Introduction to Advocacy

Below are several resources to get you started on your advocate journey. Our Essential Guide is a physical guide you can print, read, and refer to throughout your on-boarding. The other resources are webinars which offer training on the HHSC Rule Requirements in section 379.404 for New Employee Orientation and Training for Family Violence Survivor support agencies.

Essential Guide

The webinars below:

  • Provide foundational information focused on developing knowledge of family violence systems.
  • Will extend your knowledge of advocacy best practices.
  • Meet HHSC training requirements for new advocates.
  • Are not required in training new employees of family violence programs.
  • Are offered free of charge.

Programs are responsible for monitoring competition and credits. TCFV provides these webinars as an educational resource and offers Continuing Education Units (CEU) for only the webinars on the Webinato platform.

 

Advocacy with Peer Counseling Techniques
Civil Rights Laws and Regulations
Crisis Intervention with Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Dynamics of Family Violence
HHSC Required Policies and Procedures for FV Organizations
Hotline Skills
Legal Advocacy for Survivors (Legal Options for Survivors of FV)
Risk Assessment and Safety Planning for Victims of FV
Texas Civil Laws Affecting Victims of Violence
Texas Criminal Laws Affecting Victims of Violence

Enhancing Your Advocacy

Advocate Career Satisfaction: Research on Occupational Stress, Peer Support, and Supervision
Advocating for Survivors of Faith
African American Teens and Dating Violence
Enhancing Economic Agency For Survivors
Enhancing Safety Planning with Immigrant Survivors
Honoring Texas Victims: Identifying Trends to Inform DV Reponses
Women Veterans and Ten Years of War
What Do Funds Have to do with It? An Advocate's Guide to Grants
Language, Culture and Gender-Based Violence: Ensuring Meaningful Access to Limited English Proficient Speakers and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Individuals
Navigating the Intersections: Cultural Humility and Trauma-informed Approaches
Proceed! LGBTQ Legal Issues for Domestic Violence Advocates
Ready, Set, Taxes! Maximizing Tax Credits and Understanding the Tax and Health Coverage Intersection
ReCentering Services: Understanding Rules Reduction in Shelters and Services
Serving Human Trafficking Survivors in a Domestic Violence Setting
Trauma-Informed Services with Survivors of Family Violence
Unauthorized Practice of Law-Regulations, Laws, and Policies
Unresolved: Exploring the Impact of Trauma on Adolescent Brains
We're in this Together: Folding Prevention into our Advocacy
When Women Use Violence in Intimate Relationships
Women in Community and Context: Social Justice, Economic Security, and Personal Safety (Safety and Services)
Opening Our Doors to Men and Boys

Resource for Advocacy

Coming Soon…

Train the Trainer

To enhance our advocate education series, we created an online Train the Trainer course for those who train advocates, volunteer advocates and/or community members. This six-module course presents the essential information needed in advocate training and offers coaching tips on how best to train with this material.

Train the Trainer is prerecorded so you can view the modules on your schedule at your own pace. They contain interactive elements and activities so you can pause the recording to practice.

The six modules plus the supplemental module are CEU-certified. You will need to watch each module and complete its survey to receive your CEU certificate for that module.

Introduction

Train the Trainer

Module One

Upskilling the Trainer

Module Two

Dynamics of Domestic Violence

Module Three

Power and Privilege

Module Four

Empowerment Based Advocacy

Module Five

Crisis Intervention

Module Six

Safety Planning

Supplemental Module

Train the Trainer

Creating Safer Spaces

Creating Safer Spaces is a resource package to help you create survivor-informed policies, resources, and forms as well as manage your data!

Intake & Case File Resource Package

Intake represents a critical point of contact with a survivor of family violence. Advocates should be mindful of the trauma victims have experienced and the incredible strength necessary to come to an unknown place for help. The interactions that occur in that moment can serve to either create a lasting trust for the advocacy relationship or re-traumatize a survivor.

In an effort to create a both welcoming and trauma-informed intake process, the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) conducted listening projects with survivors of family violence to ask what they recommend to support that goal. TCFV defines a listening project as a confidential group interview carefully designed to gather honest and open accounts of survivor experiences. TCFV also conducted listening projects with advocates with expertise in creating model intakes to understand what has worked well in the past and what has proven ineffective or not supportive to survivors.

Creating Safer Spaces: Survivor Intake & Case File Resource Package Technical Guidance

Welcome to the first step in the Creating Safer Spaces: Survivor Intake and Case File Resource Package!

The guidance and theory outlined on these slides serve as a critical backdrop to creating a survivor-centered & trauma-informed intake. This package also includes important resources for providing program intakes & a set of newly designed forms that correspond to funder requirements for family violence and dual (family violence and sexual assault) programs throughout Texas.

