by Amy Shepherd
Victim Services Domestic Violence Shelter Tour and Information Site
Developed/Maintained by: Victim Services
Last Updated: 6/16/98
Date of Review: 6/25/98
Advocates for Abused and Battered Lesbians
URL: [removed 10/18/2001: domain sold; according to an email message received 1/30/2002 it is now part of the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse (URL: http://www.nwnetwork.org/index.htm.) See in particular the domestic violence and power tools sections of the Network's site.
Developed/Maintained by: AABL
Last Updated: 5/16/98
Date of Review: 6/25/98
Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse Electronic Clearinghouse
Developed/Maintained by: MINCAVA
Last Updated: 5/16/98
Date of Review: 6/25/98
While the Internet has a wealth of information on many topics, it can be difficult to find reliable, useful websites. In the following review, I will highlight three excellent websites that address the issue of domestic violence.
Victim Services is a New York-based, independent, not-for-profit organization that assists victims of crimes with a variety of financial, legal, and social services. In addition to their main site, they also have a separate site, the Shelter Tour and Information Site, which showcases their network of shelters and offers information about domestic violence. Rather than simply reproducing a printed brochure online or listing contact information, this easy-to-navigate site uses the medium to its advantage, combining well-written FAQs (frequently asked questions) such as "What is domestic violence? Does anyone ever have any fun in the shelter? What about security?", brief articles, personal stories, artwork, and links.
The main attraction is the interactive shelter tour. Virtual bedrooms feature photos and personal stories of residents such as Felicia, who left her abusive husband, then got a green card and a new place to live through the shelter. Common rooms contain brief articles or FAQs about shelter programs, such as "Poetry at Passage House," which gives residents a chance to share their personal experiences through weekly poetry readings. This tour normalizes the shelter experience as it educates about domestic violence. Another thoughtful, well-designed part of the site is the Children's Art Gallery, which offers many pieces of artwork created by children who have stayed at Victim Services' shelters. The images are held together narratively by the lyrics to a song that describes finding a place "Far Away from the Storm." Included are links to a description of the program that yielded the song and artwork as well as a link to a brief, but more scholarly article on how children are affected by domestic violence.
Additionally, the site includes other components common to sites on domestic violence: information on making a safety plan and contacting police, short articles, contact information, and links to additional resources. Refreshingly, the links are not the main focus of the site, but rather a complement, directing readers towards additional information about national and international shelters and organizations. All of the links are annotated in the site's native language, whether that is English, Spanish, or Italian. Overall, this site is useful not only as outreach to women living in violent situations, but also as an educational tool about violence and a promotional vehicle for Victim Services' shelter system.
Another organization that provides a very useful site on domestic violence is the Puget Sound (WA)-based organization Advocates for Abused and Battered Lesbians (AABL). This clear, consistent, attractive site distinguishes itself through its documentation. Choices within sections are annotated, articles are properly attributed, items are marked with the dates they were added or updated, and there is even a page with site specifications. Each page has a navigation bar on the left side, ensuring easy movement from one section to the next.
The Power Tools section of the AABL site includes information on creating a safety plan, checklists to help readers identify abusive behavior, FAQs on domestic violence, and a nice mix of signed online articles and excerpts from printed sources. In addition, this section provides a recommended reading section featuring links to local and national libraries and bookstores as well as site visitors' recommendations. Another well-developed section of the site is Voices, a collection of well-written and insightful personal stories about violence in lesbian relationships.
In addition to a section with links to other online resources, AABL's site provides a Global Directory of domestic violence resources. Unfortunately, because the AABL staff relies on submissions, this listing is incomplete. Of more local interest is AABL's Mission Statement and information on their services in the Puget Sound area.
Though this site is designed to assist women currently in abusive relationships with other women, it offers good information to anyone seeking knowledge about domestic violence (emotional, psychological, or physical) within lesbian relationships.
For more scholarly interests, there is the Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse (MINCAVA) Electronic Clearinghouse. MINCAVA is a well-known and respected organization. Their online site is an extension of their mission to aid higher education programs on violence, provide research on violence prevention, and act as an international resource for higher education, community-based programs, and professional organizations.
This site has much to offer: online searchable databases, syllabi and bibliographies, scholarly papers and reports, public and private funding sources, employment opportunities, a calendar of upcoming workshops and conferences, links, and news and discussion groups. Since the site is intended for use primarily by academics, the design resembles the appearance of other research tools; navigating this site and finding the information you need is much easier if you have previous experience with research methods and bibliographic tools such as catalogs and databases.
This frequently-updated clearinghouse is the definitive violence research site and will be enormously helpful to researchers and practitioners. Average Web surfers looking for basic material on domestic violence may be overwhelmed by the amount of information available.
[Amy Shepherd currently lives in Seattle and works as a computer tech at the University of Washington.]
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Mounted December 8, 1998.