When an Advocate Is the Victim

How Did I Get Here?

Because of the unique work domestic violence advocates perform, our social networks include other advocates and counselors. If the agency you work for is closely partnered with law enforcement, or part of a Family Justice Center, you may count police officers and other members of the criminal justice system among your friends and associates. In some instances, intimate relationships develop. Your daily exposure to stories of men's abusive behavior can make you vulnerable to a man — especially a police officer — who seems to be a "really nice guy." Even fellow officers and supervisors may believe he's a sensitive guy who gets it. But abusive officers are often assigned to DV or sexual assault units because of their ability to deceive. You may feel ashamed and embarrassed because you think you should have recognized his deceit. You may question your judgment for allowing yourself to be in such a position, and you suspect that co-workers and supervisors are also wondering. And you are probably stunned by your vulnerability. It doesn't matter whether you're an advocate, counselor, or other professional — you have the same reasons other women have for not leaving an abusive relationship:

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Multiple Barriers

There are many barriers to revealing your abuse:

It will be difficult for you to seek help from family, friends and/or other service providers. People may find it hard to believe that anyone can dominate, coerce, or batter you because of you are a experienced advocate or counselor. You may not trust local police to respond appropriately. If you want counseling or shelter, you'll probably want to go to another community where you can maintain anonymity. Resources and options are certainly limited if you live in a small town or rural area.

Developing a safety plan is complicated by the fact that your abuser is a member of law enforcement. If you are comfortable confiding in a fellow advocate, ask her to help you think through your options and safety risks. Always keep confidentiality issues in mind. A thorough risk assessment must be made to determine whether it is safe to include the local police department in your safety plan. This should include a lethality assessment.

Your situation also puts your employer and the local police into a difficult position since they have to protect themselves against liability. In many communities, especially those with Family Justice Centers, advocates work closely with local police and prosecutors. They may be housed in the same building and work in adjoining offices. Your employer is liable for your safety if it's considered to be workplace violence issue. Though individual supervisors may be sympathetic to you, they must put the agency first. The relationship between the police department and your agency — a relationship that you may have fostered — will certainly be strained. You may feel betrayed when they seem more worried about their own liability and public image than about you.

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An advocate is the one person who is there solely for the victim.

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Victim Handbook
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Hijacked by the Right
Crossing the Threshold
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Hijacked by the Right
Crossing the Threshold
Hijacked by the Right by Diane Wetendorf