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Victim/survivor-centred approach

Last edited: January 14, 2019

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A victim/survivor-centered approach means placing the needs and priorities of victims/survivors of violence at the forefront of any response.  Planning, design and delivery of coordinated responses should seek to uphold the following basic principles, which should also be incorporated into the professional training and practices of all agencies delivering the coordinated response.  Needs and priorities of victims/survivors often include:

Being treated with dignity and respect.


  • Listening to the victim/survivor and allowing her to make decisions; 
  • Having private spaces to undertake interviews/give statements;
  • Forensic practice that explains the process and asks permission for each step;
  • Ensuring that services can respond appropriately to women with disabilities, mental health problems or other special needs; and
  • Ensuring that all service providers receive training in the causes, consequences and intersecting dynamics of violence against women, the many forms this violence takes and the impact on victims/survivors.

Access to a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment.


  • Fostering a culture of belief;
  • Having trained female staff as first responders; and
  • Ensuring all professionals know how to reinforce the basic message that violence is not the victim/survivor’s fault.

Access to appropriate information.


  • Providing verbal and/or written information about legal and human rights; and
  • Giving explanations of what services can and cannot do and what options are available to victims/survivors.

Being enabled to make an informed choice.


  • Allocating enough time and resources, possibly including referral to a specialized service, so that women can assess their best option.

The right to privacy and confidentiality.


  • Using an ID number or pseudonym and only sharing personal information with other agencies where women have given consent; and
  • Holding closed hearings and restricting or barring media from cases of violence.

These principles should form part of coordination protocols, with one important role of the coordination body being to then push these protocols down into individual agency policies, and develop mechanisms for monitoring the extent to which they are translated into practice.  Agencies will need to examine their policies and usual practices to ensure they are in line with these principles. Terms of reference, messages or materials developed, and any individual cases discussed at coordination meetings, should be approached from a victim/survivor-centred perspective, avoiding real names and irrelevant personal details. 

It is also important to remember that some of those participating in the coordinated response may be victims/survivors themselves – they may participate in that capacity or could be a professional working in one of the sectors involved who may or may not have disclosed their experiences.  This makes upholding the core principles of a victim/survivor-centred approach even more vital so that practices both within the coordination body and in partner agencies do not lead at any point to victims/survivors being made to feel stigmatised, silenced or exploited.

Integrating a victim/survivor-centred approach into a coordinated response means:  

  • Foundational principles should be enhancing women’s safety and minimising harm for all agencies involved;

  • Training should ensure service providers know how to translate these principles into their routine practices – this includes highlighting all the ways victims/survivors may be blamed or held responsible for violence and working to ensure this does not happen;

  • Prioritising confidentiality and seeking consent in information sharing protocols.

  • Ensuring information about support services, legal and human rights is widely available and accessible to victims/survivors; and

  • Gathering feedback from victims/survivors on the response of individual agencies (support services or state sectors such as police, health) and referrals between them.

  • Enabling victim-survivors to participate in the development of the coordinated response and/or provide feedback on how it works.


Tools and resources

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault has developed a series of core intervention principles and a short guide to adopting a victim/survivor-centred approach, which show how these principles can be applied to practice.

The SART Toolkit contains a checklist to help shape or improve victim-centred policies and practices.