Review these slides before proceeding to downloading the forms. Additional information, such as suggestions and best practices for using the forms are below, and the Policy team at TCFV is available to assist with any questions!

Along with incorporating the expertise shared by survivors and advocates, TCFV sought input from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) as well as many experts in the field of domestic violence.  TCFV looked at funder requirements from the following entities as part of this process and incorporated those with a continued eye to a trauma-informed survivor intake experience:

  • Health and Human Services Commission Family Violence Program
  • Criminal Justice Division, Office of the Governor
    • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
    • Victim of Crime Act (VOCA)
    • Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP)
  • Office of the Attorney General
    • Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services (SAPCS)
    • Other Victim Assistance Grant (OVAG)
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD) [1]

    • Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG)

[1] HUD has numerous funding streams. Forms are only included for those funds that attach to shelter funding; ESG.

Getting Ready: Are your Intake Documents Up to Date?

In addition to capturing new rule requirements, any program intake document should strive to be:

  • Culturally inclusive
  • Available in languages commonly spoken in the community
  • Contain gender-neutral and non-judgmental language
  • Contain service descriptions that embrace the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) requirement to offer services on a voluntary basis.

The new model intake documents available from TCFV incorporate all of these values.

Getting Ready

Intake forms should record all required information while minimizing the repetition of information wherever possible.  Survivors expressed frustration or even lack of confidence in the program when asked the same questions at intake as at hotline.  Acknowledging to the survivor that some questions may feel repetitive and explaining why the program needs the information more than once may increase understanding, and reduce frustration, about the process.  Contextualizing each form brings meaning to an otherwise impersonal piece of paper.

 As with any program documentation, direct service staff should take sensitive case notes at intake.  Advocates must take care to record brief information with an advocacy-based focus, avoiding documentation that could later become harmful to the survivor in court or another setting.

Getting Ready

A checklist that lists each orientation item, such as the Residential and Non-Residential Checklists included in this package, is an ideal way to provide survivors with a snapshot of the intake process, and gives them something to refer back to later should questions arise.  Advocates should reassure survivors that they will review intake documents in detail in future case management appointments.  Residential and Non-Residential Intake Checklists are included to help advocates document that advocates completed all HHSC-required parts of the intake appointment.

The intake process involves a great deal of information for a survivor to process and remember.  Providing the survivor with a varied and detailed run-down of referrals and resources can be an advocate’s first instinct.  Advocates use this as a well-intentioned approach and provide important information, but this onslaught of information can overwhelm survivors.  A first step to consider includes acknowledging the large amount of information and then explaining the availability of staff to talk about any ongoing needs.

Getting Ready: Creating the Physical Environment

An environmental scan of the waiting area and intake rooms can help an agency see how their physical space appears to a survivor.[1]  In TCFV’s Listening Projects, both survivors and staff stressed the importance of creating a “safe” and “peaceful” environment.  Programs can foster this feeling in a survivor’s first moments within their agency by examining their spaces with a trauma-informed lens.

[1] To learn more about design strategies for empowering spaces see “Building Dignity” by the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

For more information related to creating a survivor-centered environment see “Creating Trauma-Informed Services: Tips for Creating a Welcoming Environment” by the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health and “Trauma-Informed Care: Best practices and Protocols for Ohio’s Domestic Violence Programs” by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network.

Getting Ready: Creating the Physical Environment

Some things to consider:

  • Is the space too bright or too dim?
  • Is it a quiet space? Can you hear others pass by? Are you routinely being interrupted?
  • Can you offer them something to eat and drink?
  • Is the client sitting with their back to the door?
  • What is on the walls? Is it clear where the bathrooms are located?
  • Is there a desk or table in between you and the survivor?

Getting Ready: Focusing on Children

Survivors consistently indicated that they do not recall much about intake because they were more focused on their children and their fear of the unknown aspect of shelter.  As a result, thinking about how a survivor’s children factor into an intake appointment is an important aspect for success.  Programs can ask during the hotline call if children will be present so that staff have time to think through childcare availability or creative considerations before the appointment that allow the survivor to focus on the intake.  In the event childcare is unavailable, consider having a space with glass separating the survivor and their children so the children can see the parent while still separated from the content of the appointment.

Depending on how much knowledge children have of the abuse, they may see services or shelter as a welcoming safe haven or as a frightening and confusing experience.  The survivor parent may feel guilt over this difficult acclimation, especially when the kids are anxious for a return to their familiar surroundings.  An overview of any specialized child services and activities, as well as an array of toys and personal items to select from can be a good way of welcoming children into services.

