In the past year, sports organizations and their millions of fans, celebrities, media, and the public have focused as never before on the issue of domestic violence. A revolutionary conversation peaked on social media with the hashtags #whyistayed/#whyileft, which advanced the public's ability to understand the obstacles faced by victims - and to blame them less. At Safe Horizon, we've been hoping for this level of societal attention for years.
But missing from all this passionate discussion has been an understanding of what is actually working to end domestic violence and how people can support real change. In response, Safe Horizon has launched an action campaign called #PutTheNailinIt.
#PutTheNailinIt asks the public to show their support for anti-domestic violence efforts at Safe Horizon - the largest domestic violence organization in the country. By painting their ring fingernail purple, individuals show they've donated--knowing that even a dollar helps--and are vowing to end domestic violence. It's a simple act that, when taken by many, can make a profound impact in enabling Safe Horizon to continue and expand work that is actually ending domestic violence.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there has been a 63% reduction in incidents of domestic violence that do not result in death in the US since 1994. In addition, there was a 48% reduction in intimate partner homicides between 1976 and 2005. Clearly this is the direction we want to be moving. However, what's moving us in this direction? What's working?
Here are the top seven interventions that - according to research -- do work.
7 Things That Are Proven to End Domestic Violence
1. Domestic Violence Shelters
80 percent of victims staying in Safe Horizon shelters reported being choked or strangled by their abuser--they were in terrifying, life-threatening situations. Shelters offer a safe refuge for victims and their children, providing time for victims to think about options and rebuild their lives. Shelters have been found to reduce the frequency and intensity of ongoing violence and to decrease depression.
2. Orders of Protection (aka Restraining Orders)
What happens when the abuser won't stay away? An Order of Protection is a court order that typically requires the abuser to stay away from the victim. Orders of Protection can go further to require that the abuser turn in firearms, cover the rent, or pay to replace damaged possessions. It can even address child custody on a temporary basis. Research has found that orders of protection decrease the likelihood of repeat abuse.
Domestic violence can do damage in every area of a victim's life. Many victims need intensive help to get back on their feet. Domestic violence advocacy services focus on supporting victims in accessing social, medical, legal, and financial aid so that they can rebuild their lives. Studies reveal that recipients of advocacy experience less violence and have improved quality of life and social support.
4. Legal Representation and Advocacy
Navigating a challenging legal system can be daunting for anyone, let alone for someone in crisis. Free or low-cost legal representation and advocacy from professionals or paraprofessionals on criminal and civil legal matters are essential for victims. Evidence shows that victims that receive legal advocacy report a decrease in abuse experiences.
In moments of crisis, having someone ready to hear you and offer options can be lifesaving. Domestic violence hotlines provide support to victims around the clock, exploring risks, developing safety plans, and linking survivors to critical services. Victims report that calling a DV hotline helped them gain important information and resources and increased survivor's access to support.
Domestic violence counseling provides a safe space for victims to talk about their abuse experiences helping them build confidence and hope. Research has found that recipients report that they feel more informed and supported, are better able to be self-sufficient, use coping skills, and improve their decision-making ability. With trauma-focused treatment, survivors experience relief from posttraumatic symptoms like nightmares and panic attacks.
7. Economic Empowerment
The majority of victims staying in Safe Horizon shelters were financially dependent on their abusers. Economic empowerment programs help victims of domestic violence learn how to manage their finances and develop financial plans. Research indicates that victims receiving these services have a better understanding of financial matters (like credit scores and managing a bank account), and they feel more confident about their ability to manage their money and plan for the future.
Together these efforts represent the core of Safe Horizon's programs to end domestic violence in New York City. Across all these interventions, Safe Horizon takes a client-centered approach, grounding in the understanding that victims are the experts of their own lives. As advocates, our responsibility is to provide safety and healing options for victims, but never to tell them what to do. Whether staying or leaving, there are tremendous challenges. Research also bears out that making their own choices enables victims to feel empowered and more likely to follow-through with their decisions.
It's up to us all to keep domestic violence a social priority by pushing the discussion and by also supporting the solutions. On Sunday, June 14 starting at 3p ET, Investigation Discovery is supporting #PutTheNailinIt by dedicating an afternoon of programming that addresses this issue. Check your local listings at IDChannelFinder.com. Join the conversation on Twitter during the programming marathon to chat with domestic violence survivors and advocates. Be sure to follow @DiscoveryID, #InspireADifference and #PutTheNailinIt.