Friday, July 31, 2009

Division and Censorship Between Domestic Violence Advocates

Power struggles occur in every area of life. To a certain extent it is human nature. It can even occur amongst those who are speaking out against violence against women and against power and control in the context of interpersonal relationships. I believe in working together for a common cause and against those that would oppress. In-fighting diminishes everyone's effectiveness and is, in essence, colluding with the batterers. I do not believe, however, in blindly accepting everyone who claims to be an expert or authority. I believe in asking questions and forming my opinions based on my experience. I try to respect others right to do the same. This is where change and progress occurs.

I was invited by the founder, Alexis Moore, to become a member of the Yahoo group "Crime Victim Organization Network" several months ago and did so. The description of the group is:

"The mission of Crime Victim Organization Network (CVON) is to create a forum for crime victim service providers across the nation to collaborate. CVON should be utilized by victim advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, non-profit crime victim organizations and attorneys to share information and to network with other agencies to help serve the best needs of the victims that they serve.This group is an open forum that allows the sharing of information regarding all issues pertaining to public safety and serving victims of crime. "

I have communicated with Alexis off and on and have respect for the work she does. She is excellent when it comes to promoting. I became perplexed about some of the things she and a few others had published on the web, most recently stating that they were happy funding to DV programs was cut. When Debby Tucker of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence posted (on CVON) the NCADV postion paper on the devastating budget cuts in California ( ), which I hope the majority of advocates fully support, I expressed my concern about those that do not with this post:

"Am I to understand that the founder and moderator of this Yahoo group thinks the funding cuts are a good thing?
If this group of domestic violence victims (Survivors in Action) had negative experiences with service providers then those individual experiences should absolutely be addressed and rectified however for every person who has had a bad experience, whether real or perceived, there are thousands who have had positive, life-changing experiences. I can attest to this personally.
If this group is discouraging victims to seek assistance through shelters and other service providers they are visiting their own trauma on the lives of others. What are they suggesting the solution is? Are they saying that their group, Survivors in Action, is more ethical, qualified and effective than all the established programs? What are their qualifications and who is monitering them?
There is always room for improvement, growth and change in any sector of society whether it's medical, criminal justice, political, etc. The domestic violence movement is responsible for improving the lives of countless victims through individual advocacy and systems change and it continues to advance and improve. It appears the suggestion is that all the accomplishments and lives saved should be discredited to focus on a small percentage of individuals have had bad experiences. It also appears that they are saying the thousands of sister survivors who have healed and now are employed in domestic violence agencies should lose their jobs.This attitude is destructive and throwing the baby out with the bathwater, in my opinion.
Diane Santhany"

My post was published momentarily but then suddenly disappeared after which I was uncermoniously booted from the internet group. This is Alexis' right, as she is the monitor of the group. I have refused to publish comments on my blog in the past, not because someone disagreed or questioned me, but because they were abusive or obscene. I am saddened that there is such a division between those who advocate for victims of violence but I will continue to "call 'em as I see em" and expect those that disagree will do the same.


  1. I am interested in WHY Gov Schwarzenegger would do such a thing?

    I also read the cut for animal shelters were less drastic only 30%.

    My suspicion is political drama to get attention.

    How does this all play out with the VAWA?

    I would really like to stay focused on the cut and why.

    I believe that is the real story. Has this happened in other states? What is being done about it?

    Has anyone contacted the VAWA or Battered Women's Justice Project?

  2. How is this going to work with the new policy which permits asylum for battered women?

    Especially in CA where there is such a large population of immigrant's?

    Asylum cases are confidential, and the issue is further complicated by the peculiarities of the United States immigration system, in which asylum cases are heard in courts that are not part of the federal judiciary, but are run by an agency of the Justice Department, with Homeland Security officials representing the government.

  3. I can't answer most of your questions. I think everyone is stunned and still trying to figure out how things will play out. I am from Michigan and, even with our horrible economic conditions, cuts to DV services haven't been considered. They tried in Illinois and the advocates stepped up:
    I read the state cuts in CA equal about 20% of most larger DV agency's budgets so many will find a way to carry on with less services, but I understand many will be closing their doors, especially damaging to victims in small, remote and rural areas. For example:

  4. People will die becuase of this, it's like cutting the emergency room in the hospital.

    The Claifornia Partnership to End DV is working w/legislators to find a possible solution.

