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Transforming Conflict: Promoting Harmony and Healing in Shelter


Title: Enhancing Advocacy Skills for Effective Conflict Resolution in Domestic Violence Shelter Programs Author: Kenya Fairley Last modified by – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Transforming Conflict: Promoting Harmony and Healing in Shelter

Transforming Conflict Promoting Harmony and
Healing in Shelter
  • Presented by
  • Beth Schnorr, Executive Director
  • Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs
  • Appleton, WI
  • Developed from the Audio Conference Enhancing
    Advocacy Skills for Effective Conflict Resolution
    in Domestic Violence Shelter Programs
  • by Kenya Fairley, Program Manager, National
    Resource Center on DV
  • Lisa Fleming, Chief Operating Officer, Rose
    Brooks Center
  • Loretta Baum, Counselor, Family Crisis Center,
    Inc. of Prince Georges County

Workshop Goals
  • Increase understanding of the challenges
    associated with communal living
  • Explore different types of conflict
  • Examine ways to measure the intensity and impact
    of conflict within the shelter
  • Explore ways to reduce, resolve, contain, and
    regroup once conflict arises

Meeting Survivors Needs A Multi-State Study of
Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences
  • Captured the voices and experiences of over 3,400
    shelter residents in 215 programs across 8 states
    (CT, FL, IL, MI, NM, OK, TN, WA)
  • One section focused on the kinds of problems
    encountered by the shelter residents and the
    extent to which these problems were resolved

Challenges to Shelter Living
  • Sudden change in family circumstances
  • Living in close proximity to other families
  • Recovering from the crisis that led them to seek
  • Attending to their childrens reactions
  • Finding privacy
  • Getting along with other residents
  • Complying with shelter rules

Main Challenges Identified by Survivors
Resident Problems Encountered Resolved
Conflict with other Residents 32 73
Transportation 24 54
Time limits 16 50
Finding privacy 16 47
Curfew 14 61
Child discipline 13 66
Chores 13 59
Conflict with Staff 13 49
Choices of food 13 44
Key Areas of Conflict
  • Entering the Shelter
  • New Community or Neighborhood
  • Recovering from the effects of recent
  • Differences in culture and lifestyle
  • Temporary nature of shelter living
  • Adjustment to communal living environment
  • Settling in and adjustment to shelter living
  • Time needed to understand and adjust to the
    shelter structure and support system
  • Constant transition of families in/out of the
  • Difficulty establishing and/or maintaining a
  • Challenges in finding privacy

Key Areas of Conflict (continued)
  • Issues related to children and parenting
  • Differences in parenting styles and expectations
  • Limited services to assist parents with the
  • Prohibition of physical or corporal punishment
  • Varying responses/coping strategies of children
    exposed to dv
  • Shelter rules and structure
  • Some residents welcome structure while others
    experience it as overly structured/restrictive
  • Rules/Guidelines followed and enforced to varying
  • Residents responding in crisis mode

Impact of Domestic Violence on Children
Impact of Abuse on Children
  • Mental/Emotional Health
  • Heightened levels of anxiety
  • Difficulty distinguishing right from wrong
  • Sense of safety and security is compromised
  • Depression / helplessness / hopelessness
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Feeling burdened adult roles/care for siblings
  • Guilt, shame, feelings of isolation
  • Resentment towards one or both parents

Impact of Abuse on Children (continued)
  • Physical Health
  • Physical injuries
  • Bed wetting (episodic or regressive)
  • Trouble sleeping (inability to fall asleep, stay
    asleep, or nightmares)
  • Eating problems
  • Somatic complaints (headaches, stomach aches,
    body pains)
  • Regression in development
  • No reaction to pain at times
  • Education and Academics
  • Difficulty learning
  • Lack of motivation to participate in activities
    or complete goals
  • Compensation or overachieving behaviors

Impact of Abuse on Children (continued)
  • Behavior
  • Infants may adapt to violent, stressful
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Run aways
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Poor response to parental authority
  • Social/Interpersonal Relationships
  • Inability to empathize with others
  • Rigid stereotypes, perpetration of violence, and
  • Difficulty trusting
  • May resist intimacy
  • Poor conflict resolution skills
  • Greater risk of being involved with dating

Batterer Impact Parent-Child Relationship
  • Direct/indirect interference with parenting
  • Under duress, the victim-parent may not be able
    to fully attend to the needs of the children
  • Potential for child to absorb the batterers
    disrespect/contempt for the victim-parent
  • This can lead to distance in the parent-child
  • Particularly prevalent in boys age 8 and older,
    and in both sexes as teenagers

