Business Office: 573-642-1418  Fax: 573-642-7706

Intro to CARDV


CARDV’s mission is to advocate for and provide support to individuals in Callaway County who have been affected by domestic violence or sexual assault. We strive to empower individuals to make choices that will promote their personal safety, well-being, and self-sufficiency.


Department of Public Safety

    • Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP)
    • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Department of Social Services

    • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
    • DVSS Federal
    • DVSS State
    • DVSS Sexual Assault

Callaway County United Way

Callaway County Court Fees

Donation/Tax Credits



DPS: Missouri Department of Public Safety

CARDV receives the following grants through the Crime Victim Services Unit (CVSU) of DPS:

VAWA/STOP VAWA: Stop Violence Against Women Act

VOCA: Victims of Crime Act

SASP: Sexual Assault Services Program

DSS: Missouri Department of Social Services

          Divisions of DSS:

o   FSD: Family Support Division

o   CD: Children’s Division

o   Please note that there is no longer a “DFS.”  DFS was removed and replaced by FSD and CD.

DVSS: Domestic Violence Shelter and Services.  DVSS funds are included in both the state and federal budgets.  Each fiscal year (July through June), CARDV is eligible for a portion of this funding.  CARDV’s Executive Director submits DVSS invoices at the beginning of each month for the services CARDV advocates provided the previous month.  DVSS funds make up the majority of CARDV’s discretionary funds (ie., the money we use to pay part of salaries, pay our bills, etc.).

MCADSV: Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. 

MCADSV is a membership coalition of Missouri programs working to end violence against women.  They provide consultation, training, and support to member programs like CARDV.  CARDV pays 0.2% of our annual budget to be a member of MCADSV.  Since CARDV is a member of MCADSV, our employees and volunteers (including board members) can attend their trainings for free.

History of CARDV

The Coalition Against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARDV) of Callaway County is a non-profit organization of committed advocates and volunteers whose mission is to break the cycles of domestic abuse and sexual violence.  At the heart of this mission is the belief that all women, men, and children have the fundamental rights of emotional and physical safety and of freedom from violence and assault in their homes, in their communities, and throughout their lives.

CARDV was founded in 1994 when a small group of community members came together to form a Board of Directors.  In 1997, we hired our first Victim Advocate after receiving a VOCA grant and have continued to expand and restructure our professional staff and services to meet the most pressing needs of the community we serve.

CARDV was established as a non-residential domestic abuse and sexual assault victim service program. Initially, the decision to be non-residential stemmed from the lack of financial resources necessary to maintain a shelter. However, as our program evolved, we have remained non-residential, believing that emergency housing in the form of hotel/motel placement is appropriate for our community. Safety is paramount to every interaction with victims and their children.  We believe that a non-residential service model emphasizes both current and long-term, sustainable safety. In our experience, most victims of domestic and/or sexual violence need assistance with individualized goal and action planning. As a result, the personal attention of knowledgeable, sensitive staff and volunteers who offer support, information, and referrals, supplemented with financial assistance for basic needs, presents an effective model for achieving the sustainable safety of our clients.  In 2006, CARDV purchased the commercial, non-residential building from which we still operate today.

 While CARDV always provided services to victims of sexual assault, 2009 was the first year we were officially granted dual program status by the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV).  Making an intentional effort to further develop and expand inclusive, culturally competent services to sexual assault survivors, CARDV participated in an 18-month collaborative effort with MCADSV called the “Dual Programs Building Capacity Project” in 2010.

 In January 2010, CARDV initiated a Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) to enhance collaboration and communication between the criminal justice system and other agencies working with victims of domestic and/or sexual violence. Members of the CCRT meet monthly at the Callaway County Courthouse to collectively address issues surrounding domestic abuse and sexual assault. The goal of the CCRT is to establish a uniform, comprehensive response to support victims of these crimes and increase offender accountability. The CCRT is comprised of the Prosecuting Attorney, staff of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, representatives from local police municipalities, the Callaway County Sheriff, the Circuit Clerk, the administrator of Fulton Community Supervision Center (Probation and Parole), the 13th Judicial Circuit Domestic Violence Court Coordinator, the director and a facilitator of a local batterers’ intervention program, and staff members of CARDV. The collaborative efforts of the CCRT resulted in the hiring of a VAWA-funded Domestic Violence Investigator in 2011, who is now also a member of the CCRT.

