360 Degrees to Ending Domestic Abuse


Domestic Violence cannot be simply ended by just separating victims from their abusive partners. You need to look at the entire picture of what is contributing to the cycle of abuse if we are truly going to bring an end to domestic violence. At Harbor House, we believe in the importance of providing services that offer a comprehensive approach to ending domestic violence. We have identified five areas of ending the cycle of abuse; Education and Prevention, Outreach and Support Services, Crisis and Shelter Services, Offender Services, and Legal and Systems Advocacy. Let’s take a quick deeper look at each of these five areas. 

  1. Community Education and Prevention – This program informs/educates the community on domestic abuse and the services available at Harbor House. A community that is educated on domestic violence and is informed on how to recognize, respond, and refer loved ones that are experiencing domestic abuse. Individuals experiencing abuse, we hope, will better identify the abuse they are experiencing. Once individuals receive services and support and begin a new chapter of life, having a community aware of abuse and its effects creates a better support network.
  2. Outreach and Support Service – Our support advocates work to reach individuals experiencing domestic abuse and provide them with support services to address the abuse before they (or after) they are in a crisis situation. Our support services and outreach use one on one services, support groups, safety planning, and referrals. 
  3. Crisis and Shelter Services – When individuals come to us in crisis for safety and support we meet them where they are to address their crisis. Our crisis services work to safety plan, ensuring the individual is safe, and that have the support they need to move out of crisis. 
  4. Offender Services – Providing information and education to individuals who are using abusive behaviors on loved ones. We need to reach those using abuse in order to get the entire family in a better place, regardless if the partners stay together or not. If we want a community free of domestic abuse we need to include those currently using abusive behaviors in our work. 
  5. Legal and Systems Advocacy – Educating and advocating for legal and systems change to better address the complex dynamics of domestic violence and how it affects the individuals involved. We know that our involvement in different aspects of our legal system is crucial to advocating for those experiencing abuse. Harbor House is actively involved and has relationships with our District Attorney’s office, Child Protective Services, Family Court, Community Crisis Response Teams, Law Enforcement and more. 

In order to build our community’s capacity to respond to domestic abuse, Harbor House has developed two key initiatives – our Community Outreach Initiative and our Prevention Education Initiative. By educating community members about domestic abuse and its repercussions, as well as how to help someone in an abusive relationship, we’re building a compassionate community of domestic abuse advocates. The more advocates we add to that community, the faster it grows, and the closer we get to ending domestic abuse in Northeast Wisconsin.

An educated community also means that we have a network of support for those experiencing abuse, a group that can recognize the signs of abuse, react to individuals experiencing abuse in a healthy way, and refer the individual experiencing abuse to Harbor House or their local domestic abuse support program. Once an individual has received services and support, and informed community sets the victim up for success because of the strong support system waiting to support them. We train and educate employers, faith communities, medical professions, law enforcement, care providers, and other groups knowing that statistically, every person we present to knows someone that has or is experiencing domestic abuse (one in three women and one in seven men) and that they will now have tools to better support them. 

Our Community Education and Prevention Program is a program we are striving to expand in the coming years as we look to shift more of our services to work towards outreach and prevention instead of working in crisis situations with our clients. The earlier we can reach those experiencing abuse, the sooner we can help them find safety, gain tools and connections that help them make the best decisions for their future, and achieve a life in which they are thriving instead of surviving. 

What can I do? 

If you are reading this wondering how you can help to be a part of the solution of ending domestic abuse. Consider groups you are a part of (faith communities, employment, hobby groups, etc.), would there be an opportunity to host a Lunch + Learn or a Harbor House presentation to educate your group on domestic abuse and the services available locally? The more people that understand the signs of domestic abuse, the greater chance we have of reaching people experiencing domestic violence and getting them help before they are in a crisis situation. 

For more information on hosting a Lunch + Learn or other presentation reach out to our Manager of Community Education and Prevention, Tracy Plamann at tracy.plamann@harborhousewi.org