Redefine the Role of the AdvocateA limited definition of the role of advocacy fails to recognize survivors as experts in their own healing and impedes addressing the complex nature of trauma.
Redefine the Role of the Advocate
The relationship with systems in domestic violence (DA) and sexual assault (SA) work goes beyond responses and includes government funding that shapes service delivery. Reliance on this funding limits how services are defined and prioritized, resulting in a prescribed “one size fits all” approach that does not serve all survivors. These limitations may result in survivors, particularly those not in immediate crisis, being turned away or not seeking help in the first place because their circumstances do not fit the crisis-based nature of this work. It also focuses services on engaging with systems when the vast majority of survivors are not interested in engaging in system responses.
Despite the grassroots origins of the DV and SA movements, these priorities have led to the over-professionalization of our field. Lived experiences as qualification for doing this work have been devalued, instead focusing on education level. This movement began with and should be led by survivors; yet, too often, survivor’s voices are left out. The professionalization of the work ultimately inhibit comprehensive approaches to violence prevention, intervention, and healing.
This movement began with and should be led by survivors; yet, too often, survivor’s voices are left out.
A limited definition of the role of advocacy fails to recognize survivors as experts in their own healing and impedes addressing the complex nature of trauma. Many survivors experience multiple forms of trauma throughout their lives; BIPOC survivors also experience historical trauma. Understanding these experiences is essential to providing supportive services to survivors. It also adds to the complexity of needs that programs must meet. Survivor-defined healing and justice challenges programs to move beyond offering a prescribed list of services; instead, it involves listening to what survivors need.
Redefining the Role of the Advocate
- Requires flexible funding and agency practices to meet the diverse needs of all survivors
- Elevates the survivor as the expert of their healing journey
- Values lived experiences as the qualifications necessary to do this work
- Expands the definition “advocacy” to truly meet survivors where they are at and listens to their needs
- Explores healing and justice outside system responses
- Infuses trauma-informed practices throughout responses – for survivors and staff
- Challenges the narrative of “good” or “worthy” victims in all responses