 In 2011, CARDV partnered with the University of Missouri School of Social Work to fund and house two trauma-informed therapy research projects, one for adult and the other for child survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence.  While worthwhile and efficacious, these projects were financially devastating to the agency to the point that we almost had to close our doors.  When the last of these projects concluded in early 2013, the Board of Directors stepped in to develop a strategic plan to save and sustain the organization.  This plan included new agency leadership, a significantly reduced staff with new personnel, and a return to our early model of service provision.

 By the end of 2013, CARDV had a new, professional, and passionate advocacy and leadership team that has since focused on enhancing their direct service and communication skills, rebuilding relationships within the community, and returning to our core mission and historical model of service provision with the addition of a small counseling/therapy contract.  Without counseling, the long-term effects of trauma can often be just as devastating as the initial crisis.  VOCA funding enables CARDV to sustain and expand current therapy services that are helpful to victims’ healing process.

Currently, CARDV’s staff consists of four full-time employees and two part-time employees. 

Empowering individuals who have been affected by domestic and/or sexual violence to make choices that will promote their personal safety, well-being, and self-sufficiency is the guiding principle behind every policy, procedure, and client-advocate interaction at CARDV. We strive to be equally accessible to all victims and survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence and provide services to the underserved populations in our rural community. These trauma-informed services include:   

  • 24-Hour Help Line
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Case Management/Personal Advocacy
  • Civil Court Advocacy
  • Criminal Justice Support/Advocacy
  • Emergency Temporary Shelter (Hotel/Motel Placement)
  • Information and Referrals
  • Hospital/Medical Advocacy
  • Support Groups
  • Community Outreach and Education
  • Volunteer Program
  • Counseling (Contracted)
  • Limited Relocation Assistance

CARDV Services

(Excerpts from 2016-2017 VOCA Grant)

CARDV Services

Most victims become aware of CARDV’s services through community outreach (brochures, tear-off flyers, staff presentations, etc.) or direct referrals by law enforcement, the court system, clergy, or other social service agencies.  Services are primarily accessed through calling our Help Line.  The services CARDV offers to primary and secondary DV/SV victims are described below.


Note: In-text citations of page numbers in this section refer to referenced material from the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV) Service Standards and Guidelines for Domestic Violence Programs Publication.  The paragraph number is referenced following the page number for easy cross-referencing.


Help Line:  CARDV’s 24-hour Help Line (formerly called the “Crisis Line”) is the primary access point for our services.  Victims may call the Help Line directly, or a referring agency may call to request in-person advocacy response on a victim’s behalf.  CARDV’s Help Line is listed in the local telephone book (p. 13: 2) and can be reached by calling a local or toll-free phone number.  Help Line callers may remain anonymous and still receive non-therapeutic emotional support, DV/SV education, resource information, safety planning assistance, and referrals.  If a victim would like to meet in person, the advocate begins the intake process during the call.  Our Help Line is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by program staff or volunteers who have completed a minimum of 48 hours of DV/SV training that follows MCADSV’s training curricula and emphasizes crisis intervention (p. 11:1, 13:4).  Staff and volunteers who answer the Help Line are proficient in using Language Link for non-English speaking callers (13: 8).  Though victim advocates who answer the Help Line are trained to communicate with Deaf clients through a TTY relay service communication assistant, TTY technology is becoming obsolete.  In order to continue providing Deaf and hard of hearing victims with equal access to the Help Line (13: 7), we are currently working with Sorenson Communications and the LEAD Institute to acquire Videophone technology.

