A recent study conducted by a UConn faculty member and colleague has found that more than 75 percent of domestic violence survivors who use a range of support services are pleased with the services provided.
But, says Eleanor Lyon, professor emerita of social work, more can be done.
“Victims of domestic violence have complex needs,” she says. “The support programs are working very hard, but they could do a good deal more with proper funding.”
Lyon, the former director of UConn’s Institute for Violence Prevention and Reduction, was joined in the study by Jill Bradshaw, who earned her doctorate in social work from UConn in 2010, and Anne Menard of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV). The study surveyed nearly 1,500 survivors of domestic violence in four states who had used a range of support services, including counseling, legal advocacy, and information services. Three out of four found the services to be “very helpful,” while the vast majority of other survivors found the services to be “helpful.”
“We are encouraged to find that local domestic violence programs are meeting the needs of the vast majority of those who seek their services,” said the NRCDV’s Menard. “This report affirms that local programs are having an important, positive impact, but also that they need further support to respond more fully to what victims are looking for when they reach out for help.”
In Connecticut – which was not part of the survey – the legislature’s Domestic Violence Task Force on Feb. 28 announced its 2012 legislative agenda, recommending 20 bills to help further protect victims of domestic violence, punish offenders more meaningfully, and intervene earlier in the lives of children and at-risk families. Anti-violence advocates say there were about 37,000 arrests in Connecticut last year related to domestic violence, roughly one-third of all criminal arrests in the state.
Lyon agrees with the task force’s goals.
“State governments should fund a wider range of services, especially child-related and economic support. Some programs we surveyed in 2009 could not participate in this study because they had lost funding,” says Lyon. “Some had closed, and some had been forced to cut staff and didn’t have the time to discuss the survey with survivors.
“States have to step up and make funding available for job training, so survivors have more options related to their children and their own safety,” she adds.
Eighty-eight percent of those responding to the survey said they needed support regarding their safety, and 65 percent said they needed help with services for child witnesses of domestic violence, primarily counseling. Another 76 percent needed legal services, and 93 percent wanted more information regarding what support they can receive.
The study was inclusive. Surveys were distributed through 90 domestic violence programs in four states – Alabama, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. – and through four culturally-specific national organizations and their associated programs across the nation, including the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, Casa de Esperanza, the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, and the Women of Color Network. Interestingly, there were more similarities than differences across racial/ethnic groups and rural/urban locations.
Lyon is currently attending the second World Conference on Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C., an event attended by representatives from 95 countries, and one which provides participants with a look at what’s happening in the field across the globe. Lyon says she finds that all countries have similar success with support services, but many other countries do a better job of effectively communicating to their communities that violence against women is not acceptable.
Lyon discussed her recent work and a previous study she conducted regarding survivors’ use of shelters during the forum, talking about how programs can better study participants’ experiences so they can improve their services.
Copies of the study’s executive summary, full report, fact sheet and other materials can be found at VAWnet.org, the NRCDV’s online resource center.