BCS supports the development of comprehensive solutions to domestic violence through victim-defined advocacy at the individual and systemic levels, collaboration, and advocate-defined resources.
Victim-Defined Advocacy – Individual Level
Victim-defined advocacy with individual victims is an approach that ensures each victim’s experience of violence, culture, and life circumstances determines the direction and focus of advocacy and safety strategies. Advocates work with victims to share information, analysis, and resources, and then to implement the strategies each victim decides to pursue.
- The process begins with understanding each victim’s unique situation and viewpoint. A victim’s perspective is formed by her experience of a partner’s violence, her culture, family, and life circumstances, and for some victims, her role as a parent. As the advocate’s understanding grows, the advocate is able to share relevant information, talk with the victim about risks and options, and respond to the decisions the victim makes about her life and safety strategies.During this process, a working relationship is built. The advocate and victim work together to implement safety strategies, modifying them as the victim’s life and circumstances change. Victim-defined advocacy is not simply listening and doing what a victim wants. Rather, it requires the advocate to participate in an active, dynamic and culturally responsive information and resource sharing process that creates and improves options for each victim. Effective safety planning and advocacy require a victim-defined approach, whether victims leave, stay in contact with their partner, remain in the relationship, or come and go.
- The result of victim-defined advocacy is a comprehensive plan to reduce/stop the violence and make life better for the victim and her children. Because victims are not safe until they are free from violence and can provide for themselves and their families, safety and safety plans are broadly defined. Victims’ safety plans and decisions cannot be solely driven by a partner’s abusive behavior, nor can victim-defined advocacy. Safety for victims living in poverty is difficult to achieve. Little money means fewer options to escape or reduce violence. Violence makes it harder to meet basic needs. Learn more about victim-defined safety planning here.
Victim-defined advocacy is a straightforward and comprehensive framework which, in practice, requires a wide range of skills, knowledge, and judgment. For more information, we recommend the book Safety Planning with Battered Women: Complex Lives/Difficult Choices, by Jill Davies, Eleanor Lyon, and Diane Monti-Catania, Sage Publications, 1998.
Victim-Defined Advocacy – Systemic Level
Systemic victim-defined advocacy is an approach that ensures the range of victims’ experiences of violence, cultures, family and life circumstances determine the direction of strategic efforts to improve systemic responses.Advocates integrate their knowledge of victims’ needs into policy and systemic analysis and advocacy. Advocates have the responsibility of understanding the diverse needs and perspectives of victims and making such information-gathering an ongoing part of advocacy.
While defining systemic advocacy by the needs of adult and child victims provides a framework and guidance for advocacy, victims are not the only source of information, nor will such information, by itself, provide the answers to tough policy questions. For example, advocates will find that one group of victims may be harmed by a systemic response that would at the same time help others. Nor will gathering information from victims provide a complete policy analysis. Advocates must also thoroughly understand the system in which they are advocating, as well as the perspectives of collaborative partners. It is the integration of all this information — victims’ needs, thorough knowledge of the system, and collaborative partner perspectives — that will lead to comprehensive solutions.
Comprehensive solutions require responses from multiple sources. No one field or system or organization can do it alone. Victim needs and perspectives drive the purpose of the collaboration. Working relationships, money, politics, power dynamics, shared/conflicting goals, and culture affect the depth and functionality of the collaboration.
BCS strives to provide what advocates need to offer victim-defined advocacy. Advocate perspectives and circumstances determine what we offer. Information is ready to use. Guidance is practical and feasible. The steps for incremental change are identified. We know why the work is hard. This understanding informs BCS information and tools.
Victim – BCS currently uses “victim” because the word is widely understood to differentiate the person experiencing violence from the person who batters, conveys the harmful reality of violence, and preserves our core focus as comprehensive solutions advocacy expands the strategies and substance of our work. Current labels, including “victim,” “battered woman,” and “survivor” are inadequate and are not the words that those experiencing violence use to describe their experiences or themselves. BCS continues to seek language that honors the experiences of all those affected.
Gender – There are women who are the victim of a male or female partner. There are men who are the victim of a male or female partner. Because a man abusing a female partner is by far the most common, BCS most frequently uses “she” or “woman” when referring to a victim and “he” or “man” when referring to those who batter. All victims deserve advocacy that is accessible and helpful, and that they define.