    Someone in a position to tell their story about why this must never be allowed needs to write an OpEd or letter to Editor

  5. Excellent post on various levels - many concerns and things that many have been questioning by many. Your expertise and insight is invaluable which in turn assists Victims, Survivors and Advocates to "understand and comprehend" the positive direction in which we should all be striving for.

    Thank you!

    Take care and STAY SAFE!

  6. It appears this virtual agency is indeed very happy about the budget cuts. The most recent post:

    "Survivors In Action – last resort for victims of violence.
    by womenslegal
    Survivors In Action – A national interactive victims of crime non-profit organization is now picking up where other organizations and coalitions have failed.
    Now, that Governor Schwarzenegger has cut all funding for domestic violence programs, SIA will with open arms, handle the fallout. Survivors In Action is not your “typical” dv organization. SIA takes pride in helping all victims from men, women, children, the elderly and the gay and lesbian communities. They provide services for domestic violence, sexual assault, cyber crimes, stalking, identity theft, crimes against the elderly and the list goes on.
    No one is ever turned away. If we can’t help a victim, we will see to it that we find the resource and make sure that victim reaches the appropriate service, explains Alexis A. Moore, the founder of Survivors In Action. Funding is an issue, but for now, we have to worry about the victims, their needs have to be met, or lives will be lost, Moore continued.
    What makes SIA so different is their Interactive Advocacy Program. This program will train volunteers to become advocates. This teaching program will be offered via an interactive classroom in real time. The course will be offered every three months and what is so special and unique is that advocates can reside in each state, town or city. SIA’s website will be the future host for victims to reach out interactively. It’s truly an amazing program, especially for the 21st Century.
    Victims will be able to communicate with advocates with the utmost confidence, security and safety. If you would like to make a donation to the SIA Interactive Advocacy Program, you can go to their Cause page on Face-book.
    For more information on becoming a volunteer, please see their page on Volunteer Match.
    Survivors In Action has created a petition for Domestic Violence Reform which has close to three thousand signatures. The mission, for every coalition and organization who has turned away a victim from receiving help, they will be held accountable for their actions. These dv non-profits get funding on the Federal and State level, if they are not helping the victims, what are they using the funds on? where is the money going?
    To read about some of the victims who were refused help, go to Survivors In Action’s website under Domestic Violence Reform."

    Offering online counseling as a "national organization" is a something that requires strict adherence to best practices.It requires training and experience. Laws vary from state to state as to who may offer these services and to what age. There are juristictional issues, confidentiality issues, licensing and certification issues, ethical issues, big liability issues (hope they have insurance) and, most of all,serious safety issues.
    As an advocate I am concerned for those in immediate danger who may contact them. I am only a local advocate though. This needs to be scrutinized on a national level (Something, they call for when is comes to other DV agencies). I intend to continue to voice my concern. Huge red flags!

  7. You are right this is scary. I looked at some of the website and I dont see any kind og history except that they were abused, an a kind of inname only board. i can respect that are victims but that doesnt make me feel secure or trusting.And I looked at the volunteer match, they want all kinds of volunteers all over the country like to take people to court and stuff. who will they be? will they do background checks? who will supervise them? how will they know they are not perps if they are volunteers in some other state. like I said this scares me. why not work to help all of the shelters and others that have a reputation of good work instead of trashing them? victims have enough trouble knowing who to trust as it is and now they want to put them with some stranger that took an online class!

  8. If you question Survivors In Action on how their program works here, why not ask them directly. Why are you complaining here? That would be the most appropriate thing to do, don't you think. Be an adult, take a risk and ask a question.

  9. Not sure who the previous was directed to but just speaking for myself, my blog post here originated from my directly asking the founder (of CVON & SIA) a question about their stance on CA funding cuts and her CVON group, following a post by someone else on the subject. My question was censored and my membership was terminated for doing so.

