We’re talking to survivors, homeless service providers, and experts to explore the little-known connection between domestic violence and homelessness. To do so, we’ve:
- Reported on the lived experiences of Southern California women surviving abuse and homelessness
- Examined where the social safety net has failed them
- Talked to advocates who are finding ways to keep survivors out of homelessness in the first place.
How and why did our newsroom launch this series?
Our newsroom is deeply committed to covering housing and homelessness. We were able to allocate staff time to explore the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness through a grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation. The foundation had no editorial control over what we reported or wrote about. It did provide access to educational conferences for the reporter.
Why does the series focus on women survivors?
Domestic and intimate partner abuse can happen to anyone. There are survivors of every gender expression. Statistically, however, women make up the vast majority, which is why we focused on that demographic. When you contrast the reasons individuals become unhoused, intimate partner violence is the key distinction between men and women. The dramatic over-representation of women among survivors makes it a public health crisis.
How did we approach the reporting and identify sources?
Our mantra: do no harm. When interviewing survivors, we use a lens of ‘trauma-informed reporting’, a phrase that sums up our responsibility to represent sources without exploitation and to respect the gravity of the trauma we ask them to discuss.
We intentionally connected with survivors through domestic violence providers. We did this for a variety of reasons.
- To ensure their status as currently safe from an abuser.
- To ensure they are equipped with access to counseling, resources and a community of support as they recount traumatic memories that can be emotionally triggering.
- To build in a sense of empowerment as we work with sources who have chosen to advocate for other survivors as part of their healing process.
Why didn’t we interview those who perpetrate abuse?
The goal of the reporting series was to capture the experience of survivors, and we show deference to their experiences by making them the center of our reporting. This series is about survivors and what they have overcome. They are the anchors and we strive to look at this issue through their eyes.
The truth is, active victims and survivors of past abuse feel differently about their harm-doers. Providers will sometimes hear that victims don’t want their abusers to go away, because they are also their romantic partners. They just want the abuse to stop. Many abusers learned the behavior because they were also abused. There are organizations doing intervention work with perpetrators of harm to stop the cycle of abuse. It’s an important perspective but not one that felt appropriate to include in our reporting. Our intention was to make space specifically for survivors.
What were you hoping your reporting would achieve?
Our goal is to disrupt the usual conversation surrounding domestic or intimate partner abuse. Survivors are too often blamed for their own trauma, sometimes even by providers where they seek services. The shame and stigma that comes with victim-blaming is a major barrier to getting help and finding safety. Well-intended providers and policy makers run the risk of infantilizing survivors and assuming they know what’s best and imposing that “help.” We hope to change this way of thinking so that survivors are seen empathetically, and capable of knowing what they need most.
How are you encouraging community participation?
As part of publishing this series, we are inviting questions and comments from our readers and listeners to incorporate into future reporting and engage with our audience on this topic.
What data sources did you use?
Downtown Women's Center
Domestic Violence Homeless Services Coalition
LA Family Housing
California Policy Lab
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
US Department of Veteran's Affairs
National Center on Family Homelessness, American Institutes for Research