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From The Advocates' Voice

May/June, 2012

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Systems Advocacy: A Key Strategy for Social Change

NNEDV Advocacy DayOne of DCADV’s core competencies is systems advocacy. A significant component of domestic violence systems advocacy involves reviewing, monitoring, and sometimes changing those societal systems that are vital to the safety and well-being of domestic violence victims and their children.

Advocacy, or the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea or policy, is a process by which an individual or a group aims to influence public policy within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. There are three forms of advocacy:

  • Self-advocacy refers to an individual's ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his or her own interests, desires, needs, and rights. Victims and survivors of domestic violence must often become self-advocates to ensure that their voices are heard and to access the services and resources they need to keep themselves and their families safe.
  • Individual advocacy focuses on the specific needs and rights of an individual in order to help them change their situation and/or improve services received by that individual. This includes the work that many of DCADV’s members and partners do every day: working with victims and survivors in shelter; assisting them when applying for Protection from Abuse Orders; helping them work through custody and visitation issues; and connecting them with resources and navigating through the human services, court, and justice systems.
  • Systems advocacy involves trying to influence government, organization, or agency policies, rules, laws, practices, and funding priorities. The actions and priorities of these institutions affect the options and choices available to victims of domestic violence.

The goal of DCADV’s systems advocacy work is to improve systemic responses to victims of domestic violence and their communities. DCADV’s policy and systems advocacy staff and volunteers work in partnership with government officials and agency leaders to inform policy, implement new laws, and assist program advocates on a wide variety of system issues. These issues can range from ensuring the voices of diverse victims are heard to access to financial resources and keeping Delawareans safe in the workplace to addressing custody/visitation and confidentiality concerns.

DCADV engages in systems advocacy and provides technical assistance to domestic violence providers and others seeking assistance with DV related issues in a variety of ways, with the dual goals of improving victim safety and offender accountability. We accomplish this through:

  • Actively participating in approximately 25 legal, governmental, and private nonprofit committees, task forces, and organizations;
  • Reviewing and analyzing police, court, governmental, and advocacy practices and policies;
  • Assessing and commenting on proposed legislation, current statutory provisions, and case law;
  • Suggesting and working to implement practice, policy, advocacy, legislative, and case law change;
  • Creating and disseminating information with the dual goal of extending our general community’s understanding of domestic violence and providing tools for domestic violence victims, survivors, and advocates.

DCADV engages in efforts of critical thinking and action to address domestic violence through public policy and systems change. As part of this process, we seek input and guidance from victims and survivors and try to ensure that our systems advocacy messages reflect the individuals we seek to empower. Read more on our website about other aspects of our policy and systems advocacy work, including: Advocating at Legislative Hall, Participating in the National Discussion (see the article on NNEDV's Annual Advocacy Day below), Fostering a Coordinated Community Response, and Ensuring Victims and Survivors are Heard.

NNEDV’s Annual Advocacy Day

NNEDV Advocacy DayDomestic violence advocates representing domestic violence coalitions and direct service programs from throughout the country convened in Washington, D.C. on June 5 and 6 for the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s (NNEDV) Annual Advocacy Day. Advocates attended a Public Policy Forum and a Congressional Breakfast, had networking opportunities, and visited members of Congress. Among the speakers who were featured at the Public Policy Forum on the first day were Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Bea Hanson, Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women and Bryan Samuels, Commissioner of the Administration of Children, Youth and Families. On the second day, nearly twenty members of Congress spoke at the Congressional Breakfast hosted by NNEDV including Senator Patrick Leahy, lead sponsor of Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill. Advocates then went to the Hill for Congressional delegate visits.

DCADV’s dynamic team consisted of Amanda Kling-Webb from People’s Place, DCADV's WEAVER Task Force member Patty D’Angelo, and DCADV’s Executive Director Carol Post. The team met with staff at the offices of Senator Chris Coons and Congressman John Carney, and with Senator Tom Carper and his team. Front and center this year in our discussions was passage of a strong, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization bill that safely and effectively meets the needs of all victims. Our message also urged support for continued funding for VAWA, shelter programs, and other federally funded programs that address violence against women. Finally, we urged members of Congress to release additional dollars from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund  to help all crime victims.

We are proud to have a Congressional delegation that really cares about the effects of domestic violence in our state and that will do all it can to address this critical issue!


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