Crisis Intervention:  Crisis intervention is available to DV/SV victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  CARDV staff and volunteer advocates provide telephone and/or face-to-face crisis intervention immediately following an emotional and/or physical crisis, which may require immediate in-person response to the CARDV office, a referring agency (i.e., law enforcement, circuit clerk, prosecuting attorney, hospital, etc.), or a mutually agreed-upon safe location.  In accordance with MCADSV Service Standards and Guidelines, crisis intervention services are provided by a qualified, trained staff member or volunteer to stabilize emotions, clarify issues, and provide safety planning, support, and education (p. 14: 1, 3, 5).  Consistent with VOCA’s objectives, two primary goals of all crisis intervention services provided by CARDV advocates include: 1) ensuring that the victim has a safety plan in place, and 2) educating the victim about relevant community resources. 

Hospital/Medical Advocacy:  Hospital/medical advocacy is available to victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (p. 29: 2).  Per MCADSV Service Standards and Guidelines, upon request of victims, law enforcement, or hospital personnel who call the Help Line, advocates respond to medical facilities to support DV/SV victims and non-offending individuals who are accompanying the victim.  The victim guides the service interaction, and no services are provided without the victim’s explicit consent (p. 29: 4). Medical advocacy generally includes in-person crisis intervention, emotional support, education, resource information, and referral provided at the emergency room or at follow-up medical appointments necessitated by the assault.  Advocates address the victim’s self-identified concerns and provide assistance meeting immediate needs (e.g., food, clothing, emergency shelter).  Transportation to the University Hospital for a SAFE/SANE exam is also a component of hospital advocacy, since our local hospital does not offer these forensic exams.

Civil Legal Advocacy: CARDV advocates assist DV/SV victims with obtaining emergency orders of protection.  This process may include: 1) help completing and filing ex parte orders of protection, 2) safety planning to ensure victims know how to use an order of protection, 3) education about court procedures and hearing preparation, 4) help obtaining legal representation, and/or 5) accompaniment to full order/renewal hearings.  By providing all victims with access to accurate information about the civil legal system, we are empowering them to make informed decisions and choices.  Our civil advocacy services are designed to educate victims about their options and ensure that they have the tools and resources required to pursue these decisions. As a result, CARDV advocates have a working knowledge of legal options, how each option may affect an individual’s safety, relevant local court rules, and knowledge of local legal resources (p. 24: 2, 3).  Though advocates reiterate that they are not attorneys and are not providing legal advice (p. 24: 8), they support is vital to victims’ safety.  Without assistance completing an ex parte, many victims’ ex partes would be denied, since the average person is not familiar with what sections must be completed, the Missouri statutes that define abuse, or the civil process.  Civil court advocacy helps guide victims through the process and makes sure they have the knowledge to make informed decisions that will further their safety and ability to cope with the aftermath of DV/SV.

Criminal Justice Support/Advocacy: Upon request of victims, court personnel, or law enforcement, advocates provide emotional support during investigatory interviews and/or criminal proceedings, as well as education about victims’ rights and navigating the criminal court process.  All requests for criminal justice support can be made by a victim or referring agency’s Help Line call or in person after the advocate is already meeting with the victim.  The victim advocate may accompany the victim to hearings and, upon the victim’s request, may attend hearings that the victim is not present for.  This is helpful for keeping the victim “in the loop” without the added stress of seeing the perpetrator or the inconvenience of taking off work/school to attend. As MCADSV Service Standards and Guidelines require, trained staff and volunteers have a working knowledge of civil and criminal justice options and response to domestic violence (p. 24: 1-3).  Actively participating in the criminal justice process can be daunting for anyone; however, CARDV advocates educate the victim on this process and help incorporate the criminal justice system’s response to an assault into the victim’s personal safety plan.  In addition, CARDV leads monthly CCRT meetings (outside of grant-funded time) to ensure a consistent, multidisciplinary response to victims participating in the civil or criminal process (p. 24: 6). 

