Some advocacy programs may be reluctant to implement AIR due to the following common concerns. Use the hyperlink anchors to jump to specific content below.

Proactively contacting a victim violates her autonomy or privacy
Contacting her may increase her vulnerability with her abusive partner
Law enforcement cannot share information about the response
We do not have the staffing to support AIR
We are not ready to provide legal advocacy     


Proactively contacting a victim violates her autonomy or privacy

AIR supports victims’ independence and choice by making sure they get the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves. This starts with a law enforcement officer letting a victim know that, although an advocate will call as soon as possible, the victim does not have to talk to the advocate if she does not want to. When an officer simply leaves printed information about the advocacy program without the AIR model in place, victims may not know what an advocacy program is or they might not consider themselves a victim and are less likely to call the program for support. Because officers are unlikely to know the full scope of services an advocate provides, nor are they likely to be domestic violence specialists, an advocate can better help a victim learn about those services and talk about their experiences.

Victims benefit greatly from help navigating the system, particularly from someone outside the legal system who will keep their information confidential, and AIR allows them get that help. After law enforcement has responded, victims often experience significant distress; victims have serious questions about what is next, what their role is in the subsequent legal process, when their partner will come home, whether there will be costs for anything, and a number of other concerns. AIR provides the quickest access to the information and resources victims desperately need following law enforcement response. When an advocacy program proactively initiates contact with victims following a law enforcement response, victims typically welcome the call and are relieved to have someone answer questions and address concerns. As Rose Thelen, Praxis Technical Assistance Partner explains, AIR can provide victims with more control over their situations:


Full audio recording: Calling Victims Before They Call You, June 2014 
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Concern: Contacting her may increase her vulnerability with her abusive partner

Only a victim knows what risks, including sharing confidential information, they are willing to take when they have been abused. AIR offers some protection from those risks:

  • Advocacy programs that participate in AIR have their telephone number blocked so no one is easily able to identify where the initial call is coming from.
  • Advocates do not identify the organization from which they are calling until they receive confirmation they are talking with the victim.
  • Advocates do not leave messages for victims on any voicemail systems unless a victim confirms they may safely do so.

Advocacy programs report they think the benefits of making the call and getting information to the victim as soon as possible outweigh the minimal risk the batterer, or someone affiliated with the batterer, will answer the phone or otherwise learn a victim disclosed information about their relationship.

Listen to Kathleen Marvin, Executive Director, Tillamook Women’s Resource Center, Tillamook, OR and Rose Thelen, Praxis Technical Assistance Partner, talk about the concerns advocates had when first implementing AIR:

 


Full audio recording: Calling Victims Before They Call You, June 2014
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Full audio recording: Community-based and System-based Advocacy: Collaborating for Victim Safety and Offender Accountability, October 2015
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Concern: Law enforcement cannot share information about the response

In many jurisdictions, police reports are public information and can be shared with an advocacy program. However, in some jurisdictions, laws restrict law enforcement from sharing victim information with advocates. In other jurisdictions, police reports in certain circumstances may be kept from the public, such as when there’s an open investigation or someone’s safety is at risk. In this case, keeping the report from the public is often discretionary, and advocacy programs may be able to establish a policy that allows that information to be shared with the program.

Most importantly, in our work to improve systems responses to violence against women, we cannot make assumptions about what agencies such as law enforcement will or will not do. If the first answer is a “no”, find out why, under what circumstances this could work, what to do when it won’t work, and how to best move this important model forward. Check with your state, tribal, or territory coalition or national technical assistance providers, like the Victim Rights Law Center, for help understanding your jurisdiction’s information sharing-related laws.

Listen to Kim Bruce, Systems Change Advocate, Shelterhouse, Midland, MI describing her approach to overcoming this barrier to implementing AIR:

 


Full audio recording: Increasing Your Program Capacity for System’s Change, October 2014
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Concern: We do not have the staffing to support AIR

Some advocacy programs are concerned they do not have the staffing resources to make calls around the clock. Communities have approached this issue in different ways. Some communities have identified the cost of each initial AIR call, projected how many calls per year, and approached local community resources to donate that amount. Some programs have volunteers make the initial AIR call. Many programs determined, considering their call volume, there were no extra resources or staff required to implement AIR.


Concern: We are not ready to provide legal advocacy

Legal advocacy, or ongoing, involved advocacy during criminal (or civil) case processing, is a crucial advocacy role. Complex social institutions, such as the criminal and civil justice systems, are not well designed to respond to the specific needs of individuals. A legal advocate (court advocate, systems advocate, etc. – a staff member of a community-based advocacy program who specializes in advocacy for victims involved in criminal and/or civil court, child protection, etc.), someone who is familiar with those systems, however, can be at her side. The legal advocate can work to ensure the victim’s safety needs are considered in court decisions, her specific questions about the process are answered, and she understands the implications of what is happening in the system’s response. That first call to a victim following law enforcement response compels an advocacy program to remain involved and advocate for the victim throughout the system’s processing of that case. If your program is not currently prepared to provide that type of advocacy with individual victims, AIR would extend services and is a role and resource issue to explore. Exploring and providing this type of advocacy is essential, if you are not already.

Listen to long-time advocate, Stephanie Avalon, Battered Women’s Justice Project, talk about why legal advocacy is so important:

 


Full audio recording: Calling Victims Before They Call You, June 2014
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