources to better understand the issue.

Medium- and Long-Term Services
Medium- and long-term services focus on the provision of services to address the long-term welfare of victims. These services include counseling, legal and medical advocacy, and assistance in establishing independence. Counseling is designed to improve victims' coping skills, decrease social isolation, and increase self-esteem. Legal and medical advocacy focuses on the provision of knowledge, information, referrals, and physical and psychiatric care. Services that help establish independence can include permanent supportive housing, education, and English language courses.

Children's Services
Many women will not seek assistance without knowing that their children will also receive care. High-performing nonprofits have separate counseling and support groups for children who have either witnessed or experienced domestic abuse to help them cope with violence, learn about safety plans, and reduce self-blame.

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Source: Root Cause

Presently, indicators to measure progress in reducing domestic violence are insufficient due to the difficulty of establishing a direct cause and effect relationship between the variables. For example, an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents that are reported is often used as an indicator of progress on assisting victims. External forces, however, render this indicator ineffective:

  • The data are chronically underreported or even unreported because of shame, stigma, and fear of further abuse.
  • An increase in the number of women who report domestic violence annually could represent two possible scenarios: more women are reporting violence because of increased community awareness and support, or abuse incidents themselves are increasing. It is difficult to tell with accuracy which of these factors is affecting the indicator and to what degree.
  • The indicator places the inference of blame on the victim by suggesting that violence can be ended by leaving. The empowerment approach is built upon post-victimization assistance and risk minimization through education, knowledge, and counseling. The goal of these services is not to end the violence perpetrated against victims but to provide assistance and adequate services to improve well-being.

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Source: Root Cause