Case Management/Personal Advocacy:  All victim advocates are trained to provide assistance organizing and implementing an individualized action plan, which identifies a victim’s personal goals and necessary steps to achieve them.  This process varies with each client but may include ongoing emotional support, transportation, help throughout the CVC application and claim process, material assistance, DV/SV education, resource information and referral, and other assistance to promote a victim’s sustainable safety.  Victim advocates are familiar with area resources, maintain an up-to-date resource list, and learn about new and changing resources in monthly staff meetings (p. 16: 2, 3).  Planning for sustainable safety and ensuring all victims have knowledge about (and are able to access) community are key components of case management and align with this VOCA project’s objectives.

Note: CARDV recognizes that personal advocacy and case management are synonymous but tend to favor the term “case management,” as it is used by the rest of the service delivery systems in our community.

Emergency Shelter: Temporary hotel/motel placement is available in emergency situations to provide victims and their children a safe location until long-term arrangements can be made.  CARDV provides food and other basic needs during the time the victim is staying in a hotel/motel (p. 26: (4)(c)). In compliance with MCADSV Service Standards and Guidelines, all hotels provide telephone/bathroom facilities and doors have secure locks (p. 26: 3).  Victims have access to CARDV’s crisis intervention services through hotel landlines; if a hotel does not provide a phone for the room, CARDV will lend a mobile phone to the victim.  Victims may access emergency temporary shelter by calling the Help Line; however, CARDV policy requires the advocate to meet with the victim before authorizing a hotel room to be sure it is the safest, most appropriate option and to identify other needs CARDV may be able to assist with.

Support Groups: CARDV currently offers a weekly support group to help DV/SV victims and survivors in their healing process (p. 18: 2), and we plan to add a second group in early 2016.  Advocates who have education in group dynamics (in addition to the 48 hours of DV/SV training) facilitate the support groups (p. 18: 1).  All support group participants must have signed the CARDV Receipt of Services form (located in Other Attachments section) and initialed by the statement that they will respect the confidentiality of other CARDV clients, confidentiality is discussed at the beginning of every group session (p. 18: 5).  Childcare is offered during all support groups (p. 18: 6).  Beginning 2018, a bi-weekly SV Support Group began.

Counseling (Professional Therapy): Professional therapy is available to all adult victims of domestic and/or sexual violence and victims of teen dating violence.  The therapist provides limited family therapy and screening/referral for children, as appropriate.  Therapeutic approaches determined appropriate for the needs and preferences of the individual may include trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive counseling, drawing on strengths-based and feminist perspectives. These approaches have yielded great success.  Pre-test/post-test aggregate data from the last year demonstrates a 54% decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety and a 41% decrease in PTSD symptoms.  Individuals providing this service must be licensed in the state of Missouri, and their license must be in good standing (p. 21: 4). 

Services for Children: Crisis intervention is provided for the children of victims through temporary provision of basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter), as well as occasional childcare while the primary victim/parent is attending support group, counseling, or is in court (p 22: 5).  Childcare is provided by trained advocates—usually volunteers—who passed a background check with the Highway Patrol and Children’s Division (p. 22: 2, 11).  In accordance with MCADSV Service Standards and Guidelines, all in-person services for children are provided at the request of the guardian or caretaker (p. 22: 1).

CARDV Statistics


  • Assisted 375 individuals
  • 106 bed nights in emergency shelter
  • Over 861 hotline calls
  • 723 hours of In-Person Crisis Intervention
  • 1596 hours of Case Management
  • 499 hours of Legal Advocacy
  • 526 hours of Individual Therapy





MCADSV’s Understanding the Nature and Dynamics of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that adults or adolescents use against their current or former intimate partners.

Domestic violence occurs in intimate relationships where the perpetrator and the victim are currently or previously have been dating, living together, married or divorced. They might have children in common or not.   