Staff Readiness

Staff and volunteers must accommodate all survivors entering services, including, but not limited to, survivors with disabilities, males and teen boys, transgendered survivors, LGBTQ community members, the elderly, and immigrant populations.  A key aspect of that process is informing staff about your agency’s policies regarding access and service and the available accommodations when needed. Training should also be offered to staff so that they are prepared to offer a warm and welcoming environment to differing communities and respond to survivor’s specific needs.

 Access also includes having staff on hand to conduct intakes in the primary language of the survivor.  Programs can determine any language barriers at the initial hotline call and have a staff member who speaks the survivor’s primary language or an interpreter at the center during the intake process.  Ideally, each program should have staff that can effectively communicate in the languages commonly spoken in their community, including sign language for the d/Deaf and hearing impaired, but programs should train staff to use a language line for interpretation services for gaps in the services.  See TCFV’s sample policy on Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Procedures for additional guidance.

Staff Readiness

Because survivors usually have to talk through their victimizations at the intake appointment, programs should train staff on the effects of trauma especially around triggers, grounding techniques, and its effect on behavior and memory.  Having a designated staff person with specialized training around mental health issues available to conduct intakes is extremely helpful, though many programs do not have the resources on hand to provide this specialized care.  Advocates should have the extra support of a supervisor or community partner (with the consent of the survivor) to draw upon when a mental health condition creates a barrier to conducting intakes or making services accessible.

 Staff should seek to make the orientation process a conversation whenever possible rather than centering on filling out forms. Conducting an intake through dialogue typically makes the experience more personalized and positive for survivors.  This method also increases access for survivors of all literacy levels, including ones who might not want to disclose literacy issues.

Staff Readiness

“One way to make efficient use of the time available is to ask open-ended questions and listen carefully to the answers.  Many times the answer to one question will offer information about several areas of a victim’s perspective…Obtaining the information that advocates need is not about asking a lot of questions; rather, it is about posing the ‘right’ questions for each victim.”

 

  • Jill Davies, Domestic Violence Advocacy: Complex Lives/Difficult Choices

Staff Readiness

Creating an open dialogue is easiest when staff attain familiarity with the forms used.  In-depth knowledge of the forms can assist an advocate in guiding an open-ended conversation to obtain the needed information.  The survivors usually answer questions on the intake forms as they talk about their experiences.  Likewise, if an advocate is familiar with the forms they can decrease repeating questions.

Options for decreasing repetitiveness during the intake process:

  • Is it possible to transfer the call to an advocate who could also facilitate the intake appointment? For example, if the hotline advocate identifies that the majority of the survivor’s needs are legal, can the legal advocate perform the intake appointment?
  • Ask survivors who access the hotline if it is okay to brief the advocate who will conduct their intake on the basic information around their situation.
  • With survivor permission, share information between advocates to minimize retelling while increasing the system of support. A comment such as, “[Name of hotline advocate] explained what you talked about, but I would like to hear anything that you think is important for me to know,” helps the survivor feel like they do not have to repeat the complete story and that the current advocate is engaged in the present interaction.

Staff Readiness

Programs should train intake personnel on identifying any barriers that may arise for survivors in working with a specific case manager.  A survivor may be more comfortable with a person of one gender over another, or a conflict of interest may arise if the staff person shares a mutual acquaintance or belongs to the same close-knit community.  Offering survivors options and asking if there the advocate or someone else can do something to make them more comfortable demonstrates the importance the agency places on confidentiality and respectful treatment.

Staff should understand peer counseling techniques, as prescribed by TAC §379.404 and §379.1804, which can include trainings specific to the psychological/emotional effects of trauma.  During TCFV’s listening projects, some survivors reported that they did not feel believed when telling an advocate about their experience.  TCFV strongly suggests a best practice is to believe that what the survivor says is true, or that there is a specific reason why they are changing or withholding information.  A survivor may be reluctant to share some information for many reasons including lack of trust in social service providers, fear of retaliation by a partner, shame around victimization, etc.

Getting Down to Details: Orientation Timeframe

New rule additions have extended the shelter orientation timeframe to 24 hours in order to provide more time to complete required forms.  This one-day period may still represent a challenge, however, for both advocates and survivors. Programs should be mindful that this might not be the ideal time for in-depth information gathering.  Because traumatic experiences can affect memory, giving the survivor time to recuperate and build trust with staff can aid in collecting information beyond that information absolutely required at intake. Remember that the timeframe applies to your agency’s need to comply; a survivor can decline at any time.

Orientation for nonresidential services remains the same, with no time requirement for completion of the intake.  Depending on the circumstances under which the survivor makes initial contact with nonresidential services, much of the first appointment may need to focus on the wellness check and stabilizing any crises.

