The Rural Digest 
    An e-newsletter featuring the best and promising practices, research, and training and assistance to support rural efforts to end violence against women. Note: current grantees of OVW’s Rural Program will receive email notification of these newsletters. If you think you are not on this email list, please email us at to let us know and we’ll get you added to our list.

    Filtered sunlight through trees

    Praxis offers support to implement your rural coordinated interagency responses to violence against women, and to strengthen individual and institutional advocacy on behalf of survivors. The Rural Digest features replicable, time-tested intervention models, social change-advocacy strategies, and tools, templates, and materials. Access our centralized Rural Clearinghouse to connect with rural-specific training, TA, information, strategies, research, and with your peers (the list of current Rural Grantees have been updated to include FY17 Rural Grantees). 

    Advocacy Strategies: Expert Witness Testimony
    CCR Strategies: A Framework for Effective Meetings
    New Praxis Rural Resource and Upcoming Rural Webinar Training
    Upcoming Rural and Related Training
    Uniquely Rural Resources, Approaches, and Information

    Advocacy Strategies: Exploring the Role of Domestic Violence Experts and Expert Witness Testimony in Domestic Violence Cases*
    Image of empty courtroom with witness stand

    Advocates are increasingly expanding their advocacy strategies to include serving as expert witnesses in domestic violence criminal cases. This can be especially necessary in rural areas where other possible experts may be more difficult to find. Expert testimony in prosecution cases is used to explain to the jury the effects of domestic violence on the victim and to counter common myths about domestic violence. Domestic violence advocates can qualify as experts and testify about their own observations of the behavior of victims through thousands of contacts with victims in shelters and community programs. For example, they can testify about these common behaviors: most victims do not report a first assault, even to friends and family, and they rarely report the first assault to police. And advocates can provide testimony to challenge some of the most common myths about domestic violence, victim responses, and perpetrators’ behaviors.

    The widespread myths surrounding domestic violence lead to a focus on the behavior of the victim rather than the behavior of the defendant. Many people on juries, unaware of the effects of trauma, may find the victim’s behavior baffling and will have expectations about how a victim “should” behave. When this expectation conflicts with the victim’s actual behavior, the public may find a victim’s behavior to be “counterintuitive,” and therefore, evidence of a lack of credibility. However, experts who work with victims of domestic violence (advocates, social workers, therapists, counselors, etc.) recognize that this behavior, viewed as counterintuitive by the public, is often a common response to trauma.

    Counterintuitive victim behavior is actions or statements made by victims which seem to be illogical or poor decisions by the victim; behaviors that are not what the average person or juror would “expect” from a victim. The term “counterintuitive behavior” is not a psychological term nor does it define a victim’s behavior. Rather, it defines the public’s perception of the victim’s behavior and the disconnect between this perception and the victim’s actual behavior.

    Not uncommonly, defense attorneys exploit public distrust of domestic violence victims, suggesting that the victim’s behavior is not consistent with a “real” victim. The need for the victim’s credible testimony is often a cornerstone of the prosecutor’s case. If the perceived counterintuitive behavior is not explained, widely held myths about battering may become extremely effective weapons that the defense can use against the victim. These common myths include:

    • If it was really that bad, the victim would leave.
    • Victims of domestic violence provoke the violence.
    • Domestic violence is caused by the use of alcohol or drugs by the batterer and/or victim.
    • Domestic violence is out-of-control behavior by the batterer.
    • Domestic violence is caused by stress of the batterer and/or victim.
    • Women exaggerate the problem of domestic abuse.
    • Battered women are masochistic and provoke abuse; they must like it or they’d leave.

    Expert testimony can also help juries understand why the victim might have:

    • Returned to the relationship with the defendant after the assaultive incident.
    • Told contradictory stories about how her injuries were inflicted.
    • Waited to pursue prosecution.
    • Recanted statements made to the police and others about the abuse.

    Expert witnesses do not testify about a particular victim, but rather how victims, in general, may behave. Experts can also be helpful to prosecutors in preparing a case whether or not their testimony is used at trial. Experts can provide the benefit of their experience and help prosecutors draft questions on direct examination and may help prosecutors to draft questions for a recanting victim. 

    If you are not already serving as an expert or testifying as an expert witness in your community, consider approaching the subject with your CCR partners. Below are some resources that may help you in bringing this important advocacy strategy to your community:

    *This article is adapted from “Introducing Expert Testimony to Explain Victim Behavior in Sexual and Domestic Violence Prosecutions”, Jennifer Long, National District Attorneys Association, (August 2007).