People often think of domestic violence only in terms of the black eyes and bruises that can be seen. In reality, domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that abusive men use to control their intimate partners. As adaptive and resilient as they are, women who have been battered nevertheless face a daunting number of barriers to escaping the violence. In addition to the very real threat of harm or death to themselves or their children, victims must contend with the accompanying financial and emotional hardship. They also often weigh cultural and religious values that emphasize keeping families intact, and respond to the violence in spite of justice and social service systems that don’t always provide adequate safety and support.

People who have never experienced abuse often find it difficult to imagine why women don’t leave and how the abuse can continue for years. Relationships almost never start out abusive. It is important to remember that love and intimacy precede the abuse, which can make it difficult to break away. Abusive relationships are not violent all the time. There are periods when a woman is reminded why she fell in love with her partner. Abusers effectively weave together intimacy and abuse to control their partners.

Women who have been battered sometimes express confusion about the recurring nature of the violence they experience in their relationship. It seems to them to be unpredictable and impulsive. Domestic violence, however, is neither random nor haphazard. It is a complex pattern of increasingly frequent and harmful physical, sexual, psychological and other abusive behaviors used to control the victim. The abuser’s tactics are devised and carried out precisely to control her.

Domestic Violence is unlike Other Crimes

While domestic violence has certain similarities to other forms of family violence—such as child abuse, child-to-parent violence, sibling violence or elder abuse—it has certain unique characteristics that make it distinct. Domestic violence distorts what is supposed to be a partnership based on mutual respect. Neither partner has a legitimate role in disciplining or controlling the other. When domestic violence permeates a relationship, the abuser and victim no longer share equal rights and responsibilities within the partnership.

Safety should be paramount

Safety must be the fundamental guiding principle in any and all efforts to assist those escaping the violence and control of their intimate partners. All contact and interventions with a survivor must account for the risks she faces when she seeks help. The reality for women victimized by domestic violence is that the risk of danger is greater when they leave their abusive relationships.

A woman who has been battered further risks the safety of herself and her children through the process of disclosing the abuse she received, separating from a batterer, seeking child support or reporting her batterer’s abuse of her children. There will be unintended consequences for a woman if interventions are not based on safety and her assessment of her situation.

Empowering Support is essential

The woman experiencing domestic violence is the expert on the violence in her life. She has the best sense of whether her batterer will carry through on his threats if she tells her story, goes to work or pursues child support. Anyone seeking to help a victim of domestic violence must encourage and respect the choices she makes. This reinforces her autonomy and can empower her with the knowledge that she can survive outside of her abusive relationship.

In a non-emergency situation, some of the primary reasons a survivor tells you her story is to seek your services, gather information and resources, investigate her options and be encouraged by a non-judgmental, helpful person. The responsibilities of anyone who works with women victimized by domestic violence can be summarized as follows:

  • Help her plan for future safety.
  • Listen to her and acknowledge her experiences.
  • Affirm the injustice of the violence against her.
  • Respect her autonomy.
  • Promote her access to community services.
  • Respect and safeguard her confidentiality.

THE ROLE OF Domestic Violence Programs

There are more than 100 domestic violence shelters and support programs throughout Missouri. However, fewer than half of the state’s 114 counties have emergency shelters. Consequently, domestic violence program staff are accustomed to using creative and inventive approaches to providing services in a variety of settings. Most women don’t need emergency shelter, but they do need someone to talk to beyond office hours. Almost all can benefit from the common ground found in a support group.  

The majority of domestic violence shelters and service providers have toll-free numbers that allow them to serve multiple counties so they can help create safety plans, offer support, and provide court advocacy and other resource information—even from a distance. Some programs have outreach staff who can work with victims to make plans for obtaining services in their communities. When working to meet the needs of women and their children, there is more to be gained by working together than anyone can do by working alone. 


Your ROLE is equally vital

The challenge for all of us is to do what we can. We can meet the challenge with hope. For the truth is that people commit domestic violence, and people can stop it. Your efforts have the potential to save lives, to stop the violence and to create new opportunities for families living in fear and danger. By its very nature, your work to address domestic violence is an ethical endeavor to further social justice.

