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 survivor violates their autonomy or privacy

Contacting the survivor may increase vulnerability with the 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

Concern: Proactively contacting a survivor violates their autonomy or privacy

AIR supports survivors’ 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 survivor know that, although an advocate will call as soon as possible, the survivor does not have to talk to the advocate if they do not want to. When an officer simply leaves printed information about the advocacy program without the AIR model in place, particularly if that printed information isn’t available in the survivor’s first language, survivors may not know what an advocacy program is or they might not consider themselves a survivor 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 survivor learn about those services and talk about their experiences.

Survivors benefit greatly from help navigating the system. AIR allows survivors to get help from community-based advocates, those outside the criminal legal system who will keep their information confidential, as soon as possible. After law enforcement has responded, survivors often experience significant distress; survivors have serious questions about what is next, what their role is in the subsequent legal process, when their partner will come home, how the offender’s arrest might impact the survivor’s immigration status, whether there will be costs for anything, and a number of other concerns. AIR provides the quickest access to the information and resources survivors desperately need following law enforcement response. When an advocacy program proactively initiates contact with survivors following a law enforcement response, survivors 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 survivors with more control over their situations:

One of the things that I think AIR does is that it puts the woman more in the driver’s seat in terms of what are our efforts as an advocacy program or a CCR in the community. If we are about victim safety, if that is our primary objective, well, then, this is a way to find out, and walk along side of her, and to understand what is the impact of our joint and individual interventions.


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

Only a survivor knows what risks, including sharing confidential information, they are willing to take when they have been abused. Advocacy programs can take measures to mitigate those risks, such as:

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

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

Kathleen Marvin, Executive Director, Tillamook Women’s Resource Center (now Tides of Change), Tillamook, OR and Rose Thelen, Praxis Technical Assistance Partner, talk about the concerns advocates had when first implementing AIR:

Kathleen: I think, for our program, one of the biggest barriers was that fear of potentially causing harm somehow by calling or intruding into a person’s life. That was a long-time history that our program had been handed down, probably since we were founded. Was just that, “we don’t go where we’re not invited” kind of thinking. And, um, those fears have been alleviated with conversations about [how] people don’t need to talk to us if we call. They are given the opportunity.

Rose: And Kathleen, was there anything in particular that was most salient to you in terms of saying, “okay, we gotta figure this out…we can’t just rest on our old philosophical assumptions…this is a new way of thinking about it”?

Kathleen: I think most prevalent was hearing the stories of women’s experiences women when they did not get information about advocacy or have that contact. And just how awful that was for them to sit with their fears and the uncertainty. And to want to begin to figure out how to make that better for women in our community.


Full audio recording: Calling Victims Before They Call You, June 2014
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Safety for victims and survivors are [sic] our number one guiding principle so we struggled with that question quite a bit as we were looking at this. Law enforcement makes that call to us upon arrest and provides us the information, and we call within the hour. And … people are advised that our calls will show up as a blocked call. Feel free to not answer it if you don’t want to talk to someone. So we’re really calling within that window when we believe we would not be endangering anyone.

And they can pick up our call or not. We had a strong philosophy of not calling and were very concerned about making sure that we’re never endangering. But we have had so many people so grateful that they’ve gotten those calls because they didn’t know where to call. So yes, we did grapple with that but we tried to make that a really quick time‐frame so if someone has been arrested, there is that window of time when that offer of information and support can be made. And we have seen just astounding results from doing so.


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 survivor 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.

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

It’s [advocacy-initiated response] considered a best practice, but in Michigan, it’s only happening in, that I know of, maybe six or eight communities. So it’s not the norm around here. And in fact, when I first began to bring it up, they were kind of open to wanting to try something new and be innovative and do the best work that we can. But there were real concerns about the legalities of giving us the victims’ names and phone numbers without the victims’ permission. And so, we had to look into that … as partners, we met with the city attorney, and he did some research for us, and said … actually, it’s written into some legislation that that’s allowable.


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 for ALL survivors of domestic violence. Complex social institutions, such as the criminal and civil legal systems, are not well designed to respond to the specific needs of individuals, particularly of survivors of domestic violence. A legal advocate (court, systems advocate, etc. – staff of a community-based advocacy program who specializes in advocacy for survivors involved in criminal and/or civil court, child protection, etc.), someone who is familiar with those systems, however, can be at their side. The legal advocate can work to ensure the survivor’s safety needs are considered in court decisions, specific questions about the process are answered, and the survivor understands the implications of what is happening in the system’s response. This is particularly true for people who are not familiar with the U.S. criminal and civil legal systems and people with limited English proficiency.

That first call to a survivor following law enforcement response compels an advocacy program to remain involved and advocate for the survivor throughout the system’s processing of that case. If your program is not currently prepared to provide that type of advocacy with individual survivors, AIR would extend services and is a role and resource issue to explore. Providing this type of advocacy is essential. Long-time advocate, Stephanie Avalon, Battered Women’s Justice Project, talks about why legal advocacy is so important:

There are lots of risks that battered women face, and those of us who are involved in intervention like to think that everything we’re doing is helpful, but sometimes there are what you call intervention associated risks. One of them of course being that the wrong person gets arrested. But other things could happen, like police could be making a referral to child protection. Once the system is involved, there are all sorts of things that are out of the victim’s control. Maybe she didn’t call the police. Maybe she never initiated this. And somehow police got called. There’s [sic] a million different things that are involved in the processing of a criminal case, and none of it was perhaps anything she wanted anything to do with. And it’s pretty overwhelming. And the advantage of having an advocate talking to a victim is that the advocate should have a pretty solid knowledge of how the system works in that particular community and not just how it works, but who the players are, and who is likely to be helpful and who is likely to be, maybe, not so helpful.


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