Addressing Survivor Loneliness
Loneliness is a prevalent problem across the US that is bad for our physical and emotional health. Loneliness is a particular problem for survivors of domestic violence where experiences of abuse often include isolation from friends, family, colleagues and other supportive social connections. Isolation makes it difficult for survivors to reach out for emotional support, and difficult to seek assistance with basic needs. Accordingly, social isolation compounds the barriers that make it hard for a survivor to separate from an abusive relationship, and increases the likelihood that they will return to one.
With recognition of the burden of loneliness experienced by domestic violence survivors, ICADV convened a cohort of member domestic violence programs in the spring of 2022 to explore, develop, implement and evaluate a range of new strategies for promoting social support. With these strategies, we hope to increase opportunities for connectedness among survivors beyond the period of services traditionally provided by domestic violence programs, and also to honor survivors’ calls for more peer-lead support options. This toolkit provides guidance from survivors about additional ways that they would like to be engaged, the types of support and training that they would want to help lead these efforts, and how-to advice from the domestic violence programs that have begun to adopt these new strategies.
Menu of Survivor Engagement Strategies
Addressing Loneliness in the Domestic Violence Field: Opportunities to increase connections, support and mutuality among survivors of abuse
Changes to organizational practices to reduce loneliness
- Making shelter location information public
- Allowing for shelter/safe house visitors
- Social network development and restoration-focused casemanagement
- Network mapping and relationship focus in support groups
- Identifying/creating lots of small opportunities for survivors to contribute; allowing for mutual support
- Allowing for pets; adopting an organizational support animal
- Implementing support programs for survivors’ support people; family and friends, etc.
- Offering a check-back option for clients exiting services — offering follow up contact from an advocate at points post-exit
- Offering an open-house or office hours where survivors can visit leaving formal services
Changes in outreach supports that address loneliness (strategies that we’re involved with)
- Informal, survivor-lead support groups — in person and online
- Workshops or events — food and holiday celebrations, learning/skill development events (financial skills, healthy relationships, exercise activities), art activities, game nights, self-care practice sessions
- Survivor mentoring/peer support networks
- Survivor newsletter — content and updates from program, opportunities for survivors to connect with ongoing activities, to contribute content, and to request/provide mutual aid
- Advocacy opportunities — court watch, trainings for responders (law enforcement, judges, healthcare)
- Committee participation within your agency; Service advisory committee
- Participating in awareness and education strategies — contributing stories, volunteering on projects, providing personal testimony about agency services, etc.
- Focus groups — invite survivors to provide feedback and advice about programs and services
Support for grassroots, community-based survivor supports (strategies that we announce, support, but we’re not hosting)
- Promote survivor-lead events through our communication networks
- Offer our contact information/ materials to these events in case any participants need professional support
- Offer childcare in support of grassroots events
- Collaborate with survivors to secure donations in support of events (community space, food donations, art supplies, etc.)
Together, we can end domestic violence.
We believe that violence is preventable. When we come together, we create real change in the lives of individuals and in our communities. Join us in the movement to make Indiana a state that is safe, inclusive, and equitable for everyone.