  10. My response to Deana Phelps on FB: You are most welcome :-). In our field it is imperative for individuals to be educated and learn exactly how funding really works. I served as a board member/Treasurer with accounting qualifications and I worked hands-on with the bookkeeper and grants manager (state, federal and county grants). There is accountability=audits. Any agency can decide where and what they want to allocate their "fund raising" funds to/for-these funds are not
    mandated. Not every client that walks in the door or calls meets the criteria of DV allocated funds but referrals are made to other
    agencies if they qualify for assistance. Every client must meet criteria and qualify-just like food stamps and Medicaid-there are guidelines
    and they have to be adhered to mandated by State/Federal guidelines as per grant money to be received. Suggestion to all, get involved in County agencies (DV and Rape Crisis) funded by State, Federal and County funds. Learn first-hand how "funding really works" and how reporting really works. Always two sides to a story.

    Funding for any agency is meant for CRISIS situations, victims that have nothing, no where to go, children that need food and a place to live/sleep. If a victim has options then those options are explored with her/him. To obtain counsel there are other agencies who offer assistance if you meet the program's qualifications (Legal Aid). The whining from scorned victims that have not healed and continue to work in this field are not doing any justice for today's victims. One should not even consider being in this work if you are/were a victim until you have healed, sought counseling and transitioned to Survivor. Victims do not need anyone adding fuel to the fire. They need our help and assistance only. They do not deserve to get caught in the cross-fire. Let us stay focused on those who really need our help - the victims.

    Another question raised that goes unanswered is, have the "board members/advisory members" signed agreements and confidentially agreements within this organization? Holding this capacity - I speak from experience.

    Questions are posed to SIA but no answers are given - just mud slinging at the Coalitions and Agencies which is totally unprofessionally. How does SIA expect to sustain and create this "cyber advocacy" acting as an agency? How can Advocates work together without meeting in the middle? Who is "auditing" this organization's accounting/books? Come on people.....think about it - get the facts; learn how the funding works, please?!

    Based on reading postings and information from the top down - censorship is dictated and if you don't agree you are history. What kind of organization that is really trying to make any kind of difference would do this and not stay focused on the real issues at hand?

    Victims need qualified individuals to assist them in their journey, not "cyber" outlets; we are not dealing with purchasing via the internet. We are dealing with human lives - lives that need to be kept alive and protected. This is our mission.

    Take care and STAY SAFE!

  11. It's really sad when people succeed at something so wonderful and other's tear it down in spite.

  12. Yes, I agree. It is of no benefit to condemn all the fantastic agencies and hard-working advocates in the dv agencies shelters and coalitions as demonstrated in much of SIA affiliated writings ...and to wish them unemployed and out of business. I am one of them and, while I take offense, this is not personal, it is a lack of understanding. I also personally know thousands of victims who have been helped over the years and very few who have felt mistreated. However those few are usually the most vocal while the thousands of healed victims go on with their lives.
    It is important to question a potential new referral source's philosophies and structure before sending victims to them for assistance. If I feel they are unhealthy, have an agenda or are inappropriate I cannot recommend them. That is advocacy.
    In my general area there are 6 shelters in mine and bordering counties. One of those 6 is lacking. Rather than trashing all shelters I address the problems with the one appropriately. It is not personal, it is advocacy with the ultimate goal always being the safety and empowerment of crime victims, not who is right or wrong. There are so many people hurting that we must all work together in the most ethical way possible.

  13. The comment where you posted on CVON was an inappropriate place for you to do that. It is not a chat room and that is why you were banned. It is list serve for LE, and other personnel, which you abused. But you won't post that you did that will you?

  14. I am happy to post your opinion. I am a crime victim advocate in a law enforcement agency. I was invited to participate in the list by you ( if you are Alexis). My question and comment was, in my opinion, a legitimate concern and appropriate for discussion - not "chatting" but a follow up to the CA budget cuts post. We seem to have different ideas and philosophies. I am sorry you took offense. You have every right to silence whomever you wish on your own list.


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