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Domestic Violence Promising Practices Guide (PPG)

Domestic Violence Promising Practices Guide (PPG) is a collection of resource topics that represent a wide variety of common services and practices of local domestic violence programs (DVPs). The audience for the PPG is the full spectrum of board members, directors, supervisors, advocates and volunteers working DVPs. The PPG focuses on the diverse needs of survivors and individuals impacted by domestic violence and examines trauma-informed service delivery through the lens of racial and social justice. It also includes service modifications relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community Connections - Organizations and collaborations that address the diverse needs of survivors.

Shelter - Services and procedures that are connected to the provision of shelter and housing.

Data and Evaluation - Processes related to measuring the quantity and quality of services being provided.


Legal Advocacy

Advocates should be aware of the resources available to survivors of domestic violence in the legal system. Identifying community resources with legal expertise and connecting a survivor to them can help a survivor navigate the complex legal system.


Mobile Advocacy

Not all clients are able to access services on-site or in shelter. By meeting with them in community spaces, we can reach those who otherwise might not be able to receive help. The goal is to meet people where they are, with limited barriers to accessing support. Mobile advocacy promotes and creates better outcomes for some survivors for whom this strategy best meets their needs.


Lethality Assessment Protocol

The Lethality Assessment Program is one of two programs in the country recognized by the Department of Justice as an evidence-based "promising practice" to reduce domestic violence related fatalities. The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia has adopted the LAP for use across the Commonwealth.


DSS Connections

The local department of social services (LDSS) is an important resource for those serving survivors of domestic violence. Services and assistance provided by LDSS include child and adult protection, SNAP, TANF, assistance with utilities, and child care.


Law enforcement

The first contact for some survivors may be with law enforcement. When a DVP has a strong connection to their local law enforcement, the likelihood of a referral to the DVP will increase. Building connections with local law enforcement can help survivors get the other community resources that they need.



Virginia's court system responds to criminal and civil cases, issuing protective orders and other remedies related to domestic violence. While not all survivors choose to access Virginia's court system, this system does provide a set of tools outlined in the Code of Virginia, and can be helpful for survivors.


Safety Planning

Safety planning and continually assessing safety is a critical part of work with domestic violence survivors and their children. Building safety assessments and safety planning into every activity with survivors can emphasize the need for them to be aware of safety options.


Voluntary Services

The voluntary services model is based on the idea that a survivor's participation in any domestic violence service should be voluntary. This has also been referred to as the "reduced rules" or "rights and responsibility" model. When survivors are engaged in directing their care, they experience better outcomes.



Depending on the resources available to survivors, access to transportation may be limited. Simply getting to the shelter may be a barrier to receiving services, and the lack of transportation during a shelter stay can lead to isolation. Reliable transportation during a shelter stay is critical to ensuring survivors have the ability to turn their choices into action.


Shelter Intake

The intake process is an opportunity for advocates to assess the unique circumstances and needs of each individual survivor. Additionally, it is a chance for the survivor to begin to tell their story and build a trusting relationship with an advocate.


Access to Shelter

Shelters use various methods to invite people in for services including phone-based or in-person assessments and third-party referrals. Access to emergency shelter is crucial for connecting survivors to a safe place to stay. Shelter access should be as low-barrier as possible with a goal of serving every person who can benefit from a stay.


Language Access

Communicating in one's primary language is an important part of bringing one's whole self to a given situation. People with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and people who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing have the right to be free from discrimination based on language. Having a robust language access plan for survivors allows for meaningful access to services.


Exiting Clients

The end of an individual's or family's stay at a domestic violence shelter can be a challenging time. Each agency should have a specific protocol for transitioning individuals out of shelter, regardless of the reason, and try to be as supportive as possible during the exit process.


Shelter Design

Survivors deserve to live with dignity while staying in a shelter. The physical layout, look, and feel of a shelter directly impacts the experience of survivors and staff. Meeting the needs of survivors through thoughtful design strategies can enhance access and minimize conflict.



Access to safe and affordable housing is one of the most pressing concerns for survivors of violence and abuse. Domestic Violence Programs will work with survivors to overcome obstacles to safe and affordable housing through community partnerships and ongoing advocacy.


Food Justice

Everyone has an inherent right to access healthy, fresh, and culturally appropriate food. Domestic violence shelters must care about food justice in order to meet the needs of survivors, using food as another opportunity in supporting survivor agency, voice, and choice.


Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies can happen at any time, and can directly impact shelter residents and staff. Disasters can lead to an influx of individuals seeking support from domestic violence programs. Having a clear emergency preparedness plan is critical for an agency's ability to provide continuous services, and for their success.


Shelter Policies

Shelter policies are necessary for the safety and security of clients, residents, and staff. Being thoughtful about the process of developing guidelines can create a more supportive environment for clients.


Supervision of Children

Parents may need additional support in assessing the needs of their children. At all times, but especially in a shelter setting, children are to be provided a safe and supportive environment. This entry affirms parenting in the scope of all parental figures, whether biological parent, family kin, and/or legal guardian.


Data Collection

Programs are typically required to report data to funding sources. Data can be used to monitor client services and program integrity, and should be collected in a way that protects a survivor's privacy and honors their experiences with trauma.

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