The two primary components of the 10-week advocacy intervention were to (1) help women protect themselves and their children from further violence, and to (2) generate and mobilize community resources women reported needing. Safety plans were discussed and individualized based on each woman’s unique circumstances. For women living with their abusive partners, advocates discussed the pros and cons of hiding money and keys, removing weapons from the home, and having appropriate documents ready in case women needed to leave the home quickly. Regardless of whether women were living with their assailants or not, advocates discussed what to do in case of emergencies and they established plans in case they were ever surprised by the assailants. Some assailants knew about the advocates and the intervention; others received some degree of information, while others had no idea the advocate was working with the survivor. These decisions were made by survivors based on their history with the assailant, and all decisions were respected by program staff. Although each woman was told at the beginning of the advocacy intervention that the advocate would be rescinded if there was any indication she might be in danger, such action was never necessary. This is likely due to the degree to which safety was prioritized and discussed throughout training and the intervention. Through roleplays and extensive discussion, safety plans for both the women and the advocates were created and modified as needed.
The type of advocacy provided through this intervention consists of five distinct phases: assessment, implementation, monitoring, secondary implementation, and completion. Each of these phases is described more fully in this training manual, but briefly, Assessment consists of two components: gathering important information regarding the woman’s needs and goals, and determining which community resources might appropriately meet those needs. After the unmet need has been determined and various community resources have been brainstormed, the advocate and woman move into the implementation phase of generating or mobilizing the community resources. It is not enough to determine what resource is needed; the advocate and woman must also determine who controls the resource and how to best approach obtaining the resource. Sometimes this is very straightforward, but other situations require persistence and determination in “not taking no for an answer.”
The implementation stage involves actively working in the community to obtain resources and to make the community more responsive to women’s needs. If, for example, the woman decides to obtain a personal protection order, the advocate’s role is not to simply hand her the address and telephone number of the appropriate agency. Rather, the advocate would accompany the woman through the entire process. This active participation has a number of beneficial outcomes: the woman feels emotionally supported through difficult processes, the woman is sometimes treated more respectfully or expeditiously because she is accompanied by an advocate, and the advocate becomes a witness to events in case there is a later dispute between the woman and the agency. Another benefit of this type of teamwork is that the advocate gains firsthand knowledge about the hassles and difficulties involved in obtaining many community resources, which often increases her respect for the survivor’s diligence and determination.
Monitoring the effectiveness of the implemented intervention is accomplished by assessing whether the resource has been successfully obtained, and whether it is satisfactory to meeting the unmet need. If it is not, the advocate initiates a secondary implementation to meet the woman’s needs more effectively. For example, the advocate and woman might obtain convenient and affordable childcare for the preschool children. The advocate’s role would be to continue to ask how the childcare is working out: Do the children enjoy it? Is the mother satisfied? Is there a backup plan in case of emergency? If the resource is not as adequate as originally hoped, a secondary implementation–generating or mobilizing a different community resource—is necessary.
Completion begins approximately 7 to 8 weeks into the 10-week intervention. With the ultimate goal of “putting themselves out of a job,” advocates give women Completion Packets containing lists of resources and strategies for obtaining those resources. These Completion Packets should include information not only about resources the woman currently needs, but resources that might be needed in the future. For example, a woman with preschool-aged children would not have been working on school issues. Thinking ahead, the advocate would also include information about neighborhood schools, counselors, and recreational activities that the children would become eligible for as they grew older.
During the Completion phase, advocates work more intensively on transferring all of the skills they learned throughout training and supervision. Through roleplays, coaching, and/or discussions, the advocate ensures the woman can effectively advocate on her own behalf with resistant or hostile community providers.
While the five phases of advocacy intervention have been described here as distinct stages for clarification purposes, in reality advocates engage in various phases simultaneously. Multiple interventions may occur throughout the 10 weeks, such that, for example, the advocate may be monitoring one intervention while initiating another.