By Kim Holland, Director of Project DVORA,
and Amie Newman, Director of Marketing & Communications
This year, on May 18, 2022, Project DVORA reached a milestone: our 22nd anniversary with Jewish Family Service. Originally, the program was created with the acronym Domestic Violence Outreach Response and Advocacy (DVORA) in mind. Though the explanation of the acronym is often forgotten, we are proud to continue the work of domestic violence outreach and advocacy in the Jewish and broader communities.
Project DVORA works with survivors of intimate partner violence. We help those who are currently in an abusive relationship, actively exiting an abusive relationship or still experiencing abuse from a previous relationship. And we work with the community to help respond to domestic violence, by offering prevention programs and trainings to schools, rabbis, and other community leaders.
We also support a small number of community members who need legal help with civil scenarios, although the community need is great. Project DVORA is a small team with two full time advocates and one lead advocate, and a staff attorney. We are immensely grateful for our partner organizations in King County who can support a much larger number of people seeking help.
One of the unique and immensely helpful aspects of Project DVORA is our ability to provide what’s called “flexible financial assistance” to people in abusive relationships. With generous donors and community support, we can offer financial assistance to survivors of intimate partner violence which allows them and their families to re-stabilize after leaving an abusive relationship. As I wrote in my last blog post, Project DVORA can assist survivors with exactly what they need when flexible financial assistance is made possible. Instead of saying, “We only have funding for housing”, we can say, “What do you need help with”? and explore the options together. And if the survivor needs help with medical bills so she can get her insulin, then we can do that. If she needs help with groceries until she can connect with government assistance, we can do that too.
However, community need remains high—and only seems to be increasing. Over the last several months, we have seen an uptick in callers. In November 2021, we received 11 calls from community members in need. By January the number had increased to 27 and as of April 2022, we were recording approximately 26 callers each month.
We are not unique in this regard. Project DVORA’s increased callers matches King County data around the increase of domestic violence in the broader community. According to a recent King County Auditor’s Office report, rates of homicides, as a result of intimate partner violence, in 2020 and 2021 were more than twice as high as the years from 2015 – 2019. These horrifying statistics are a reminder that domestic violence can mean life or death.
For this reason and because we know how hard it can be for people in abusive relationships to take the first step and reach out for help, we wanted to do something to address the increase in callers we’ve seen. Limited staff capacity meant we could not continue to serve everyone who came to JFS for help. Because JFS is an organization that can remain nimble and flexible to support shifting community needs, Project DVORA created what we call “Limited Services.”
“Limited Services” allows an individual who reaches out to Project DVORA to receive up to three check-ins with an advocate. These check-ins might include safety planning, connections to other resources, or one-time financial assistance. With this pivot, we can support more survivors of intimate partner violence in our community, rather than simply reroute them to another community resource.
We are always looking at creative solutions to build staff capacity and therefore help as many people as we can. Currently, Project DVORA shares an intern with another stellar JFS program, Refugee & Immigrant Services, which has helped both teams expand our ability to work with more clients. We have also increased our prevention and outreach work in the community. In the last year, we met with seven Jewish community organizations, to ensure they know about our work to support survivors of intimate partner violence. We know that by involving both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in our prevention efforts, we can work together to keep people safe, provide compassionate and respectful help to those in need, and work toward a time when domestic violence is no more.