Protective Factors

We build programs that address survivors’ individualized needs and build protective factors into programming to counteract risk factors. Our services focus on directing survivors to circumstances and conditions associated with greater independence, well-being, and hope, while also directing them away from those that lead to poor outcomes.

Safer and More Stable Conditions

Achieving safer and more stable conditions in or following an abusive relationship assists in mitigating the impacts of adverse experiences and helps promote healthy development and well-being for victims/survivors. Safe conditions can be defined as those with lower risk of physical, sexual, or emotional fear and harm. This includes but is not limited to greater freedom from threats, intimidation, humiliation, stalking, economic oppression, coercion, and isolation.

Often foundational to victims/survivors establishing more stable conditions is acquiring shelter, employment, and tangible resources needed to feel confident taking steps away from an abusive partner and into a safer environment. These resources allow for greater access to information, mobility, and greater financial independence which in-turn expands strategies victims/survivors can use to stay safe. Victims/survivors who lack financial resources are more likely to be abused in the future.

While perhaps the resources mentioned above are some of the most apparent needed to establish safer conditions, this project considers a broader range of strategies needed, including those connected to positive relationships, resilience, and social emotional abilities discussed further below.

Social, Cultural, and Spiritual Connections

Cross-sectional research has suggested that social support can mitigate the harmful impacts of abuse and contribute to greater well-being. Levels of connectedness and social support is a critical factor for victims/survivors in establishing safer and more stable conditions.

For example, victims/survivors with higher levels of social support have greater levels of involvement with the criminal prosecution of abusive partners. Adversely, victims/survivors with less social support have been shown to be more likely to be abused in the future.

In addition for many victims/survivors of domestic violence, support from and involvement in a faith community has been shown to be critical part of the healing process. Involvement in faith communities has been linked to increased psychological well-being and decreased depression.

Resilience and a Growth Mindset

While the impacts of trauma are widespread, a great many victims/survivors display an enormous capacity for survival and perseverance. Resilience is a construct representing victim/survivor maintenance of positive adaptation despite experiences of significant adversity. Building greater resilience is facilitated by adaptation of learned helplessness into a growth mindset. A growth mindset allows victims/survivors to distinguish the current adversity they are facing from a possible future free of violence. This mindset can be the foundation of meaningly change in victims/survivors lives.

Research has illustrated that measures of resilience have been linked to a wide range of positive outcomes. For example, measures of resilience are a marker for children who experience violence to make more meaningful, healthy social connections later in life, exhibit fewer behavioral issues, and perform better in school. In addition, resilience positively correlates with lower levels of depression and perceived stress despite the presence of several significant stressors (leaving relationships, living in a shelter, etc.)

Nurturing Parent-Child Interactions

Children build their conception of the relative safety of their world through their relationships with parents. Exposure to violence alters interactions between parents and their children leading to fragmented parent child relationships. This creates conditions in which parent-child shared trauma have negative impacts on self-esteem and decision making leading to poor outcomes. Stable and nurturing relationships can create a buffer against the effects adverse childhood experiences.

Fostering warm, attentive, and responsive, parent-child relationships allows the child to develop greater confidence that his or her needs will be met, learn positive ways of relating to others, better regulate emotions, and see themselves as worthy and valued.

Promoting nurturing parent-child interactions can have a positive impact on health and development. For example, studies have examined strong bond between parent and child being related to positive measures of neurocognitive functioning and reduction of mental health problems for both child and adult victims/ survivors.

Social and Emotional Abilities

Needs for victims/survivors in the areas of material, economic, and even social connections highlighted above may seem to many relatively apparent in contrast with social emotional abilities. However, mastery of social-emotional competencies leads to greater well-being and better overall outcomes for victims/survivors of domestic violence. Social emotional abilities have been strongly tied to greater quality of life and lower risk of future abuse for victims/survivors of domestic violence. These abilities support gains in the four other protective factors listed.

Greater social emotional abilities are linked to greater self-determination and autonomy supporting increases in resilience, connectedness, and acquisition of safer and more stable conditions.