The advocate’s role is to provide confidential support
and assistance to battered women so they can make decisions about
the options that are available to them. Many of these guidelines
also apply to other kinds of service providers. As a result, these
guidelines should be included in trainings for advocates,
health care providers, clergy and lawyers. In addition, all
participants in a coordinated community response program must
follow common principles for intervention
that centralize victim safety and batterer accountability.
Advocates must respect differences and avoid assumptions.
Advocates may themselves believe certain myths
about domestic violence, and should attempt to be aware of any
assumptions they might be making. Further, women experience violence
in different ways, and advocates should try to be aware of ways
in which women may face additional barriers of have specific needs
because of, for example, ethnic identity or economic resources.
Advocates must keep all information
about a battered woman strictly confidential. Confidentiality is essential
not only to promote a relationship of trust, but also to avoid endangering
the woman. If her batterer discovers that she has sought assistance or may
be planning to leave, she may be in serious danger.
To ensure confidentiality, it may
be necessary to take precautions before contacting the woman, such as leaving
messages with a third party, or communicating by mail via a separate mail
box number. Advocates and service providers should never speak with other
family members, may need to disguise their identity and the reason for the
call, and should ask whether it is safe to talk at the beginning of the conversation.
The American Bar Association offers particular safety
tips for lawyers that provide concrete steps that lawyers
representing victims of domestic violence can take to protect
their client’s confidentiality.
Advocates offer moral support to the
woman and develop her confidence to use resources to solve the problem. Battered
women often feel ashamed of the abuse, are terrified of the abuser, and blame
themselves for the batterer’s actions. Advocates should try to convey to the
woman that it is not her fault, she has options, and she is not alone. Some
statements that can be used to convey these messages include: “You don’t deserve
this. There is no excuse for domestic violence. You deserve better.” “You
are not alone in figuring this out. There may be some options. I will support
Both advocates and service providers facilitate women’s
ability to make decisions about the options available to her.
Initially, they may help her conduct lethality
assessments. Advocates also help women identify needs, strengths,
weaknesses, and resources. They provide women with information
about different legal, medical and administrative systems and
the rules and procedures of these systems. Advocates help women
identify and explore all possible options and possible consequences,
assist in developing strategies and a plan of action. They discuss
and rehearse the plan of action, assist in preparation of all
necessary documents or requests for assistance, help rethink plans
for action if they fail or if circumstances change.
Advocates can provide women with the
resources and information they will need to make choices and decisions, but
the choices and decisions must be made by the woman herself.
While it can be difficult to see someone
stay in a situation in which she is being harmed, there may be many obstacles
that prevent the woman from leaving. For example, she may not be able to support
herself or her children without the financial support of her husband, and
leaving may itself impose an additional financial burden. She may not have
alternative housing, or may fear that she will lose her children. She may
be reluctant to leave her husband for religious or emotional reasons, face
pressure to stay from family, friends or her community, or fear being ostracized
by her family or community if she leaves. In addition, leaving entails substantial
risks. She may fear that a batterer will carry out threats to harm her, himself
the children, friends or family. Battered women are in the greatest danger
of severe or even lethal attacks when they attempt to leave, and she is the
only one who can judge when it is safe for her to do so.
The Crisis Intervention Network provides a number of models
that may be useful for advocates involved in crisis intervention.