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The Advocacy Learning Center: A Force for Change

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) announced the inaugural class of the Advocacy Learning Center, a program created to improve the skills and abilities of advocates to be a powerful force in the movement to end violence against women. OVW awarded a $3.5 million technical assistance grant in Fiscal Year 2009 to Praxis International of St. Paul, MN in partnership with Manavi of New Brunswick, NJ to create the Advocacy Learning Center.  Whether organizations work with those who have been sexually assaulted, battered, or stalked, or with women who are trafficked or prostituted, the Department of Justice and organizations working in the field share the same vision: an end to violence against women.  These groups may advocate in different ways, but something about the work is the same.  Something about the different women served is the same.  Something about the harm to survivors is the same.  And the questions asked are the same: Where did this violence come from?  What can we do to end it? Often, the communities with strong, effective responses to violence against women first had a strong and compelling advocacy program. This advocacy uses a specialized set of knowledge and skills to empower, support, and facilitate victims’ efforts to preserve their safety, rights, and integrity. At the same time, it also reforms social institutions, public policy, and community norms to protect victims, hold abusers accountable, and create violence-free communities.  The Advocacy Learning Center is intended to build upon a 30-year legacy of thousands of advocates and advocacy programs around the country working to protect survivors and create violence-free communities. It will strengthen how advocates provide individual, community and systems advocacy, and improve their ability to strategize and act to change responses to violence against women. Catherine Pierce, OVW Acting Director, explained the benefits of the Advocacy Learning Center:
“The work of advocates is critical to the work of ending violence against women and providing a life line to victims. Advocates have long been a source of hope and support to survivors in the aftermath of trauma, and we will support them and create a network of strong advocates that will work together for generations to come through the Advocacy Learning Center.”
OVW worked with Praxis International and Manavi through a cooperative agreement to establish the Advocacy Learning Center.  The first class of trainees assembled in October and included 50 participants from 17 organizations, representing 12 states and one U.S. territory.   Each selected organization sent a team of participants, including management and front-line staff, to the course.  Over a two-year period, these teams will try new approaches to their advocacy. They will participate in on-site and distance learning activities, in addition to site visits and independent study. As Ellen Pence, the founder of Praxis International and a victim advocate since 1975, says:
 “We must work in a way that recognizes that, as we stand for this woman, we also stand for countless others who will share her plight.  We must be about the business of making a path forward for all women that is free of institutional obstacles, free of paradigms that blame women for the attacks on their bodies, free of the insistence that if she had just done things differently she could have avoided all of this. The principle that a woman cannot be free of this violence until women are free of it is at the core of our work.”
Learn more about The Advocaacy Learning Center (PDF), here.
Updated April 27, 2017