Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Victim Advocates and Shelter Workers

10/01/1996

The role of advocacy is very strong in the San Diego County domestic violence community, which views advocacy as the responsibility of everyone, not just victim advocates and shelter workers. All service providers, even those whose main contact is with the offender, make an effort to contact the victim to notify her of her rights, options and available services and to explain what they will do to hold the offender accountable. For example, the police, victim advocates in the prosecutor's office, batterer intervention service providers, and probation officers all contact the victim. The informational brochure developed by the DV Council and the Junior League is used countywide for this purpose.

There is a strong shelter network throughout San Diego County consisting of seven shelters. Many of these shelters have a transitional component and also serve homeless women. In addition to the advocacy by the shelters, there is an intensive advocacy program at Children's Hospital as well as victim services programs that are attached to the domestic violence units of the City and County Attorneys' Offices.

The YWCA has the largest shelter in the County and also provides an array of social and legal support services to victims of domestic violence. The Passages program provides a continuum of residential services for women and their children. It serves victims of domestic violence, homeless women, and women with a history of substance abuse. While residents at the shelter, women can receive counseling, peer support, legal advocacy, career development, and financial management skills. The YWCA's legal advocacy program offers legal counseling and referrals, assistance in obtaining temporary restraining orders, and escorts and transportation for court hearings.

The YWCA is also involved in research and training in the community. Currently, the YWCA is trying to coordinate data collection across service providers through a common intake form to collect the same information in a similar format across providers. Staff have also done research on batterer treatment and provided education in the San Diego Public Schools.

The Family Violence Program of Children's Hospital provides primary prevention and intervention services, including intensive advocacy to battered women and their children. The program was developed to facilitate a link between child abuse and spousal abuse. Any woman who has experienced domestic violence and who has a child is eligible for the services of the Family Violence Program.

Each woman in the program is linked with an advocate who has experienced domestic violence first hand. Advocates work with women and their children with the goal of attaining safety through assistance with restraining orders, transportation, financial needs, emergency and long term housing, and accompaniment to all court proceedings including mediation. The program also coordinates activities with CSB, emergency shelters, attorneys, therapists, and schools, and works with battered women to develop and reach long term goals related to education or employment.