ICADV, our member partners and survivors are two and a half years into our collaborative process of learning and working to reorient domestic violence programs in survivor-defined success. As part of this process, ICADV collaborated with member programs across the state to conduct 91 individual interviews and five focus group discussions with survivors. Based on their insight, we have published a report of recommendations for communities and domestic violence programs entitled Re-Centering: Indiana’s Movement to Ground Domestic Violence Programs in Survivor-Defined Success.
At this point in time, we are feeling deep appreciation and deep responsibility. We feel appreciation for all of the survivors who shared their wisdom with us, and for all of the member programs who joined us in listening. We feel an urgent responsibility to act on the advice that survivors gave us.
Though we’ve invested over 1000 hours in this effort over the past two years, we recognize that listening was the easy part. We know that what happens next will determine the value of this project. We know that changing ourselves and the systems that we work with will challenge our ingenuity and resolve. We feel honored to share these survivors’ voices with our stakeholders and look forward to the next steps that we will take together to improve community prevention strategies and to ensure the provision of accessible, relevant and compassionate services for every survivor of violence.
Here are four key takeaways from the Re-Centering Report to help us get started:
- Promote economic opportunity and stability. Survivors tell us that economic stability reduces their vulnerability to abusive relationships and that it is essential for enabling them to rebuild stable lives for themselves and their children subsequent to an experience of abuse. Survivors described the need for livable wages, affordable housing, and social safety net programs to support them through periods of crisis
- Challenge judgment and promote connected, caring communities. Survivors told us that they were judged for every decision that they made about their relationship. This judgment showed up in all areas of their lives—from friends and family, faith communities, colleagues, law enforcement, health care providers and social service programs. Survivors tell us that the climate of judgment made them feel like they had failed, and made it very difficult to reach out for support.Survivors identified the damage of judgment in relation to their experiences of abuse, but also, more broadly in terms of their identities and experiences. They told us that they experienced judgment in response to their experiences of poverty, issues related to health, mental health and addictions, their abilities, ethnic identities, who they loved, histories of incarceration, how they parented, their gender, or gender identity. Survivors encourage us to address the judgment that separates us and to work for connected, inclusive communities that promote mutual accountability and support.
- Make it easy for survivors to access services. Survivors told us that accessing domestic violence services was difficult. Many were unaware of the services that were available in their community or didn’t feel confident that those programs could meet their needs. They thought that service providers could be better connected to facilitate survivors’ access to the broad range of community programs that they might need throughout their experiences of recovery. They encourage us to broadly spread information about domestic violence programs and to build inclusive services to meet the needs of survivors diverse in identities and life experiences. Critically, they told us that a compassionate point of contact made all of the difference in how they felt about themselves, their ability to take next steps, and whether they could trust the programs that are there to support them.
- Explore accountability alternatives. Only about one-quarter of the survivors that we spoke with thought that accountability for offenders through the criminal justice system was a helpful solution. These survivors expressed concern that incarceration was a temporary solution that didn’t help them to feel safer, and also that incarceration couldn’t address the root causes of violent behavior. These survivors encouraged us to explore alternatives that could increase community safety, encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions and to change.