Q: I’m not a survivor of domestic violence, but I’ve supported several friends and people in my family who have gone through it. I feel like I want to do more to help stop domestic violence, maybe by working with a shelter or hotline. How can I become a domestic violence advocate? – Amey
That's a great question and good for you for wanting to step up. This is an area of nonprofit work that could definitely use more support. From trained domestic violence advocates who work within a nonprofit to volunteers who want to give their time, advocacy groups and shelters are always looking for smart, caring people who are passionate about ending domestic violence.
To that point, you do not need to be a personal survivor of domestic violence in order to join the cause. But a knowledge of domestic violence—the history of the movement, the psychology behind abuse and abusers, how to best help a survivor and the myriad reasons why it’s often difficult for a survivor to untangle themselves from an abuser—is vital.
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You can learn about domestic violence just by reading through the 600-plus articles here on DomesticShelters.org or perusing our tool kits that answer a lot of frequently asked questions about domestic violence. You may also want to check out our recommended books section for further reading.
A comprehensive domestic violence training, typically a 40-hour, week-long course offered by a domestic violence nonprofit or state coalition can also give you a thorough overview of the dynamics of abuse. Typically, domestic violence organizations will hold these types of trainings for the community from time to time, and they’re often a requirement for anyone who wants to volunteer with them.
I’d advise you look at our Find Help page or State Coalitions directory. Locate an organization near you that you’d like to work with and give them a call to see if they have any upcoming domestic violence trainings.
If they don’t, especially if you’re in a more rural area, you can find online trainings, most of which are free of charge. Here are some I was able to find:
- The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health offers this online training and resource center with classes like, “Trauma-Informed DV Advocacy.”
- The Institute for Family Violence Studies College of Social Work at Florida State University offers these free online domestic violence tutorials.
- The National Advocate Credentialing Program lists national trainings as well as state-specific trainings here for victim advocacy (not specifically domestic violence, however).
- The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers free online courses for advocates here in both English and Spanish, such as “History of the DV Movement.”
- The National Children’s Advocacy Center offers a list of online training programs focused on becoming an advocate for children who are victims of child abuse or childhood domestic violence.
- Violence Free Colorado offers this online learning center with courses available to non-members for a small fee.
Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence offers up a list of tips for becoming an advocate, beyond training, such as using social media to raise awareness, involve your friends and family in local advocacy events and supporting local fundraisers for shelters. These are also great ways to become an advocate, a word which can hold different meanings in the domestic violence realm, says Kristen Faith, founder and CEO of Break the Silence.
“We call all of our volunteers ‘advocates.’ We also call anyone who supports the cause an advocate because we believe they advocate.”
She points out that court advocates, otherwise known as crime victim advocates, who accompany survivors or other victims of crime into court and sometimes speak on their behalf, are a different kind of advocate which often requires earning a certification through more structured training. What type of advocacy work you do depends on you—what you’re interested in, what you have time for and your distinct skill set.
Whatever you end up doing, Amey, thank you for being a part of the cause and helping to raise awareness about ending domestic violence. Best of luck to you!
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