Tactics of Abuse


Abuse can take on many forms. Some types are more subtle than others and might never be seen or felt by anyone other than the woman experiencing the abuse. The abuser uses a combination of tactics that work to control the victim. The abuse also usually increases in frequency and severity over time.


            Physical abuse is easier to recognize and understand than other types of abuse.

            It can be indicated when the batterer:

  • Scratches, bites, grabs or spits at a current or former intimate partner.
  • Shakes, shoves, pushes, restrains or throws her.
  • Twists, slaps, punches, strangles or burns the victim.
  • Throws objects at her.
  • Subjects her to reckless driving.
  • Locks her in or out of the house.
  • Refuses to help when she’s sick, injured or pregnant, or withholds
    medication or treatment.
  • Withholds food as punishment.
  • Abuses her at mealtime, which disrupts eating patterns and can result in malnutrition.
  • Abuses her at night, which disrupts sleeping patterns and can
    result in sleep deprivation.
  • Attacks her with weapons or kills her.


Sexual violence and abuse can be extraordinarily difficult for victims to talk about because of the ways in which this type of violence often is perpetrated.

Sexual violence or abuse can be indicated when the batterer:

  • Is jealous or angry and assumes she will have sex with anyone.
  • Withholds sex and affection as punishment.
  • Calls her sexual names.
  • Pressures her to have sex when she doesn’t want to.
  • Insists that his partner dress in a more sexual way than she wants.
  • Coerces sex by manipulation or threats.
  • Physically forces sex or is sexually violent.
  • Coerces her into sexual acts that she is uncomfortable with, such as sex with a third party, physically painful sex, sexual activity she finds offensive or verbal degradation during sex.
  • Inflicts injuries that are sex-specific.
  • Denies the victim contraception or protection against sexually transmitted diseases.


It is the abuser’s use of physical and sexual force or threats that gives power to his psychologically abusive acts. Psychological abuse becomes an effective weapon in controlling a victim, because she knows through experience that her abuser will at times back up the threats or taunts with physical assaults.

Psychological abuse can be indicated when the batterer:

  • Breaks promises, doesn’t follow through on agreements or doesn’t take a fair share of responsibility.
  • Verbally attacks and humiliates his partner in private or public.
  • Attacks her vulnerabilities, such as her language abilities, educational level, skills as a parent, religious and cultural beliefs or physical appearance.
  • Plays mind games, such as when he denies requests he has made previously or when he undercuts her sense of reality.
  • Forces her to do degrading things.
  • Ignores her feelings.
  • Withholds approval or affection as punishment.
  • Regularly threatens to leave or tells her to leave.
  • Harasses her about affairs he imagines her to be having.
  • Stalks her.
  • Always claims to be right.
  • Is unfaithful after committing to monogamy.


Economic abuse can be indicated when the batterer:

  • Controls all the money.
  • Doesn’t let her work outside the home or sabotages her attempts to work or go to school.
  • Refuses to work and makes her support the family.
  • Ruins her credit rating. 


Domestic violence is not an isolated, individual event but rather a pattern of repeated behaviors. Assaults are repeated against the same victim by the same perpetrator. These assaults occur in different forms, including physical, sexual, psychological and economic. While physical assaults might occur infrequently, other parts of the pattern can occur daily. The use of these other tactics is effective because one battering episode builds on past episodes and sets the stage for future episodes. All tactics of the pattern interact and have profound effects on the victims. Examples of commonly used control tactics include:

Isolating the victim

  • Initially, a batterer might cut off the victim from supportive relationships with the claims of “loving you so much” and “wanting to be with you all the time.”
  • The intent is to control her time and isolate her from her support system of family and friends who might question his actions. For example, he might refuse to have telephone service or reliable transportation, monitor her email or make the family change residences frequently.
  • He might constantly criticize her family and friends or harass her so much that it is easier for her to cut off contact with them. He might make it impossible for her to have contact with others by using coercion, threats or force.
  • A victim might believe what her abuser says because she is so isolated she has no access to information that might contradict him.

