Voluntary, Survivor-Centered Advocacy in Domestic Violence Agencies


  • Leila Wood University of Texas Medical Branch
  • Dessie Clark Michigan State University
  • Laurie Cook Heffron St Edwards
  • Rachel Voth Schrag




Survivor-centered, trauma-informed, domestic violence agency, voluntary services, interpersonal violence, intimate partner violence


Voluntary, survivor-centered advocacy is a model of practice used in domestic violence organizations; however, more information is needed from the perspective of survivors on how to best facilitate survivor-centered approaches in a voluntary service format. This qualitative study used a thematic analysis to uncover core advocacy approaches from 25 female-identified survivors dwelling in domestic violence emergency shelter and transitional housing programs in two states. Themes revealed that three core approaches aid a voluntary, survivor-centered advocacy model: 1) Establishing a safe base for support, 2) Facilitating access and connection, and 3) Collaboration. Advocacy approaches that emphasize safety, mutuality, and availability of support best engage survivors in voluntary services to address needs and meet goals. Use of a strengths-based approach, psychoeducation, and resource-building contributes to the social and emotional well-being of survivors. Findings indicate community DV advocates should use adaptable advocacy models aimed at service access, connection, and collaborative resource acquisition. Voluntary, survivor-centered models use principals of trauma-informed care, though more widespread use of trauma-informed care (TIC) in voluntary services are needed. Advocates need organizational support to meet survivor needs. Implications for research include the need for fidelity studies and longitudinal research.


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