Batterer Impact Parent-Child Rel. (continued)
  • Child may exhibit violence towards the
  • Reproduction of battering behavior
  • Assumption of batterers role after separation
  • Use of children as weapons while together and
    after separation
  • Deliberate endangerment neglect/maltreatment to
    pressure the victim-parent into reconciliation
  • Threatening to take the children
  • Use of children as vehicles for communication

Shelter Rules Reduction and Elimination
How rules create conflict
  • Purpose to help ensure safety and wellbeing.
  • Monitoring and enforcement vs. build a trusting,
    respectful and equal relationship between staff
    and residents.
  • Role of monitor/enforcer strongly contradicts the
    core values and philosophies of our advocacy

Reducing Shelter Rules
  • Where to Start
  • Identify and describe your agencys mission,
    vision, values and philosophies.
  • Do current practices and rules support or
    conflict with your core values and philosophies?

Where to Start (continued)
  • Common Core Values and Beliefs
  • Safety and Respite from Violence and Control
  • Empowerment
  • Right to Self Determination
  • Right to Accessible Services

Where to Start (continued)
  • Implement as a Pilot Project.
  • Try it out. If it doesnt work you can change
    back to the old practices.
  • Establish new expectations for advocacy.
  • Replace these monitoring functions with advocacy
    that support your values and beliefs.
  • Establish new procedures for dealing with
    community living conflicts
  • Focus on What is a successful shelter stay?

Project Results
  • Fewer conflicts between staff and residents
  • Staff report better rapport in the absence of
    having to monitor and enforce rules.
  • Lessens the power and control staff have over
  • Fewer (or no) problems with chores, persons using
    drugs/alcohol, childrens bedtimes, etc.
  • Increase in positive results from resident
    satisfaction surveys
  • Average length of stay increased from 28 to 43

What is Conflict in the Shelter Setting?
Characteristics of Conflict
  • Conflict within the shelter setting cannot be
  • Differing perceptions of need and how to get them
  • Within the shelter setting, conflict may exist
    whether all parties are aware of it or not the
    conflict escalates at the time that other parties
    become aware of its existence
  • When managed well, conflict can be a very
    valuable teaching tool when managed poorly,
    conflict can become distracting, disruptive, and
    destructive within the shelter environment

Desired Outcomes of Conflict Resolution
  • Enhanced and more meaningful survivor/advocate
  • De-escalation of any additional or related
    tension or conflict
  • Increased understanding of shelter/agency
    services, opportunities, and limitations
  • Improved decision-making skills and increased
    understanding of how those decisions are made
  • Resolutions that will satisfy the needs and
    remove the disruption from the shelter environment

Desired Outcomes (continued)
  • A change in survivor and advocate behavior that
    will reduce future conflict and enhance provision
    of services
  • Reduction in tension/stress and better coping
    skills on the part of the survivor and advocate
  • Increased opportunities for success on the part
    of the survivor and advocate to meet established
  • Greater empowerment on the part of the survivor
    to continue working towards safety, independence,
    and self-sufficiency
  • Greater cohesiveness amongst the shelter
    residents and staff to maintain a stable shelter

Guidelines to resolving conflict situations
  • Respond in a timely manner in the best scenario
  • Prior to meeting with a resident(s) to discuss
    the conflict, process the situation with your
    supervisor or a colleague
  • It is best to plan ahead and determine which
    staff member is best suited to address the
  • If possible, have a 2nd staff member sit-in on
    the discussion, determine their role and level of
    participation in advance

Guidelines (continued)
  • Do not address the conflict situation until staff
    are able to remain calm and not take the
    resident(s) response personally, even if being
    verbally attacked or physically threatened
  • Anger on the part of the survivor may be a very
    real and valid response to life and/or shelter
  • Allow survivors to express their feelings, help
    them process through it, re-direct their energy
    towards a more positive solution
  • Rarely is the conflict about you as an
    individual remember that conflict arises out of
    differing needs
  • In times of crisis, people may sometimes behave
    in ways that they would not otherwise when they
    are safe and have their needs met.

Handling the DiscussionHuman Resources, Univ. of
California, Berkley
  • Acknowledge that a difficult situation exists.
  • Seek to understand
  • Let individuals express their feelings.
  • Define the problem. Determine the underlying
  • Find common areas of agreement, no matter how
  • Agree on the problem
  • Agree on the procedure to follow
  • Agree on worst fears
  • Agree on some small change to give an experience
    of success

Handling the Discussion (continued)Human
Resources, Univ. of California, Berkley
  • Find solutions to satisfy needs.
  • Problem-solve by generating multiple
  • Determine which actions will be taken.
  • Make sure involved parties buy into actions.
  • Determine follow-up you will take to monitor
  • Determine what youll do if the conflict goes