Using the children

  • The batterer might punish the children as a way to hurt the victim. w He might sexually abuse the children or force them to watch the abuse of the victim.
  • He might use the children to spy or report on her activities. w He might threaten to kidnap or kill the children if she leaves him.
  • He could gain legal custody, just take the children, or use custody and visitation arrangements to harass or harm her.

Damaging relationships

  • The abuser might discredit the victim’s relationships with others in the community, such as employers, clergy, friends and neighbors, by spreading rumors or distorted information. For example, he might tell others she is crazy or a liar or send messages from her email address to alienate her from friends and family.

Attacking property and pets

  • The abuser might hit the wall next to where the victim is standing or throw objects at her. He might pound the table next to her or break her favorite possessions. He might say: “Look what you made me do” or “You’ll be next.”
  • The abuser might harm pets to hurt and intimidate her.

Stalking partner or ex-partner

  • The abuser might follow, threaten, harass and terrify his partner or ex-partner, especially after she has left or separated.
  • The abuser might monitor the victim’s whereabouts, daily activities, phone conversations or email to prove to her that she cannot conceal anything from him.

Surviving Abuse


Domestic violence victims employ a variety of survival strategies

Women who have been battered are survivors. Asking them why they don’t leave an abusive relationship ignores the complex set of factors they must weigh to decide how best to protect themselves and their children. Implying that it is the responsibility of the victim to end the violence blames her for the abuse and does not hold the batterer accountable for his crimes.

for some victims, staying may be safer

Not all women want to leave the relationship. They want the violence to stop. There are times when it may be safer for a woman and her children to stay. Quite simply, a woman who has been battered might be told she will be killed, or her children will be killed, if she leaves or refuses to return. Past violence has taught her that his threats often translate into action. Leaving also might harm her children if he gets custody or visitation. If she is still in the relationship, she can monitor his interactions with the children. Indeed, the decision to leave an abusive relationship is not as straightforward as it might seem. The table on page 8 outlines some of the crucial factors a victim must consider, especially if she has children.

Women who have been battered Leave All the Time

It is important to remember that women do escape the violence in their lives. Friends, family and a network of service providers within a supportive community can be instrumental for a survivor who chooses to make the difficult decision to uproot her life.

What at first might appear to an outsider to be self-defeating behaviors on the part of the victim, such as being afraid to seek the services of a program for victims of domestic violence or wanting to return to the abuser in spite of severe violence, in fact might be normal reactions to significantly frightening situations. A victim uses different strategies to cope with and resist abuse. These strategies might appear to be the result of passivity or submission, when in reality she has learned that these are sometimes-successful, temporary means of stopping the violence.

MCADSV’s Understanding the Nature and Dynamics of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not impulsive but purposeful and instrumental. Batterers can be perfectly agreeable with or conciliatory to police officers, employers, neighbors, co-workers and friends. But batterers don’t use those skills with their intimate partners because they choose not to. Individual men beat individual women to make those women do what they want.

The violent man is not “out of control.” He is at work on his own agenda, which is to condition his victim to be what he wants her to be all the time. This is impossible because he constantly changes his demands. The batterer chooses tactics that work to achieve compliance or control. His behavior is directed at controlling most aspects of his partner’s life.

Men batter because battering works. Domestic violence is a socially supported behavior, learned through observation, experience and reinforcement. It is learned through our culture, families, schools and peer groups. Domestic violence is not caused by illness, genetics, substance abuse, stress, the behavior of the victim or problems in the relationship.

Domestic violence is a crime, and it should be accorded the same prosecution efforts as any other violent offense. Communities and the justice system have an obligation to reduce the prevalence of domestic violence and hold the perpetrators responsible. Prosecution of offenders can protect the victim from additional acts of violence, reduce children’s exposure and possible injury, deter the abuser from committing further acts of violence, and reinforce a community’s refusal to tolerate domestic abuse. Unless men who batter are truly held accountable, they have little incentive to stop their abusive behaviors.