    CCR Strategies: Framework for Effective Meetings

    By Praxis International

    Close up image of overlapping hands of people of different ethnicitiesIn our last issue, we focused on “what” it is we are planning for, and leading, when we engage in an interagency collaboration – namely changing problematic practices and creating better outcomes for both individual women/survivors and for all women/survivors in our communities. In this issue, we explore one element of “how” we do our CCR work – using meetings effectively. Sometimes our work is leading change by facilitating and managing large groups of people to “get on the same page” or to analyze and correct problematic practices in their collective handling of cases involving violence against women. More frequently, however, it involves small, ad hoc committees working on a given problem. Sometimes, there is too much tension between agencies or between the advocacy community and key systems agencies to meet constructively in a group, so it can work better to meet individually with the agencies, negotiating change with each one separately.

    But how do we decide when we should meet individually with practitioners or when we should meet as a group? Depending on your goals as a CCR coordinator and your current local circumstances, the following framework can help you decide what type of meeting will be most effective:

    Meeting Type: 


    • Introduction to someone, such as a new agency administrator
    • High level of tension and mistrust by agency or across agencies
    • Relay what has been learned in data-gathering, particularly the discovery of problems with agency practice


    • Evaluate case processing
    • Review/write policy

    Temporary work group

    • Plan focus groups with survivors or practitioners
    • Conduct a Safety & Accountability Audit or similar assessment

    Small standing work group

    • Ongoing individual case review and problem-solving
    • Evaluation and monitoring
    • Survivors’ advisory group or other ongoing consultation with victims of violence against women

    Large interagency group

    • Launch an interagency project
    • Acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments
    • Report to the community on interagency efforts, results of a Safety & Accountability Audit, reinforce shared commitment, etc.
    • Community education activities, such as awareness month

    Whether it is a one-to-one meeting or a large group, the following elements help conduct meetings that further the work and goals of an interagency response to violence against women.

    BEFORE Focused image of people meeting at a table

     Define clear goals
     Set agenda
     Involve the right people


     Establish a positive tone
     Maximize the impact
     Manage the agenda


     Assess effectiveness
     Follow up with the group
     Take the next steps 

    Resources on making meetings as effective as they can be:
    Essential Skills in Coordinating Your Community Response to Battering: An E-Learning Course for CCR Coordinators
    Roles, Tasks, Responsibilities for CCR Coordinators, March 2017 webinar
    Leveraging Key Features of Rural Life to Benefit CCR Efforts, December 2014 webinar 
    Increasing Your Program Capacity for System’s Change, October 2014 webinar
    The Crucial Role of Community-based Advocates in Rural CCRs, May 2014 webinar
    Three Key Skills for Successful Interagency Leadership, January 2014 webinar
    Rural Realities Blog, from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute @ Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault has several entries regarding effective meetings

    New Praxis Rural Resource and Upcoming Rural Webinar Training


     Make the CallA Toolkit on Implementing Advocacy-Initiated Response to Domestic Violence Crimes is a new web-based toolkit, developed by Praxis, that offers free, on-demand resource for advocacy programs to explore, adapt, and implement an Advocacy Initiated Response (AIR) model to connect victims of battering with community-based advocacy as soon as possible after law enforcement has responded to a domestic violence-related 911 call. The toolkit helps you learn about the model and explore key questions for advocacy programs exploring whether and how to implement AIR. You can review strategies for approaching law enforcement, listen to rural advocates talk about their experiences with AIR, and download the complete procedures manual for advocacy programs to implement AIR.

    Access Make the Call here on our website, or directly at:

    2018 Rural Webinars

    • September 26: Coordinating a Community Response (CCR) in a Rural Area – One Program’s Experience
    • November 28: Interpreting for Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

    Upcoming Rural and Related Training Events 

    OVW’s National Technical Assistance Provider Training Events Calendar

    Blueprint for Safety Institute

    July 17-19, 2018
    St. Paul, MN

    National Latin@ Institute
    July 18-20, 2018
    New Orleans, LA

    Praxis webinars on institutional analysis, community assessment, and Safety & Accountability Audits

    • August 7, Mapping Your System’s Response to Violence Against Women
    • October 2, Uncover Disparity: Safety & Accountability Audit Design and Data Collection
    • December 4, Supporting Safety Together: Reviewing Child Protective Services Policies, Forms, and Case Records

    Uniquely Rural Resources, Approaches, and Information

    Learn about ways rural communities are working to end violence against women and are employing strategies to address related issues:

    This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K057 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Justice.

    [June 2018]