Praxis International has developed and pioneered the use of the Safety Audit process as a problem-solving tool for communities that are interested in more effective intervention in violence against women. The Safety Audit is a tool used by interdisciplinary groups and community-based advocacy organizations to further their common goals of enhancing safety and ensuring accountability when intervening in cases involving violence against women. Its premise is that workers are institutionally organized to do their jobs in particular ways—they are guided to do jobs by the forms, policies, philosophy, and routine work practices of the institution in which they work. When these work practices routinely fail to adequately address the needs of people it is rarely because of the failure of individual practitioners. It is a problem with how their work is organized and coordinated. The Audit is designed to allow an inter agency team to discover how problems are produced in the structure of case processing and management.
Who conducts the Safety Audit?
The Safety Audit is an interdisciplinary self-assessment tool, so the work is conducted by a community team of violence against women experts and key workers who represent the systems that are being examined. Team members collect data and meet as a group to discuss the Audit findings; recommend changes in policy, procedure, and training; strategize how to implement the recommended changes; and help implement, monitor, and evaluate the changes over time.
In September 2002, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) selected Praxis to provide technical assistance on the use of Safety and Accountability Audits to any OVW grantee wanting to expand their knowledge of Safety Audit methods and to develop their capacity to conduct successful Audits. Under this technical assistance grant, Praxis provides a wide variety of resources and training opportunities to grantees conducting Audit projects.
Some communities subsequently contract with Praxis or our partner, the Battered Women’s Justice Project, as a consultant to their Audit project when the support they require exceeds the capacity of our technical assistance grant.
What happens during a Safety Audit?
The process involves examining whether institutional policies and practice enhance the safety of survivors, as well as enforce perpetrator accountability.
The Safety Audit does not assess individual effectiveness or actions. An Audit involves mapping the system, interviewing and observing workers, analyzing paperwork and other texts generated in the handling of cases involving violence against women. Recommendations coming out of an Audit process are directed toward institutional changes that will enhance victim safety and perpetrator accountability.
Find more information about the Audit methodology in thesection of this website.
How is the focus of a Safety Audit decided upon?
The Audit focuses on a question that the community wants to explore. All Audits are designed to look for how institutional responses centralize or marginalize attention to victim safety in case processing routines.
Many communities want to conduct their Audit through a particular lens. For example, one Audit team representing over twenty community agencies asked the question, “How do each of our interventions enhance or undermine battered women’s relationships with their children?” Another community asked, “What is the decision-making process that results in the removal, non-removal, or return of children in families experiencing the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment?” Another community asked, “How does our shelter help children talk about and understand the violence they are experiencing?” Most Audits ask, “How does X process centralize or marginalize victim safety?
See the Resources section of this website for more sample Audit questions.
Who serves on the Safety Audit Team?
The Audit team typically consists of practitioners from agencies involved in the case processing under review.
All Audit teams have a significant presence of community-based advocates who have expertise in violence against women and a close relationship with victims. The goal is to have an analysis that incorporates the knowledge of a cross section of people who work with these cases everyday. Audit team members must be committed to inter agency cooperative work, confidentiality as agreed upon by the team, and an openness to find and fix problems without creating or deepening inter agency conflicts.
See the Audit team job description in the Logistics Guide, Section 1: Getting Started.
What about confidentiality?
The Safety Audit involves local team members who have access to sensitive information and records.
Team members sign a confidentiality agreement that indicates their understanding that Audit information is to be used and discussed only in reference to this specific Audit. They do not discuss details of cases with co-workers, friends, and/or family. The Audit team decides with approvals from their respective agencies on a process for handling and redacting case files. No individual Audit team member speaks on behalf of the Audit without the team’s approval. Audit teams may decide to make their work public or not. Individuals do not make that decision.
See sample confidentiality agreements in the Logistics Guide, Section 1: Getting Started.
How long does it take to do a Safety Audit?
Audits do not happen overnight. The time required depends on the scope and focus of the Audit, the available resources, the availability of an Audit coordinator, decisions about how and when to collect data, and the ability of the team to spend some concentrated days on data collection.
While each community’s experience varies, many Audits are three to six months in planning, one to twelve weeks in the data gathering phase (depending on the ability to devote an entire week to this phase as a team), and three full days or three months of sporadic meetings to generate the main findings and recommendations of the Audit. If the team decides to generate a full written report as opposed to a written summary of the findings and recommendations the writing can take five to ten days. Many Audit teams choose to prepare a summary report in writing because of the time it takes to prepare a full report. Other communities sense that without a full report the Audit will not be taken up by policymakers in a meaningful way.
What are the outcomes of a Safety Audit?
- Discovering gaps in safety and accountability within the case processing systems under review, i.e., answering the “Audit question.”
- Specific recommendations for system change that enable community partners to close the discovered gaps.
- New expertise in a process that can be used for ongoing community planning, evaluation, and problem-solving.
- New ways of community partners to work together.
See Reports from Completed Audits in the Resources section of this website.
Who can I contact for more information about a Safety Audit?
Contact Maren Woods, Program Manager, at (651) 699-8000 or