What Is Empowerment Anyway? A Model for Domestic Violence Practice, Research, and Evaluation

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Abstract

Although the idea of empowerment lies at the heart of the anti–domestic violence movement, consensus on the defining characteristics of this construct have remained elusive. A clear and consistent definition of empowerment would promote the development of common metrics for research and evaluation, and guide the development of best practices. In this article, we describe specific challenges that have made the conceptualization of empowerment difficult. We then overview the Empowerment Process Model, and describe the ways in which it addresses those challenges. This model articulates empowerment as a meaningful shift in the experience of power attained through interaction in the social world, and describes the process of building empowerment as an iterative one, in which a person takes action toward personally meaningful goals; draws on community supports, skill, knowledge, and self-efficacy to move toward those goals; and observes the extent to which those actions result in progress. By incorporating both process and outcome dimensions, bridging the psychological and contextual realms, and allowing for domain specificity, the model addresses challenges to a clear conceptualization; and provides a common framework that may be used as a reference point for practitioners and researchers wishing to apply the construct. We conclude with suggestions for and examples of its application in research and practice.

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