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Community Advocacy Project

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National Resource Center on Domestic Violence Domestic Violence Evidence Project Practices from the Field

Practice Name: Community Advocacy Project        

Contact Information

Cris Sullivan

Phone: 517-353-8867

Fax: 517-432-2476



Brief Description: The intervention occurs in survivors’ homes and communities, and is short-term (10 weeks) but intensive (4-6 hours a week). Trained advocates help women work on goals that they have decided are important to them, and the program has been successful with women who have left the relationship as well as with those staying in the relationship. This project, which is strengths-based and survivor-centered, can be incorporated into many domestic violence programs fairly easily and inexpensively. It has been shown to decrease women’s risk of re-abuse and to increase their quality of life, level of social support, and ability to obtain the community resources they need.

Practice Description
Program GoalsThe Community Advocacy Project (CAP) provides advocacy and individually tailored assistance to women who have been physically and/or emotionally abused by intimate partners as well as to their children. CAP’s objectives of eliminating or reducing the risk of future abuse and improving participants’ quality of life are premised on the women gaining empowerment and coping skills, obtaining social support, and recognizing and using community resources. This program is designed to create lasting positive change for survivors and to provide women with the knowledge and tools they need to successfully advocate for themselves after the intervention ends. To achieve this, advocates must transfer all of their knowledge and skills to the survivor throughout the intervention and should focus not just on immediate needs but on needs that might arise after the program ends (e.g., talking with a woman about preschool options even though her child is currently only an infant).
Program ComponentsThe role of the advocate is to make the community more responsive to women’s needs, and this involves active and proactive work in the community. CAP is delivered by trained, supervised paraprofessionals who work as advocates with participating women and their children to help them obtain needed community resources and social support, often after the women leave a shelter-based program. The intervention is composed of five phases:1. Assessment. The advocate gathers important information regarding the needs and goals of each participant and her child. The survivor, not the advocate, guides the direction and activities of the intervention by identifying issues that are important to her.2. Implementation. The advocate and the survivor actively work together to generate, mobilize, and access community resources. For women, resources often involve legal assistance, housing, employment, education, transportation, child care, social support, and/or material goods. For children, advocacy often focuses on participation in recreational activities, help with school, and/or material goods.3. Monitoring. The advocate checks in with the survivor regularly to determine whether her unmet needs have been fulfilled.4. Secondary implementation. If the community resources were ineffective in satisfying the survivor’s original needs, the advocates suggest alternative strategies to generate, mobilize, or access other resources.5. Completion. This phase occurs during the last few weeks of the intervention, when the advocate focuses even more intensively on the transfer of skills and knowledge to the survivor, ensuring that she no longer needs the advocate at the end of the intervention. The intervention lasts approximately 10 weeks, and advocates devote 4-6 hours per week to each survivor.
Target PopulationWomen with abusive partners and ex-partners, regardless of whether they are continuing or ending the relationship.
Target SettingWomen’s homes and communities
Practice Evidence
Evaluation MethodsCAP has been rigorously evaluated through a longitudinal, experimental design and is considered “evidence-based.” More information on the evaluations can be found at   Surveys are available on the website for programs to evaluate the effectiveness of their version of CAP.
Evaluation OutcomesPost-intervention, women who had worked with advocates reported being more effective in reaching their goals than did women in the control condition. Physical violence and depression were lower in the advocacy condition, while quality of life and social support were higher than in the control group. Two years after the program ended, positive change continued. Women who had worked with advocates reported higher quality of life and social support over time, as well as decreased difficulty obtaining community resources. Perhaps most importantly, they also experienced less violence over time than did the women who did not work with advocates.
Organizational Readiness & Future Implementation
Practice CostAdvocates can be unpaid volunteers or college-level interns but the supervisor should be a paid staff. All training materials are available at no cost on the website. Programs may want to reimburse advocates for mileage, given the extensive travel involved in their community work. It is also helpful, but not mandatory, that programs have a small fund they can use to assist women with various costs that arise (e.g., car repair, refrigerator repair). 
Preferred LanguageThe training manuals and surveys are currently only available in English but the program could be delivered in any language.
Training RequirementsIt is critical that advocates be adequately trained and prepared for this work, and that they receive ongoing supervision throughout their interventions. A 40-hour training has been manualized to prepare individuals to effectively advocate for women with abusive partners, and all materials can be downloaded for free from the website.
It is expected that anyone training and supervising community advocates will have, at a minimum, the following four qualifications: 1) completed a similar 40-hour training for domestic violence advocates; 2) worked in the field as an advocate for at least five years themselves; 3) successfully worked in a supervisory capacity; and 4) possesses strong training and facilitation skills.
Planning Requirements and Readiness ConsiderationsA supervisor must be trained (either through the materials on the website or through a Train the Trainer by the developer), manuals must be downloaded for advocates, and advocates must be located (through universities, colleges, or the community).
Caveats/CautionsIt is strongly recommended that only women work as community advocates, as the presence of a man in this role (which includes working within women’s homes and with their children) poses an increased risk of 1) inciting further abuse by the batterer; 2) triggering prior traumas for women, and 3) making it more difficult for the survivor to share intimate details about her experiences that are often more easily shared with other women.
Supplemental Materials & Training ToolsAll are available on the website

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