Throughout this training, the word “empowerment” has been used countless times. There is good reason for this. A woman’s abuser takes power and control from her through the use of physical force, threats and coercion. Empowerment restores a woman’s power and control over her own life and affords her the opportunity to see herself as a strong survivor who can participate actively in securing safety for herself and her children.

A woman victimized by domestic violence deserves to tell her story to a non-judgmental, empathetic person. It is critically important to let her know that she is believed and that the violence is not her fault. This might be her first—and perhaps last—opportunity to be fully heard. By listening to a survivor talk about what has happened to her, you will have a greater understanding of her situation and can discuss options that are grounded in her experience, hopes and fears.

When people working with a woman who has been battered inform her of available resources and let her empower herself through education— instead of taking control and making decisions for her—it is more likely that the she will be equipped to advocate for herself both immediately and throughout her life. That is not to say that advocates cannot provide additional assistance securing resources when asked by the women with whom they are working. It also is important to remember that victims of domestic violence are, first and foremost, people. All too often women who are beaten by their intimate partners are saddled with labels and diagnoses by well-intentioned, yet misguided, people who simply want to help. Unfortunately, the labels that are applied to women who have been battered in particular moments in their lives do not reflect the total context and complexity of their experiences. People who work with survivors should keep in mind that these individuals can and do harness the enormous power of their own experiences to move beyond the violence that subdues the spirit within.

The LIFE process of assisting women victimized by domestic violence

Listening, informing and educating can lead to empowerment for a victim when the LIFE process of assistance is used. Through this process, victims gain knowledge, and knowledge is power. This process happens in degrees, but it does happen.


  • Provide a safe place for a woman to talk and tell her story.
  • Afford sufficient time for her to become comfortable and able to discuss the details of her abuse.
  • Begin with her story, history, concerns and questions. Affirm her experience and what she is saying. Clarify anything you do not or she does not understand.
  • Identify her hopes and fears and the resources she is currently using or might need.
  • Help her create a personalized safety plan.


  • Tell her about available resources.
  • Explore her circumstances and discuss the worst- and best case scenarios as they relate to each of the remedies available to her.


  • Help her to critically assess her chosen course of action (including her safety plan) and to understand the likely consequences of each action.
  • Schedule specific times and dates for ongoing contacts or follow-up.
  • Explore all contingency plans.



  • Support her so she can advocate for herself, thereby taking control of her life and making it safer for herself and her children.


Remain calm

Fear is contagious, and many women in crisis have enough fear bottled up to last a lifetime. By emotionally reacting to a woman’s fear you might limit your own ability to think clearly. The best ways to combat your fear are to be well-informed on procedures and resources, know yourself and learn to gauge your own emotional reactions, and get to know the woman you are working with so you can help her separate objective reality from her immediate sense of fear.

Let women decide their own pace for change

Allow women you are helping to decide on their own plan of action. Some women in crisis have never recognized their own resources. Others have lost touch with their resources. Respect and believe in a woman’s capacity to change and grow.

Explain all kinds of information thoroughly

Don’t assume that women know about their rights or available services. Don’t talk down to women, but do be thorough in explaining information about your services and other community resources. If a woman looks or sounds confused, ask if she has any questions. Listen to her. Remember that she is the expert on her situation.

DO NOT impose your own values

This does not mean you cannot express concern about a woman’s choices if you believe she is in danger, but it does mean you must be careful not to reject her even if you disagree with her behavior. Understanding the dynamics of domestic violence can help you avoid anger and despair when women struggle with decisions about ending a violent relationship or “giving it one more try.”

Encourage each woman to accept responsibility for her future

There might be a tendency for you to want to do things for her that she can do for herself. Even though you can and should help her, she will become stronger and more self-sufficient as she assumes responsibility for her own life.