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Making Referrals to Domestic Violence Service Providers for Nonoffending Caregivers

Research shows that, of relationships in which people abuse their intimate partners, between 30-60% also involve direct abuse of children, sometimes sexually; in most cases, the abuse of both the adult partner and the child(ren) are being perpetrated by the same person. Domestic violence (DV) adds layers of safety risks, legal considerations, and complex trauma to a situation in which the child and adult survivor are already deeply affected by a sexual assault. DV advocates are your allies in addressing the unique safety, legal, and emotional needs of survivors of domestic violence, both children and adults.
Community based domestic violence advocates provide voluntary and confidential services to adults, teens, and children who have experienced DV. They work with any DV survivor who requests services, including those who are defendants in criminal cases. Core services may include a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, individual advocacy, support groups, children’s programs, emergency shelter, and transitional housing. Advocates assist survivors in accessing resources and services they need, such as housing, financial assistance, employment training, childcare, counseling, and legal assistance. 
Many DV agencies have programming specifically for children who have been exposed to DV; they may offer individual advocacy, peer groups, parenting support and coaching, and individual and family counseling focused on kids. Many programs have children’s advocates, who primarily support and advocate for children affected by DV.

There Are Many Ways to Support a Successful Referral to a Community Based DV Agency

  • Understand all of the options available to your client – become familiar with the DV programs available in your area, including their services offered and any eligibility requirements.
  • Be proactive and reach out to DV agencies – work to create strong channels for communication and referrals before you need them. Set up introductions with agency advocates and leadership, initiate reciprocal training, and discuss information sharing and referral practices in advance so that, when you need to access DV advocacy quickly and smoothly, those positive, functional connections will already be there for you.
  • Understand DV agency information-sharing practices – DV advocates adhere to many important protections for their clients’ information; by law, they are not allowed to discuss a case or even confirm that a person is receiving services at all without a release of information.  
  • Encourage rather than require participation – a survivor may have legitimate concerns about accessing advocacy services. If a survivor is not open to advocacy, discuss their barriers and concerns; there may be alternatives and/or a role for advocacy in the future.
  • Offer to facilitate making a connection – Survivors are sometimes more comfortable and communication may be more smoother if a professional they already trust offers to help them make the first call.  
  • Check in with client consistently about their experience – and follow up with them and the DV agency if a connection isn’t being made!
To find an agency with DV services in your area, take a look at the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website here: or call the Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-562-6025

Additional Resources

  • Contact the Washington State Domestic Violence Program for information about DV and contact information for DV agencies across the state:
  • You can also call the Washington State Domestic Violence Hotline for referrals and consultation: or 1-800-562-6025
  • If you are in King County, the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence offers technical support for programs interested in enhancing their response to DV, including policy and practice review, consultation, and relationship-building with DV agencies.  Learn more here:

This tip was contributed by Alicia Glenwell of The Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence.

Reviewed: March 21st, 2017