Today’s Pen of Domestic Violence Coordinator’s writings indicate the need for DV Advocators to look at the “Big Picture,” and not just view the adult or child victim as only their “behavior and symptoms.”
Key Point: Often, advocates will describe the individual/survivor as out of control, manipulative, or she has mental health diagnosis, such as being borderline or bipolar. This can be damaging to survivors and to your relationship with them.
Sometimes advocates do this because individuals have received a mental health diagnosis or been prescribed medications. Consequently, advocates may modify their approach and interaction with a survivor based on this.
However, consider that perhaps a comprehensive assessment and screening did not occur, resulting in an improper or incorrect diagnosis. Complex trauma reactions or repeated exposure to harm might not have been part of the assessment. Therefore, the advocate needs to incorporate knowledge about trauma and its impact on individuals; to not do so stands a good chance of limiting the effectiveness of the therapeutic relationship with the dv survivor and misses a potential connection.
Therefore, advocates are encouraged to respond with compassion, understanding and encouragement with the individual to manage and explore their overwhelming feelings. The intention is to treat the “whole person” and not merely react to the behaviors or diagnosis.
Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Best Practices Manual For Domestic Violence Programs, Final Draft June, 2000, p.66