Envisioning the Future, Dreaming Again
Transitional housing provides a unique opportunity to build a foundation that will support the survivor and their family as they move forward in their lives.
In the aftermath of violence, a person can find it difficult to envision their future. After repeated abuses, dealing with the trauma of physical and emotional abuse, carrying the burdens of historical and multigenerational trauma, tomorrow has not been thought about for a very long time. In order to envision their futures, survivors must first be able to see themselves again, believe in themselves again, and believe there are options and possibilities for them.
According to Google Dictionary, empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights. This work will take time. The Advocate role will be to work with the survivor and their family in a very intentional way to support the survivor in identifying options and developing their sense of empowerment.
Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights.
Each person is unique in their own way. Their experience with violence, the frequency and severity of it, the impact of trauma, and the resiliency they each have will vary from individual to individual. No one can judge how hard it is for each survivor; only the survivor can figure that out. On this journey, expectations must be realistic to survivors’ timing, energy, and capabilities.
The process of moving past the violence and its impact can be daunting, overwhelming and at times, the path can completely disappear. The Advocate is a guide and can help hold hands and walk with the survivor through the darkness, helping them to find the direction they want to head in.
Engaging in Dialogue and Critical Thinking
An important tool an Advocate can use is dialogue.
Authentic dialogue is consistent with indigenous historical contexts. Being able to be fully engaged with another person or group of people, listening to each voice and perspective, is traditional; it is being in the Circle. While sitting in the Circle, truth is spoken and together each person combines to carry a collective truth, a new perspective that becomes a collective vision; this occurs when each person names his or her world and collectively describes the world.
Dialogue is described as recognizing that everyone has a view of the world, a perspective, and that each person can expand their view by remaining open to other people's worldview (Sloan, 2006). It is quite similar to the description of dialogue made by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970/1997). Freire states that dialogue is "[an] encounter between women and men who name the world, it must not be a situation where some name on behalf of others" (1970/1997). Both emphasize that each person has a valuable experience, perspective and voice to bring to the process. Participation means dialogue. Dialogue is based on people sharing their own perception of a problem, offering their opinions and ideas, and having the opportunity to make decisions or recommendations.
As an Advocate, being able to engage in dialogue with survivors in their journeys offers a meaningful opportunity for survivors to reclaim their voice and to truly and fully be heard. This experience will strengthen the survivor’s ability to recognize their choices and fully engage in making choice in their best interest.
Dialogue Requires Faith
“Dialogue requires an intense faith in human beings; their power to make and remake, to create and recreate; faith that the vocation to be fully human is the birthright of all people, not the privilege of an elite.
Founded on love, humility and faith, dialogue becomes horizontal relationship of mutual trust. Trust is established by dialogue; it cannot exist unless the words of both parties coincide with their actions.
Nor can dialogue exist without hope, hope is rooted in our human incompleteness, from which we move out in constant search, a search which can be carried out only in communion with other people. As long as I fight, then I am moved by hope, and if I fight with hope, then I can wait.
Finally true dialogue cannot exist unless it involves critical thinking, thinking which sees reality as a process, in transformation, thinking which does not separate itself from action but constantly involves itself in the real struggle without fear of the risks involved.”
Paulo Freire (1970/1997)
Moving from Crisis Response
Transitional housing is not a crisis program. Importantly, survivors are in a process of moving away from living in crisis to developing a solid foundation as they move forward in their lives. Advocate will be a valuable part of helping survivors lay that foundation. Many Advocates will need to learn how to work in ways that are not in crisis, and to be the calm, stable presence.
This is a time to slow down and to think about what is important. The chart below can offer some assistance with thinking about what is a crisis and what is not (Czarto, 2012). The Advocate being able to make this distinction is important in helping the survivor learn how to make this distinction.
Boundaries and Limits
While an Advocate is engaged in working closely with a survivor, it is important to have boundaries and limits. Advocates often talk about how they work to address every need of the survivor; in a perfect world, it would be wonderful if an Advocate could be so completely available. This is not realistic for Advocates.
Without healthy boundaries and limits, an Advocate can burnout, a survivor may become dependent on the Advocate to the point that the Advocate loses their personal relationships.
Boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits people set in order to create a healthy sense of personal space. Boundaries can be physical or emotional in nature, and they help distinguish the desires, needs, and preferences of one person from another (Good Therapy, 2017). Survivors have had their personal boundaries violated because of the violence. They have lost their sense of personal space, emotional and mental space as well as spiritual space. The Advocate – survivor relationship models ways for the survivor to restore and reclaim their boundaries and identify what they limits are.
Housing and Homeless Services TTA: This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.