Getting Down to Details: Confidentiality

Confidentiality stands at the forefront of any program’s ability to promote survivor safety & the underpinning of confidentiality is safety and respect for the survivor’s private information.  HHSC requires agencies to give each survivor a Notice of Confidentiality statement that outlines each program’s policies.  Program staff should think of this notice as the first explanation of confidentiality with additional conversations prioritized throughout their time accessing services.  At each step in the intake process, advocates should explain survivor’s rights and protections with ample time for them to ask questions.  An orientation on confidentiality statements and releases should include how and why the agency protects survivor information, as well as an opportunity to train survivors on how to safeguard their own information.  Staff should communicate transparently with survivors on exceptions to confidentiality including mandatory reporting and the possibility of a releasing information under a court order.  As survivors progress through services and connect to housing and other community resources, advocates need to inform and empower them to limit the amount of confidential information they share with other organizations and individuals who may not understand their unique safety concerns.

Getting Down to Details: Wellness Check

A recent addition to orientation under Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §379.708 and §379.2106 is a Wellness Check that addresses the immediate needs of the individual survivor and/or family.   This addition acknowledges the importance of personalized care and fosters a trauma-informed environment.  The Wellness Check form contained in this file allows a survivor to have their immediate needs met before answering detailed information about victimization, creating a survivor-centered space.  Due to the controlling nature of abusive relationships, along with the intimidating experience of entering shelter, some survivors may be uncomfortable directly asking for what they need.  Starting the appointment by asking what immediate needs and/or concerns they may have can increase rapport and decrease survivor anxiety.  This process also allows the survivor to identify needs they may not have thought about otherwise.

Getting Down to Details: Wellness Check

Aside from attending to basic needs such as food, water, medications, and taking some time for much needed sleep, alleviating fears and apprehensions about shelter is a key part of this first contact.  A trust-building conversation about the survivor’s concerns can reduce tensions and lay the groundwork for a more productive intake.  For example, some survivors may associate the program with a mandated referral source, such as Child Protective Services or Law Enforcement, and therefore may enter services feeling guarded.  Undocumented survivors may even fear the program will call immigration and have them deported.  Describing your agency’s purpose, confidentiality standards, and autonomy from other community services can help to eliminate misgivings about your program’s role in the survivor’s life.

Getting Down to Details: Wellness Check

Since the Wellness Check’s primary intention is to capture immediate needs, it could be useful for staff to know the available resources if the survivor identifies any of the needs.  For example, if the survivor discusses a need for clothing for a job interview, the advocate would need to know how to fulfill this need.  Address the identified immediate needs during or directly after the intake appointment as much as possible.  For survivors with children, welcoming the children and putting them at ease may be the first step in the wellness check, as the family will need to feel reassured before the parent can step away to complete more sensitive aspects of the intake.

The Wellness Check also provides a natural opportunity for an advocate to introduce and develop a safety plan with the survivor.  It is important to address the need for a safety plan at the beginning of the appointment in case the survivor needs to leave or no longer can access services.  Keep in mind that advocates should not retain safety plans in a survivor’s file. 

An Exit Interview is Not Goodbye

When explaining termination policies (including voluntary exits, automatic termination at the conclusion of the maximum length of stay, and the exit interview at the end of the shelter stay or nonresidential services) emphasize the ways in which survivors can stay connected to the agency for support.  Legal issues and ongoing contact with an abuser (such as in shared child custody orders) means it is likely the survivor will benefit from additional program services.  This first contact is not a one-time opportunity for success; every survivor’s path varies, and your program continued support of the survivor through any setbacks is critical.

Conclusion

As each program navigates how the intake process works best for their community, the unified focus of this crucial first step in services creates safer spaces for every survivor.  Advocates have the unique privilege of working alongside survivors and providing support based in dignity and respect.  Establishing the tenants of choice and empowerment through explanation of services and providing choices sets a trauma-informed and survivor-centered tone.  Each step of the process, from physical environment to the forms used, merge to create an experience that can either draw survivors into services or push them away. Putting time and energy into making this process as smooth as possible represents a worthy investment in the future of survivors and the future of the program

Conclusion

TCFV wants to first thank the nearly 100 survivors whose thoughts and directions informed the creation of these documents. We are honored to have been able to learn from your expertise and use those insights to create these documents and guidance.

We also want to thank the amazing advocates and organizations who shared their suggestions and best practices on this project:

Denton County Friends of the Family
SafeHaven
Women’s Shelter of South Texas
SAFE
Asian Family Support Services of Austin
SAAFE House
Mosaic Family Services
Ft. Bend County Women’s Center
Houston Area Women’s Center
Casa De Misercordia
Bilingual Staff at TCFV

Creating Safer Spaces: Survivor Intake & Case File Resource Package Technical Guidance

Understanding how each form works, and the best practices suggested for utilizing them, is the first step towards implementing a survivor-centered intake. View and download the technical guidance below to begin to familiarize yourself with these forms and the best way to employ them. The forms are avaliable to download below.

