Victim Voice in Reenvisioning Responses to Sexual and Physical Violence Nationally and Internationally

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Abstract

Internationally and in the United States many victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are unserved, underserved, or ill-served, especially those from the most vulnerable populations. Programs developed in the United States are routinely exported to developing countries but often without success. Notably, the failures seen internationally resemble those in the United States and are related to structural and attitudinal–cultural factors. Many victims do not disclose, and if they do seek services, they often report that available options mismatch their objectives, present accessibility challenges, disempower their pursuit of justice, and fail to augment needed resources. A deeper understanding of obstacles to effective service provision is needed if the United States is to continue to be an international partner in victim response and violence prevention. This article builds on what is known about service delivery challenges in U.S. programs to envision a path forward that concomitantly accommodates anticipation of shrinking resources, by (a) reviewing illustrative services and feedback from victims about utilizing them; (b) examining structural inequalities and the intersections of personal and contextual features that both increase vulnerability to victimization and decrease accessibility and acceptability of services; (c) advocating for reintroduction of direct victim voice into response planning to enhance reach and relevance; and (d) reorienting delivery systems, community partnerships, and Coordinated Community Response teams. The authors suggest as the way forward pairing direct victim voice with open-minded listening to expressed priorities, especially in vulnerable populations, and designing services accordingly. Through a process that prioritizes adaptation to diverse needs and cultures, U.S models can increase desirability, equity, and thrift at home as well as enhance international relevance.

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