Importance of the Program’s Underlying Philosophy
Although each advocacy intervention must be individualized to meet the unique needs of each participant, all interventions need to be guided by three underlying tenets, which are necessary for project effectiveness:
- The survivor, not the advocate, should guide the direction and activities of the intervention. This does not mean the advocate is not actively engaged; the advocate should share their knowledge and help the survivor consider all options and strategies. However, the survivor needs to be in control of her own life and will be living with the consequences of all decisions made; therefore, she is ultimately “driving the bus” throughout the intervention, with the advocate serving as a knowledgeable and caring navigator. A critical underlying belief guiding this intervention is the conviction that survivors are competent adults capable of making sound decisions for themselves. This does not mean that every woman will always make the “best” decision—none of us do. It also does not deny the reality that there are times in our lives that we need more assistance than others (e.g., if we are struggling with addiction or trauma). It does mean, however, that we do not assume that being victimized in a relationship necessarily results in a woman being unable to think clearly for herself and her children.
- This program is designed to create lasting positive change for survivors, and to provide women with the knowledge and tools they need to successfully advocate for themselves after the intervention ends. To achieve this, advocates must transfer all of their knowledge and skills to the survivor throughout the intervention, and should focus not just on immediate needs but on needs that might arise after the program ends (e.g., talking with a woman about pre-school options even though her child is currently only an infant).
- The role of the advocate is to make the community more responsive to women’s needs, and this involves active and pro-active work in the community. Advocacy is far more than giving someone information and referrals. It involves proactively working with the survivor to access resources from the community and to ensure that the survivor’s rights are upheld.