Advocate Tip Sheets

This series of tip sheets shares information and resources with advocates on several of the categories listed in the Resources Checklist form.

Child Custody

Child Support

Child Protective Services

Financial & Benefit Assistance

Health & Mental Health

Housing

Immigration

Legal & Criminal Jusitce System

Safety at School

Sexual Assault

Stalking & Privacy

Technology

Mobile Advocacy

Webinar

Creating Safer Spaces: Survivor Intake and Case File Resource Package

Password: Access2016

Immigrant Accessibility Campaign Materials

Use these awareness tools (editable posters and social media posts) to reach your community. See below for available template outreach messages for your use in English and Spanish. Click the link for materials and a webisode explaining how to edit the materials for use in your community! Download the materials here.

Guiding Services | Sample Policy Manual
Developing Customizable Policies for Family Violence Shelter and Nonresidential Services Programs

The updated manual provides family violence programs in Texas with model written policies that seek to promote trauma-informed interventions while also meeting state and federal funding requirements. At the heart of the policies is an overarching goal to support survivor-defined interventions as they are the experts on their own safety and future.

Additional Sample Policies 

  • Sample Firearms Policy for Residential and Nonresidential Programs | PDF
  • Health and Human Services Commission Family Violence Program TANF SSBG Forms | FAQEnglishSpanish

Best Practice Compendium

To accompany the forms and guidance offered through this package, TCFV has compiled the following best practices resources from state and national experts on a variety of issues. Categorized alphabetically by topic area, these resources can assist in enhancing knowledge and expertise on specific issues.

Center for Survivor Agency & Justice |

Guidebook on Consumer & Economic Civil Legal Advocacy for Survivors

Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors Initiative

National Network to End Domestic Violence | 

Economic Justice Project

National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women |

• Traumatic Brain Injury and Domestic Violence: Understanding the Intersections

National Association of State Head Injury Administrators | 

HELPS Screening Tool for TBI

Futures Without Violence |

 Health Care Guide for Survivors of Domestic & Sexual Violence

• Reproductive Health Safety Card

National Network to End Domestic Violence | 

• DV & HIV/AIDS: Tips for DV Service Providers

Office for Victims of Crime | 

 The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit for Staff Wellness

Safe Housing Partnerships |

Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium

Legal Service Center | 

Texas Law Help

National Housing Law Project |

 Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence |

WomensLaw.org

Protective Orders

Texas Advocacy Project | 

•  Pro Se Protective Order Packet

Child Support

Texas Council on Family Violence |

Get Child Support Safely Website

Immigration

National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy |

Immigrant Women’s Adocacy Project

 

Greater Hartford Legal Aid |

• Victim-Defined Safety Planning

National Network to End Domestic Violence | 

 Safety Net Project: the National Safe & Strategic Technology Project

Battered Women’s Justice Project |

 Integrating Risk Assessment in a Coordinated Community Response

Futures Without Violence | 

• Advocacy Beyond Leaving: Helping Battered Women in Contact with Current or Former Partners

• Teen Safety Plan

 

Victim Rights Law Center |

 Sexual Assault Safety Planning Guide

Texas Association Against Sexual Assault |

 Texas Associations Against Sexual Assault

Texas Attorney General |

Osnium Resources

Stalking Resource Center | 

The Use of Technology to Stalk

National Network to End Domestic Violence |

• Safety Net Project: the National Safe & Strategic Technology Project

• Technology Safety Quick Tips

• Safety Plan Tip Sheet

• App Safety Center

• Facebook Privacy Guide 2014

Limited English Proficient Survivors

National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project |

Working Effectively with Telephone Interpreters

Limited English Proficiency | 

LEP Resources and Information

Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence |

• Interpretation Technical Assistance Resource Center

Survivors with Disabilites

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence | 

• Service Animals in Domestic Violence Shelter

Model Protocol on Screening Practices for DV Victims with Disabilities

Access Checklist to Identify Increased Access for Survivors with Disabilities

National Network to End Domestic Violence | 

Assistive Technology for People who have Disabilities or who are Deaf

Jewish Women’s International | 

VERA Institute of Justice | 

End Domestic Abuse |

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services |

Survivors with Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health |

LGBTQ Survivors

GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project

The Northwest Network

The Network la Red |

FORGE |

Casa De Esperanza |

VAWNET |

Hispanic and Latin@ Survivors

National Latin@ Network |

Casa de Esparanza |

Sexual Assault Glossary of Terms in Spanish |

Health Glossary of Terms in Spanish |

VAWNET |

African American Survivors

Women of Color Network |

Asian American and Pacific Islander Survivors

Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence |

Futures Without Violence |

Survivors Later in Life

VAWNET |

National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life |

 

Futures Without Violence |

VAWNET |

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health |

Texas Council on Family Violence |

 

Victim-Advocate Privilege Information

Privilege FAQ

Why do victims need privilege?

  • Safety must stand at the forefront of any victim and their families’ needs. Confidentially seeking services represents a critical component to feeling safe and provides the circumstances for a victim to feel comfortable & share intimate details without having to worry about them later being revealed. Victims fleeing intimate partner violence and family violence centers need build trust together so survivors can feel comfortable in sharing details about their experience. Privilege supports that help seeking and trust.

How is privilege different than the current confidentiality?

  • The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and the Confidentiality Institute offer a great synopsis of these distinctions. In its most basic terms, confidentiality is a responsibility to protect someone else’s choices about disclosure, whereas privilege is a legal requirement prohibiting disclosure against someone’s will. (See NNEDV’s Primer on Privilege for more).

How does a victim exert privilege? When can a program/advocate exert a victim’s privilege for them?

  • The victim “holds” the privilege and can exert it at any time. In the absence of a waiver of the privilege, advocates must assume that the victim has exerted their privilege.

Does privilege extend to volunteers?

  • Yes, but to qualify volunteers must also have the 20 hours of training in assisting victims of family violence as outlined in 93.001(1) of the Family Code and provide services at a family violence center.

What liability exists if a family violence center or its representatives accidentally, purposely or otherwise inappropriately disclose a victim’s privileged communications?

  • Above all else, a disclosure of a victim’s privileged information could serve to compromise the victim’s safety and security. In addition, civil liability for the family violence center and the individual advocate could arise from such a disclosure particularly if harm to the survivor results.

Does this new law change the way that family violence centers create or collect case notes or store such or other information in a client file?

  • No, family violence centers should continue to create and store records as they have previously. Privilege does not affect the collection and maintenance of records; it provides an additional protection for victim information and communications.

Aside from advocates, to whom can a victim reveal the information and written materials she has shared with the advocate and still safeguard the privilege?

Can any program that serves domestic violence victims assert the privilege?

  • No, according to 93.001(2) of the Family Code, the program must either be a funded family violence center or otherwise meet the service requirements described by Section 51.005(b)(3), Human Resources Code.

If an advocate serves both domestic violence and sexual assault victims, are all of their clients covered under privilege? If not, how would they make that distinction?

 

  • No, Chapter 93 of the Family Code specifically addresses family violence victims and advocates. We know that the nature of intimate partner violence, however, means that a victim could experience both family violence and sexual assault within the context of their relationship. In those instances, the victim would still have a privilege not to disclose the information. Further, Section 93.001(1) of the Family Code clarifies this distinction, defining a victim by incorporating the definition in Section 51.001 of the Human Resource Code. This definition on its own includes sexual assault within the context of family violence, and the Texas Administrative Code (TAC) in rule 379.1 further clarifies this point by specifically including “a member of the family or household who may have been subjected to sexual assault by a batterer…”

Does this cover human trafficking survivors being served at a family violence center?

  • No, if the victim only experienced human trafficking victimization.  Chapter 93 of the Family Code specifically addresses family violence victims and advocates; however, we know that the nature of intimate partner violence means that a trafficking victim could experience family violence within the context of their relationship with the trafficker, particularly if the trafficker is a close family member, relative or partner.  In those instances, the victim would still have a privilege not to disclose confidential communications and the program must honor this.

How does privilege affect mandatory reporting of child abuse or neglect?

  • Privilege does not affect your responsibility related to mandatory reporting. In Texas, everyone is a mandatory reporter of child abuse/neglect & adult abuse, neglect, and exploitation. As such, you must make the mandatory report and such disclosure serves as an exception to privilege and notas a waiver.

How does a victim’s death affect privilege?

  • Although there is yet to be a clear answer on this question, the best practice would be that in the event of a victim’s death, the privilege can be claimed by a personal representative or legal guardian of the victim.

Where can those with interest locate the language of the statute?

  • Chapter 93 of the Texas Family Code. You can access the statute online at legis.state.tx.us/.
The Training Component

How do advocates prove they have met the 20-hour training requirement?

  • TCFV recommends that family violence centers set up a process to document the 20-hour training requirements to foster a clear indication that a person claiming to be an advocate as defined by 93.001(1) indeed meets the statute’s requirements. Feel free to contact the policy team at TCFV if you need additional assistance at dataTX@tcfv.org.

Are there certain subjects required in the 20-hours of training? Does the 20-hour training need to include a section on privilege?

  • Because each staff position and community has unique skills and roles, the statute did not create a list of set subject requirements that constitute the 20-hour training requirement. A good starting place, however, would be the training requirements for HHSC funded programs outlined in the TAC (Shelter Centers – 379.404 & Nonresidential Centers – 379.1804). TCFV highly recommended that part of the training include privilege so that advocates can (1) inform victims of the basics of privilege and (2) communicate how to best support privilege.

