Importance of Research to the DV Movement

nrcdv_shaina-goodmanBy Shaina Goodman, Policy Manager, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV)

At the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), we know that research and evaluation on domestic violence is essential for effective programs, practice, and policy. Research and evaluation help us understand what kinds of intervention and prevention approaches work, for whom, how, and under what conditions. It allows us to build a strong body of evidence to advocate for better laws and policies and for more funding for domestic violence responses. Most importantly, it has the potential to give voice to the real experiences of survivors and advocates.

NRCDV is proud to manage the Domestic Violence Evidence Project (DVEP), which combines research, evaluation, practice, and theory to inform critical thinking and enhance the domestic violence field’s capacity to serve survivors and their families. DVEP is designed to help state coalitions, local domestic violence programs, researchers, and other allied individuals and organizations better respond to the growing emphasis on identifying and integrating evidence-based practice into their work. Through DVEP, service providers can find information on effective, trauma-informed interventions that will help them better serve victims of domestic violence and their children.

The cornerstone of DVEP’s approach to research is examining the work of domestic violence programs within a “social and emotional well-being” framework. This framework explores how domestic violence negatively impacts survivors’ and their children’s well-being, and what factors can restore this well-being over time. Following from this is a Theory of Change, which describes the foundation of some domestic violence programs’ work and details how some programs creatively engage with survivors and their children to influence the factors known to promote their well-being.

DVEP conducted a review of existing evidence, examining the extent to which domestic violence programs have been effective in achieving their desired outcomes. This research provides concrete information about what works, often confirming what advocates have long understood to be true through our experiences working with survivors.

What we know is that many domestic violence programs – from culturally specific to emergency shelter to transitional housing to economic advocacy and more – are meeting survivors’ needs and contributing in significant ways to the well-being of survivors, their children, and their communities.

However, more documentation – both formal (e.g., published research studies) and informal (e.g., organizational evaluation reports) – is needed to highlight the work of programs. In particular, we need documentation that lifts up innovative solutions and strategies developed in communities and that consider a variety of cultural contexts.

That’s why we are grateful for the incredible colleagues and researchers who help move this important work forward. Colleagues like those at the National Latin@ Research Center on Family and Social Change, a project of Casa de Esperanza, who elevate community-based and culturally-specific work through evaluation and research. And colleagues like those at the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse, who employ their organization’s anti-oppression approach into all aspects of their research and evaluation work.

From these organizations, and others like them, we have learned crucial lessons and best practices for conducting research and evaluation – specifically that research and evaluation must be culturally responsive and informed by meaningful collaborations between survivors, advocates, communities, and researchers alike.

“There is no such thing as culturally neutral people, programs, strategies, or communities, so our research and evaluation of these cannot be culturally neutral either,” shares Carrie Lippy, an evaluation and research consultant at Lippy Community Consultants, LLC. “All research should aim to be culturally responsive. Researchers and evaluators must remain aware of and address their own cultural lens, the cultural histories and experiences of the communities in which they work, and the ways that power plays out across all of these dimensions of difference.”

In order to do culturally-specific research and evaluation well, researchers must build relationships with survivors and advocates. This is why community-based participatory research – as an approach that requires ongoing collaboration and developing trust – is so valuable. And why it leads to interventions and responses that are often more relevant for survivors and communities.

“Community based participatory research is an approach that not only provides more useful and relevant knowledge about domestic violence and DV programming but has the potential to be absolutely transformative,” says Josie Serrata, Director of Research and Evaluation at Casa de Esperanza. “Researchers who share power and resources with advocates and survivors, are learners themselves, and leave the tools of research with their partners have the potential to leave a lasting impact that surpasses any one research project. In a field tasked with lifting up practice-based knowledge, this is key.”

At NRCDV, we’re hopeful that the body of research and evaluation about domestic violence will continue to grow – and that we’ll keep learning more about what survivors of all identities and from all communities need to feel safe and secure. We believe that research grounded in survivor realities is essential to improving survivors’ lives, strengthening organizations and communities, and promoting the kind of gender, racial, and economic justice we strive for.

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As NRCDV’s Policy Manager, Shaina provides programmatic leadership and oversight to NRCDV’s administrative advocacy and policy-related technical assistance, with an emphasis on the intersection of domestic violence and family policy, economic justice, housing and public benefits. She also plays a central role in key initiatives, including Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violence and the DV Evidence Project. Shaina has prior experience in federal legislative and appropriations advocacy, grassroots organizing, and campus-based advocacy and training. She received her JD, a Master’s in Social Work and a Bachelor’s degree in Women & Gender Studies from Washington University in St. Louis.

nrcdv-logoFor more than 20 years, the National Resource Center on Domestic
Violence
(NRCDV) has been a comprehensive source of information for those wanting to educate themselves and help others on the many issues related to domestic violence. NRCDV’s mission is to strengthen and transform efforts to end domestic violence.

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YWCA’s Week Without Violence is part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls with the World YWCA. Want to join the movement to end gender-based violence? Learn more at www.YWCAweekwithoutviolence.org and join the conversation on Twitter with #WorkAgainstViolence.