AARDVARC - (An Abuse, Rape & Domestic Violence Aid & Resource Collection)

AARDVARC - (An Abuse, Rape & Domestic Violence Aid & Resource Collection)

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our main product is our website located at www.aardvarc.org. Through the site, users can get information on the dynamics of violent relationships, can get encouragement to take steps to increase safety for themselves and their children with an overall goal of ending the violence through a combination of safety planning, use of law enforcement and social services in their community, understanding and use of the judicial system and other programs in their local communities. One of the primary benefits offered is direct, yet anonymous, communication with our users via email and instant message. Many of our users come to us first to get an idea of what to expect if they ever decide to call the police, seek a protection order, or seek assistance at a shelter. For many, these unknowns are more scary than staying in their abusive relationships. By providing real-world information on what to expect, coupled with extensive choices and levels of resources, we assist victims of domestic violence to take the first steps toward improving personal safety in violent relationships.

About You
Location
Project Street Address
Project City
Project Province/State
Project Postal/Zip Code
Project Country
Your idea
Focus of activity

Direct Support

Year the initiative began

1996

Position your initiative on the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Stigma of Abuse

Which of the insights is the primary focus of your work?

Create Paths to Prevention or Remediation

If you believe some other barrier or insight should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic
Innovation
Description of Initiative

Our main product is our website located at www.aardvarc.org. Through the site, users can get information on the dynamics of violent relationships, can get encouragement to take steps to increase safety for themselves and their children with an overall goal of ending the violence through a combination of safety planning, use of law enforcement and social services in their community, understanding and use of the judicial system and other programs in their local communities. One of the primary benefits offered is direct, yet anonymous, communication with our users via email and instant message. Many of our users come to us first to get an idea of what to expect if they ever decide to call the police, seek a protection order, or seek assistance at a shelter. For many, these unknowns are more scary than staying in their abusive relationships. By providing real-world information on what to expect, coupled with extensive choices and levels of resources, we assist victims of domestic violence to take the first steps toward improving personal safety in violent relationships.

Innovation

We are amazed at the number of users who tell us that they contacted many agences, yet we were the only one to respond. We suspect that, quite simply, many traditional brick and mortar programs either don't regularly monitor email, or simply don't have the time or manpower to supply meaningful and timely responses. As we are web-based, this type of interaction (which gives victims considerable leeway to be honest and candid) is our bread and butter - yet always with the goal of joining victims to functional services in their own communities. Our approach serves to be the extra "umph" of support that victims often need when their initial attempts for assistance fail. "The police won't take a report, so there's nothing I can do." "The shelter is full, there's nothing I can do". "They dropped the charges, he'll probably kill me tomorrow". These are the types of things we hear far too often, and the exact type of situation we attempt to address; providing encouragement not to give up and pointing victims to alternate assistance or advocating with programs, law enforcement or social service organizations on their behalf.

Delivery Model

Victims can find our program on the web by using any standard search engine. In addition, many agencies and social service programs around the country from federal to state to city levels link to our site. In addition, news programs, newspapers, schools and educational institutions, social commentators, and many others provide referrals and links for those seeking assistance.

Key Operational Partnerships

Due to the political nature of the "battered women's movement", particularly in Florida where we are geographically located, we have purposely NOT openly partnered with many organizations. We feel that, in Florida, the domestic violence programs have non-productive and in some cases, dangerous constraints placed upon them by the state's pass-through funding agency. By maintaining our independence, we can then act as our Board of Directors sees fit, without having to submit to administrative "guidelines" that we feel conflicts with our mission of "telling it like it is". Unofficially, we work very closely with shelters in our area to keep our fingers on the "pulse" of what's happening in the brick and mortar world of domestic violence services. We also maintain professional memberships in various national-level organizations as well as serving on one of the state's 10 active Domestic Violence Fatality Review teams.

Impact
Financial Model

Our services are provided without cost to our beneficiaries.

What percentage, if any, of the total operating costs does earned income (from products, services, or other fees) represent?

30

How is the initiative financed? Is it financially self-sustainable or profitable? How much do beneficiaries contribute?