Scenario 1
  • Aisha requested a meeting with shelter staff to
    discuss Helens child Amy. On several occasions,
    Amy has burst into Aishas room without
    permission and on one occasion, Aisha came into
    the shelter from work and found Amy playing in
    her room with Aishas sons toys.
  • Each time, Aisha has tried to resolve this matter
    with Helen, who has talked to her daughter Amy
    about boundaries and personal space.
    Unfortunately, Amy just yells at Helen or runs
    away and continues to do what she wants. Now,
    Aishas sons Nintendo DS is missing and she
    believes that Amy has taken it.
  • Helen and Amy are headed out of the shelter to
    run errands and as Aisha is waiting for staff to
    talk to her, she decides to confront Helen in
    case they are leaving with the missing Nintendo

Questions to be explored
  • Should staff intervene or allow the confrontation
    to play itself out? Why or why not?
  • How might this conflict, and the details
    involved, impact the shelter environment?
  • Based on each families history of domestic
    violence, how should shelter staff work with each
    mother to resolve the conflict? How do they work
    with the children?
  • What recourse does Aisha have in this scenario?
  • What are the implications for the rules at the
    shelter regarding resident interaction,
    monitoring of children, theft, and privacy?

Scenario 2
  • Suki has been in the shelter for 3 months now,
    awaiting a final confirmation of her move-in date
    for transitional housing (its been rescheduled
    twice at this point).
  • Shes become increasingly frustrated with the
    slow response from the Housing Authority, and
    with the rules of the shelter which she finds to
    be very limiting and too strict. On a few
    occasions shes been written up for not having
    her daughter in school during the weekday.
  • This morning, Sukis frustrations boiled over and
    she screamed at the Shelter Director and made
    physically threatening gestures. Several
    residents saw this happen and now Suki has
    stormed out of the shelter.

Questions to be explored
  • How do you respond to the residents who have
    witnessed this entire exchange?
  • What will be the staff response to Suki when she
    returns to the shelter?
  • What are the implications for your continued
    service provision to Suki and her daughter?
  • How might Sukis past experiences with domestic
    violence and at the shelter, including past
    conflicts with staff, contribute to this
  • What role might shelter rules, program or funding
    goals, and advocacy philosophy play in this

Scenario 3
  • Recently, Kelly, the overnight weekend staff at
    the shelter, was out sick for a few days. Staff
    who filled in for her reported that a few women
    came in past curfew and two of them appeared
    inebriated. They made lots of noise and disturbed
    several of the children who had already been put
    to bed.
  • When confronted by relief staff, the residents
    said that Kelly lets them come in when they want
    to because its the weekend and she believes they
    need more freedom in the shelter.
  • To date, as the Shelter Director, youve received
    no reports that residents in the shelter have
    come in past curfew or been suspected of drinking
    alcohol, however you are aware that one of the
    women that came in late has a history of
    substance abuse.

Questions to be explored
  • As Kellys supervisor, how do you manage this
    situation upon her return?
  • How do you respond to the residents that have
    been breaking shelter rules with the permission
    of shelter staff?
  • Noting the past experiences of each of the women
    that came in past curfew, including
    victimization, shelter living, and various
    interactions with staff, how might those
    experiences have contributed to this situation?

Scenario 4
  • Judy arrived at the shelter late last night and
    needs court accompaniment
  • for a Protective Order hearing this morning. Her
    case is quite severe and
  • involves use of strangulation, weapons, and
    threats to kill her by her
  • partner who is a law enforcement officer.
  • Prior to Julys arrival, another resident, Donna
    requested transportation and
  • accompaniment to her appointment for transitional
    housing shes new to
  • the area and very nervous about her interview.
    At this time, theres only
  • one staff member (the Case Manager) whos
    available to go to one of the
  • appointments.

Questions to be explored
  • Which appointment should the Case Manager attend?
  • What other resources/options might be offered to
    the resident who will not be accompanied by the
    Case Manager?
  • How will that message be delivered?
  • What are the implications for staff relationships
    with these residents?
  • What role might agency policies, program or
    funding goals, and advocacy philosophy play in
    this situation?

Questions to be explored (continued)
  • What role might agency policy, shelter rules, and
    advocacy philosophy play in this situation?
  • What are the implications for staff relationships
    with residents in the shelter? Consider those
    that were involved and those that were not.
  • How do you raise and discuss these issues at your
    next staff meeting? Consider whether there are
    factors that make exceptions to the rules
    necessary. Who should be making that judgment and
    on what basis?

Reference Materials
  • For related materials, research, and resources,
    visit VAWnet the National Online Resource Center
    on Violence Against Women at or
    use the links below.
  • Conflict Resolution Tools for Domestic Violence
    Shelter Staff (http//
  • Meeting Survivors Needs A Multi-State Study of
    Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences