“A victim who is no longer hit by a partner but has no way to feed her children or pay the rent is not safe…Victims are safe when there is no violence, their basic human needs are met, and they experience social and emotional well-being.”
– Jill M. Davies & Eleanor Lyons
Have you ever attended one of TCFV’s trainings or read our materials and wondered; Why do they seem so intent on using the term ‘safer’ and not ‘safety’? It seems like a small difference, but shifting those two letters actually reflecst the core tenant of a service philosophy.
The philosophy: survivors of domestic violence are the experts in their own lives. Developed by leaders of the domestic violence movement, Jill M. Davies & Eleanor Lyons, this philosophy calls on advocates to focus on creating a space where survivors can reach out for the services they say they need.
It also encompasses a simple, but critical notion: Leaving does not equal safety & safety is much more than leaving. As a movement initiated by women, including women of color and the LGBTQ community who have experienced additional oppression, we are keenly aware that safety is not always easily found.
- Has a victim who has left their abusive partner and has nowhere to go achieved “safety”?
- Is a victim at a shelter who is currently seeking custody of their children “safe”?
- Is a homeless woman with domestic violence in her past “safe” on the streets?
- What if that victim lives in poverty or is undocumented?
TCFV has created a series of trainings and resources that embrace this philosophy. We work with programs across Texas to create safer spaces for survivors to seek services, access legal remedies, and speak out about the violence they have experienced.
One way we can create safer spaces for survivors is to consider something as basic as the forms that programs use. For many survivors, the initial contact with a service provider is the moment they chose to engage with a supportive partner or to leave. Yet sometimes, the initial contact with a program can be frustrating because of forms that are repetitive or unintentionally serve to re-victimize the survivor.
After interviewing over 100 Texas survivors and program experts, we developed new model forms that are friendly and welcoming. Texas contains a wide variety of communities and cultures, so the forms take literacy and language access into account.
For example, the Resource Checklist gives survivors a quick overview of the services a survivor can access at a domestic violence center. Sometimes trauma exposure can affect the way survivors’ process information and focus. The new form separates the information into boxes with distinct colors and easy-to-understand language so that the content is easier to focus on. For each resource on the Checklist, TCFV also provides tip sheets for advocates. This gives advocates the tools they needed to support survivors on identified assistance areas.
Safety may not be simple, but by recognizing survivors as the experts in their own lives, we can work together to create safer spaces for everyone.
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