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How do survivors of domestic violence define success?

When policymakers, funders and organizations evaluate the effectiveness of domestic violence programs, they often focus on a survivor’s safety. But when we talked to survivors directly, we found they had a dramatically different definition of success, prompting critical questions about our approach to the domestic violence epidemic in our country.

For survivors, domestic violence is not central to their identity. It is one of many experiences and rarely the most salient. Instead, survivors’ moments of success focused on making positive social connections with family members and friends; achieving something that created value and worth for themselves; and finding calm, predictability and normalcy.

But that’s not how most policymakers, funders and case managers see it

The practitioners we interviewed did not have nearly the same view of success as survivors. Practitioners largely described the moments when a survivor transformed out of the role of “victim,” securing a safe place to live and finding a new perspective about their abusive relationship.

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KEY INSIGHTS

Re-examine your assumptions

What our research found challenges some of the most basic assumptions that are built into domestic violence programs, policies and funding:

Featured Resources

From Safety Planning to Wellbeing Planning: A Toolkit for Change

In collaboration with Alliance for Hope International, FFI designed this resource for programs that focus their work with people who have experienced domestic and sexual violence.

It provides actionable information, exercises and tools to help shift from a safety-only focus toward supporting safety in the context of long-term wellbeing.

DOWNLOAD THE TOOLKIT

Research Report: How do survivors define success?

In 2014, we set out to understand how survivors and others in the domestic violence field across California define survivor success.

Learn more about our groundbreaking research that called into question many basic assumptions of the domestic violence field as well as highlighted important opportunities for strengthening systems’ response across California and nationwide.

READ the report

Make change in your community

We have a great opportunity to align our systems, structures, funding and practices around survivor-defined measures of success. Here are four ways you can start:

Create outcome measures aligned with how survivors define success.

Convene a task force of funders, practitioners and survivors to explore everyone’s definitions of success; analyze the gaps between your definitions and what survivors said; and then adapt grants, reports and program activities to reflect any new measures.

Explicitly support survivors to build social connections and access community resources.

Ensure that policies and funding rely on formal services only when needed, and these services are designed in support of – not to replace – survivors’ own assets and efforts.

Learn from innovative leaders and change agents across the country.

We’ve been inspired by the work of the Family Justice Center, The Network/La Red, and REACH Beyond Domestic Violence who are taking new approaches to domestic and sexual violence.

Explore the Wellbeing Blueprint.

Join our growing community of leaders, advocates and change agents to create durable structural and community change grounded in wellbeing and equity.