If an advocate received the 20-hour training from one program and moves to another program, would the advocate need new training?

  • Although TCFV recommends that advocates stay up to date on training components directly related to their job, most likely they would not need an additional 20-hour training again as long as both positions exist within a family violence center as defined by 93.001(2) of the Family Code. Advocates would also need to receive documentation from the entity where the 20 hours of training was received to share with their new employer.

Who can provide the 20-hour training?

  • The statute does not mandate that any specific entity provide the training; however, TCFV offers many of the core components that make up basic advocacy training as well as the possibility of offering an in-person privilege training and/or a recorded privilege webinar. Access the training request hereand the webinar here using the password privilege.
Working with Community Partners

What role should local family violence centers play and what strategy should they employ in implementing privilege? What information or resources should advocates provide to community partners about privilege?

  • As experts on family violence, which includes understanding the role safety, confidentiality and privilege play in a victim’s life, a family violence center stands in a great position to partner with key community partners, such as the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and law enforcement, to understand this new privilege protection. Because family violence centers and community partners share the goals of victim safety and offender accountability, proactive meetings to arrive at collaborative solutions will be key. Examples of strategies you can employ include “lunch and learns”, networking meetings and cross-training events so that these professions become aware of the protections and even more importantly why survivors need them.

What information can we share with community partners such as CPS, law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges?

 Absent a properly executed release of information signed by a victim who has consented to the privilege disclosure, the privilege attaches to all confidential communications and you must not disclose them. One key exception is mandatory reporting or child abuse/neglect and adult abuse/neglect/exploitation. Aside from this, only a handful of other exceptions exist:

  • In the event of a proceeding under Article 38.49 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, there may be an in-camera review by a judge to asses if the family violence center holds a specific document that proves forfeiture by wrongdoing. This exception should be rare and if it arises in your community, consider contacting TCFV for specialized technical assistance.
  • Another exception may occur if an advocate serving as an expert witness reviews confidential communication and then derives an opinion based on the review of that information.
  • If the victim waives privilege and asks the Family Violence Center to disclose privileged communication to one side in litigation for the purpose of a criminal or civil proceeding, then the family violence center must disclose the information to all parties. This only applies in instances where it is the Family Violence Center directly releasing the information and it is directly for the purpose if a proceeding.

Give an example of a small piece of information released to LE for criminal justice advocacy?

  • If a victim signs a properly executed, time-limited release of information, an example of a small piece of information that a release would cover would be the date a victim entered shelter or whether the victim attended a support group on a particular day.

What if a judge formally orders the agency to release the information?

  • In the event that a court issues a subpoena, a Family Violence Center must then exert the privilege regarding communications between the victim and advocate by responding to the subpoena with a “Motion to Quash.” For sample Motion to Quash documents, please view the Guiding Services: Sample Policy Manual. This document basically acts as your request for the court to review its subpoena in light of a potential legal argument protecting the information. Even then, the privilege still holds unless it falls under one of the above outlined exceptions.
Invoking Privilege
  • How should a program invoke privilege if records are subpoenaed that the victim does not want released?
  • In the event that a court issues a subpoena, a Family Violence Center must exert privilege regarding the communications between the victim and advocate by responding to the subpoena. For sample Motion to Quash documents, please view the Guiding Services: Sample Policy Manual.

How can programs still use expert witnesses?

  • Expert witnesses represent a critical tool in supporting victims in court. TCFV recommends that family violence center employees who also serve as experts base their opinions on more general but still relevant pieces of information rather than having the employee review the case file. For more information on expert witnesses, please see resources from the Institute on Domestic and Sexual Violence (IDVSA) and the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. If you have questions on how best to foster expert witness testimony without inadvertently coming within an exception to privilege, consider contacting TCFV’s Policy team or UT’s IDSVA for specialized technical assistance on this topic.

Will a release of information waive privilege entirely?

  • In some situations, a release of information can prove helpful or necessary for the victim, but this must be entirely the victim’s informed choice. When creating a release of information, make sure the release specifically outlines a narrow disclosure to achieve a particular purpose. The narrower the construction of the release, the less likely the release waives privilege more broadly for the remainder of the communications.

What happens when privilege is pierced, breached or waived? Can it be reinstated?

  • If a privilege communication is disclosed, and the disclosure is substantial, it is not possible to reinstate the privilege. The degree to which the disclosure is “substantial” will most likely be a facts and circumstances analysis. For this reason it is important to fully inform victims of the potential ramification of releasing information as well as constructing releases limited to a narrow set of information necessary to meet the victim’s goals.

Could you explain what significant disclosure means again?

