Supporting the Supporters - How friends and families can help to prevent domestic violence

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This paper is the first in a series examining effective societal responses to prevent domestic violence. The paper challenges the belief that domestic violence is a private matter between two people and argues that, as a result of that long-held belief, we are ignoring one of the most under-utilized prevention strategies: informal networks. While formal services and supports are critical, research shows that informal networks – including friends and family – play a pivotal role in preventing domestic violence. This issue brief explores the value of informal networks in victims’ lives, how to support those networks to respond to the needs of the victim, the perceived reluctance of many friends and family to intervene in what is often viewed as a private matter, and how organizations that specialize in domestic violence can start to build customized education programs and supports geared toward friends and families, as well as the general public. Considerations outlined in the paper focus on what domestic violence service providers and government can do, suggesting strategies to better support informal networks through intervention and primary prevention activities.