Our project is financed through donations and through affiliate partnerships with Amazon.com for book sales generated via the website and via Google.com for internet searches conducted via the site. Amazon and Google income alone are capable of keeping the website itself running, but we depend on donations for office supplies, equipment repair, software licensing, training, and other expenses. The more donations we receive, the more activities we can undertake (especially training and subscriptions to stay current with legal and legislative issues). Any surplus is used to provide support groups or other direct services in conjunction with our local shelter, or to build up our publications resource library.

Effectiveness

Concrete impact, as with many domestic violence programs, is difficult to gage in that we often do not receive additional communication from those who have received our assistance. With that said, we respond to an average of 40 email requests for information or guidance per week - about 80% of which involve domestic violence issues (the other 20% is comprised of sexual assault or child abuse inquiries). We average 4-5,000 page views per day on weekdays, and 2,200 - 3,000 per day on the weekends. We have statistics on website access going back a full 12 months.

How many people have benefited from your program over the last year? Which element of the program proved itself most effective?

For the year ended December 2006, we received 71, 621 unique visitors to our site. The most visited areas, as tracked by our internet service provider were: domestic violence statistics, domestic violence warning signs, the domestic violence relationship quiz, and the section on domestic violence in gay and lesbian relationships.

Scaling up Strategy

In response to user requests, we would like to add sections that address specific issues that cause women to feel financially or legally trapped in their violent relationships. These include specific problems of credit and finances (including leases), child support issues, joint-account and privacy issues, and issues concerning division of property in both marriage-based and non-marriage based violent relationships.

Stage of the Initiative

1

Origin of the Initiative

This initiative started in 1994. The founder of the organization had just left an abusive relationship and was experiencing stalking and death threats from her ex - who wasnt about to let her go quietly. At the time, there was no domestic violence program in the area, and rather than risk the embarassment of calling the police (with whom her mother worked closely in a Crimeline program), she took the unique approach of JOINING the police department as a 911 dispatcher. Having officers (and their marked cars) over for frequent meal and bathroom breaks was all the deterrent this particular abuser needed to see, and thus, she was able to successfully and safely leave the abusive relationship behind. Realizing that this was a unique (yet difficult to replicate) approach, she started a small website on America Online, outlining strategies, legalities and other information for others.

Sustainability
How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate?

We received an invitation email from Tyler Ahn. Our main incentive is to publicize the availability of our program as a resource.

Main Obstacles to Scaling Up

Our twomain obstacles are a lack of funds for training opportunities - especially conference type activities where we can find common ground or common problems to establish partnerships; and financial support for access to recent research on topics on domestic violence. A large number of students and professional contact our organization for assistance or resources, and thus we strive to footnote or reference the most current material; however, access to this material is expensive (in the form of subscriptions to professional research publications or online databases).

Main Financial Challenges

Our initiative, currently a 100% volunteer activity, could greatly benefit from the services of a part-time position to work on our constantly changing website (over 300 pages of information and growing). We estimate we would need 10 hours per week at $10/hour times 12 weeks to add the new sections. Without this, it will take much longer as it would be at the availability of the volunteer webmaster to get this work done. An additional monitor ($300) would speed up production as well. Finally, a subscription to a broadcast email newsletter service would open up partnership opportunities as well as bring in fresh ideas and consumer and professional feedback on our offerings. This could be accomplished with an online service for about $40 per month. Social investors and foundations are preferred, as we are aware that government is often unwilling to fund initiatives that don't always have positive things to say about how current government programs are working. It is of vital importance to us that we have the freedom to continue to "tell it like it is" without pressure to make ineffective programs or policies appear more user-friendly than they actually are.

Main Partnership Challenges

Due to our limited budget to attend functions and training opportunities, we have limited direct access to other programs and professionals. By the very nature of our site as a referral source, we are aware of many thousands of other programs who might make excellent partners in our quest against relationship violence, however, we lack the capacity to easily manage and use their contact information (thus the need for the broadcast email service that would allow for easy communication with large numbers of potential partners).

randomness