The degree to which the disclosure is significant will most likely require a facts and circumstances analysis.  Typically, a broad disclosure of information for no particular purpose meets this definition.  For this reason make sure to fully inform victims of the potential ramification of releasing information as well as construct releases limited to a narrow set of information necessary to meet the victim’s goals

Webinars & Other Resources

Webinars

Privileged: An Introduction to Texas’ Victim-Advocate Law
Password: privilege
Did you know that a bill (HB 3649 85th Session) creating a privilege regarding the relationship between victims of family violence and advocates at those centers went into effect on September 1, 2017? Are you an executive leader, advocate or other staff member at a family violence center in Texas? If so, join us to learn more about what this new privilege means for you, your program and survivors in your community! In this webinar we will provide a basic overview of the new privilege, offer a clear explanation of the difference between confidentiality and privilege, and provide ideas for participants to examine their current policies and procedures to address this change to support this new critical privacy protection for survivors.

Subpoenas 101
Receiving a subpoena can lead to a wide variety of questions for family violence programs and advocates including “Is this a real subpoena?” and “What do I do now?!” Interested in learning more about how to answer these questions? Join TCFV Policy Manager Molly Voyles and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid experts Maricarmen Garza and Andrea March on December 7th from 1:00pm – 2:30pm to learn about the fundamentals of subpoenas and steps to take to respond to court orders. With a focus on response in light of the new victim-advocate privilege law, this webinar will be offered as a part of TCFV’s Legal Advocate Network.

Other Resources

Service Glossary

Certificate of Completed 20 Hours Family Violence Training & Training Checklist

These forms can be used to document the 20-hour training requirement under the family violence advocate-victim privilege law.

Updated Notice of Privilege for Survivors

This notice will help to fully inform survivors of their rights relating to privilege, confidentiality and disclosing of personal information.

Privilege FAQ for System Partners

This FAQ includes commonly asked questions by system partners who typically may be working with survivors and requesting disclosure of information.

Limited Release Form & Limited Release Form (Spanish)

This form is an adaptable document that can be used as a template for limited releases of information.

Sample Policy Manual with Updated Policies Relating to Privilege

The Sample Policy Manual has been updated to include policies that can be incorporated into your existing policy manual to address the new privilege law.

Updated Protected Information Form – PDF, Word

This form will help to identify all of the potential information protections a survivor may qualify for based on their victimization.

Osnium Resources

TCFV has developed these resources for you to better navigate your Osnium database.

Download the Osnium-Texas Guide to get started navigating through the system. These resources are meant to be used to help you utilize Osnium-Texas, so please make sure to further review any instructions provided to you by your funder.

More Tips & Tricks

Webinars

Part One: Osnium Introduction & Client Screen

Password: oz

Part Two: Volunteer, Training, and Hotline Modules

Password: oz

Part Three: Beyond the Basics | Customization & Advance Settings

Password: WSTexasPart3

Part Four: Reporting

Password: oz

Part Five: Administrator

Password: oz

Part Six: Using Osnium for HUD & ESG Reporting

Password: WSTexasPart6

Part Seven: Customizing Your Osnium Texas

Password: WSTexasPart7

How to Import Reports

Where to Download Reports: Osnium reports can be found and downloaded by visiting documentation.osnium.com. Once downloaded, the reports can be imported manually into your Osnium database by following the below instructions.

 

How to Import Reports

  1. Go to the Report tab in Osnium.
  2. Click the report tab on the top of the Osnium screen and then select “Import/Export Reports.”
  3. Navigate to the location you saved the downloaded report and open that report
  4. After a few seconds, a prompt should appear saying that the report was imported successfully.

There is also a tutorial by Osnium on how to import reports if you need further assistance.

 

Reports – Last Updated

Hotline – February 19, 2016
Services – March 30, 2015
Stays – September 3, 2015
Stays with Entry -March 30, 2015
Stays with Exit – March 30, 2015
Volunteer Time – March 30, 2015
ESG – October 11, 2016
OVAG – March 30, 2016
SAPCS Federal – August 31, 2015
SAPCS State – March 30, 2016
SASP – July 7, 2016
VAWA – November 15, 2016
VOCA – October 20, 2016

More Resources

This page includes Osnium FAQs, instructions and other guidance. Download individual materials below.

Technical Questions?

Is your question more technical in nature?

If so, please contact Osnium. Make a 30 minute Osnium Support appointment or contact at support@osnium.com,
1-888-676-4861 ext 2. Please be aware that that Osnium is on Eastern Standard Time.

Are you a standalone sexual assault center?

Please visit TAASA’s website for more contact information.

Texas Council on Family Violence
PO Box 163865
Austin, TX 78716

P 512.794.1133
F 512.685.6397
800.525.1978

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