Survivor-defined practice in domestic violence work: Measure development and preliminary evidence of link to empowerment

Lisa A. Goodman, Kristie Thomas, Lauren Bennett Cattaneo, Deborah Heimel, Julie Woulfe, Siu Kwan Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Survivor-defined practice, characterized by an emphasis on client choice, partnership, and sensitivity to the unique needs, contexts, and coping strategies of individual survivors, is an aspirational goal of the domestic violence (DV) movement, assumed to be a key contributor to empowerment and other positive outcomes among survivors. Despite its central role in DV program philosophy, training, and practice, however, our ability to assess its presence and its presumed link to well-being has been hampered by the absence of a way to measure it from survivors’ perspectives. As part of a larger university–community collaboration, this study had two aims: (a) to develop a measure of survivor-defined practice from the perspective of participants, and (b) to assess its relationship to safety-related empowerment after controlling for other contributors to survivor well-being (e.g., financial stability and social support). Results supported the reliability and validity of the Survivor-Defined Practice Scale (SDPS), a nine-item measure that assesses participants’ perception of the degree to which their advocates help them achieve goals they set for themselves, facilitate a spirit of partnership, and show sensitivity to their individual needs and styles. The items combined to form one factor indicating that the three theoretical aspects of survivordefined practice may be different manifestations of one underlying construct. Results also support the hypothesized link between survivor-defined practice and safety-related empowerment. The SDPS offers DV programs a mechanism for process evaluation that is rigorous and rooted in the feminist empowerment philosophy that so many programs espouse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-185
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Advocacy
  • Domestic violence
  • Evaluation
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Service delivery
  • Survivor-defined advocacy
  • Survivor-defined practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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