Domestic violence surrogate dialogue
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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SURROGATE DIALOGUE. Carrie O. Banks, PhD. Executive Director Gayle A. Sheller, MA, MSW Program Director. Creating a safe, if not sacred, place for people in painful conflict to tell their

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Domestic violence surrogate dialogue


Carrie O. Banks, PhD.

Executive Director

Gayle A. Sheller, MA, MSW

Program Director

Putting the pieces together for healing

Creating a safe, if not sacred, place for people in painful conflict to tell their

story, without interruptions, has been found through the ages to be at the core of healing.

–Dr. Mark Umbreit, Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking, University of Minnesota

Putting the Pieces Together for Healing

Domestic violence surrogate dialogue

DVSD: a unique program founded in 2006, housed at Washington County Community Corrections in the Center for Victims’ Services, Hillsboro, Oregon

  • Founder: Carrie Outhier Banks, PhD.

  • Doctoral Dissertation: “Finding Their Voice: Observation of the Surrogate Dialogue Program” PhD. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

  • Research at Washington County Community Corrections in partnership with Domestic Violence Resource Center & the Family Violence Intervention Program

The mission of dvsd

The Mission of DVSD…

The cycle of violence is difficult to break when silence and victimization leave survivors confused and uncertain how to cope. Even as society has supported shelters and treatment programs for those who must flee domestic violence, the treatment community has learned how difficult the journey of healing is for those who survive the trauma of violence (Battaglia, Finley, and Liebschutz, 2001).

“Why me” haunts survivors and leaves them feeling responsible for acts that were neither of their making nor by their choice, their self-efficacy and trust deeply wounded. DVSD exists to help break this cycle and to provide not only survivors, but offenders, an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the context and long-term effects of partner-violence.

Goals of the dvsd program

Goals of the DVSD Program:

•Provide another step on the path to recovery for survivors of domestic violence.

•Offer offenders who have committed domestic violence a way of making restitution to the community.

•Help prevent survivors from re-entering abusive relationships.

•Provide offenders who have abused further insight into the costs of their actions to their survivors

Who is in the room

Who is in the room?

  • Team (usually male/female) of DVSD-trained facilitators

  • Survivor of domestic/intimate partner violence who has completed six months of counseling, or comparable group work

  • Offender of domestic/intimate partner violence who is near completion of a recognized batters-intervention program (usually a 52-56 week program) and fully accountable

  • Support person for each client

Surrogate dialogue process

Surrogate Dialogue Process

  • Referrals by programs or request by clients to participate

  • Survivor/offender match made by DVSD Program Director, in consultation with counselors/clients

  • Pre-dialogue interview by team of facilitators

  • Dialogue

  • Debrief by facilitation team, first the survivor, then the offender

  • Follow-up interviews

Social work values that guide the work

Social Work Values that guide the work…

  • Strengths-based – self-determination

  • Collaborative work with clients and programs – community networking

  • Non-oppressive work and personal empowerment

  • Solution-focused – Client driven and fully voluntary

  • Ecological perspective – dynamic, & belief in the human ability to change

Principles of restorative justice

Principles of Restorative Justice

Dialogue modeled after Restorative Justice Violent Offender and Victim Mediation process (Dr. Mark Umbreit, Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota).

  • 3 parties in every act of violence: victim, offender, and community

  • Dialogue-driven rather than settlement-driven—purpose is to understand each other’s experience

  • Both an individual and a community process

Respectful and humanizing

Respectful and humanizing

  • “Sometimes the only way to pay on our obligations is to give back to someone else other than the one that we have harmed.”

    --Marcy Achilles: Victim Advocate, Harrisburg, PA

  • “…crime is viewed as an experience between individuals in the midst of a community…”

    • Susan Herman, National Center for Victims of Crime

Essential to every dialogue

Essential to Every Dialogue

  • Voluntary at every level : multiple check-ins with participants

  • Sensitive to BOTH survivors and offenders …at all times, respectful and humanizing…we check our judgments at the door and listen to the clients with compassion

Role of facilitators

Role of Facilitators

  • Skills of mindfulness and compassionate listening are essential

  • Safety, respect, attention

  • Able and willing to allow silence so that clients retain control and direction of dialogue

  • Safe ground with clarity of purpose: not goal-oriented or outcome-focused

Theoretical frameworks

Theoretical frameworks

  • Narrative: Reframing the story and the outcomes…a move from “victim” to empowered “survivor”

  • Empowerment: Supporting survivors in their right to self-determination in their own way and on their own terms

  • Transference: use of a surrogate offender who is now fully accountable, able to answer questions, and bear witness to the dynamics of an abuser

Counselor comments

Counselor comments:

  • “In counseling, the therapist becomes the surrogate that helps a person work through their experience, while in a surrogate dialogue, a person who has been a batterer, but is now accountable, is the person who helps the survivor feel validated and understood. This is a rare experience that would not happen under normal circumstances and certainly not with their own battering partner.”

    • --Sheryl J. Rindel, LPC, and Family Violence Intervention Treatment provider for many years

Survivor comments post dialogue

Survivor Comments post-dialogue:

“I have more self-esteem than I’ve ever had! I’m more out-going, working, and able to do things like share my story with a group. Not so long ago, I was so anxious about talking in front of people I’d break into tears and have to leave the room.”

Survivor comments

Survivor comments:

  • “We must come together as a society and as a community, and we must find ways to put in place a system that leaves neither the female nor the male on the bottom of a hopeless system of oppression…we have to have faith that (people) will change…that may sound risky, and that’s okay. Historically, powerful change is found where risks were taken. Thank you…for blessing me with the opportunity to reach a deeper level of healing….”

Survivor comments1

Survivor comments:

  • “It was very helpful to see that (the offender) really had an inability to empathize…This helps me understand in a new and different way that, to a large degree, (my spouse’s) behavior was not personal. An amazing experience…I didn’t even know how stuck I still was until I looked back after my dialogue…I was still in a self-preservation, self-defended mode. I needed to see that I could flourish … and now I’m having a full life!”

Offender comments post dialogue

Offender comments post-dialogue:

  • “I found it an important part of my work to find a way to give back to the community I took from for so long. The problems don’t go away. But you keep reminding yourself why you aren’t going back (to violence).”

Offender comment

Offender comment:

  • “I was surprised that the dialogue made me think more about my responsibility. (The most important part of the dialogue for me) was the opportunity to express sorrow, express my remorse, and release some emotions. Thank you for the experience.”

Offender comment1

Offender comment:

  • “Accountability is everything. I got a chance to help someone. (The dialogue) also gave me the opportunity to be accountable for what I’ve done. (It was important to me) to show her (the abuse) was not her fault, and to face up to what I’ve done. This should be done much more.”

Essential to remember

Essential to remember:

  • Survivor safety and voluntary participation always come first!

  • Hold deep respect for the hard work each person has done in order to come sit across the table from another person and tell their story.

  • Grief is always present…what has been lost is relationship, love and self-esteem.



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