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Iowa Statewide Safe and Together Efforts Shift Focus to the Perpetrator

“We’ve been seeing a language change, and we’ve also been seeing a little bit of a shift in how we look at domestic violence cases and how we look at who we make responsible for what,” she said. “For example, we’ve stopped asking, ‘Well, what can the survivor do to keep people safe?’ because that’s really not how it should be. It should be the person with the problem who changes.”

The following is an excerpt from the Iowa State University post about the Safe and Together Iowa efforts:

Leah Kinnaird, a human services specialist and domestic violence response coordinator in human development and family studies, said the new model trains social workers, domestic violence advocates, and other child welfare partners to place more emphasis on children in domestic violence cases.

“It’s a philosophical change in how we’re approaching families,” she said. “We need to stop blaming victims for the wide variety of reasons that they are present in those relationships and start asking, ‘What presents the safety risk to children?’ And that is perpetrator behavior. So we have to start there and have that be our focus.”

Over the past year, the Child Welfare Research and Training Project has trained more than 1,130 child welfare state workers — including nearly every social worker in Iowa.

Beth Ann Stratton, a child protection supervisor with the Iowa Department of Human Services, said she has seen small but important changes in Iowa’s child welfare system through the Safe and Together Program.

“We’ve been seeing a language change, and we’ve also been seeing a little bit of a shift in how we look at domestic violence cases and how we look at who we make responsible for what,” she said. “For example, we’ve stopped asking, ‘Well, what can the survivor do to keep people safe?’ because that’s really not how it should be. It should be the person with the problem who changes.

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