RIVERA, SIERRA & COMPANY, INC.
A New Paradigm
for Addressing Domestic Violence
José A. Rivera, J.D.
RIVERA, SIERRA & COMPANY, INC.
A New Approach for Addressing Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence
José A. Rivera, J.D.
Copyright 2009 Rivera, Sierra & Company, Inc.
Domestic Violence / Intimate Partner Violence (DV/IPV) continues to be one of the nation’s intractable
problems. Succinctly summarized by Attorney General Eric Holder:
Last year , there were over a half million non-fatal violent victimizations committed
against women age 12 or older by an intimate partner. And more than 2,000 women and men
were killed by intimate partners last year. These are not mere statistics we are talking about – we
are talking about individual human beings: friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, relatives.
We should be appalled that this type of violence is visited upon them in this day and age. And we
must do everything in our power to stop it.
And DV/IPV agencies have universally risen to the occasion by providing a national network of shelters
and sanctuaries that have saved the lives and provided safety for thousands upon thousands of women.
Traditionally, DV/IPV agencies have focused their energies on what can be called the “Two S Solution.”
The Two S Solution, time honored for decades, is that the primary mission of DV/IPV agencies is to
provide Safety for victims of violence and Support for that safety. This translates into an agency which,
first and foremost, focuses on the emergent need of a DV/IPV victim for safety or sanctuary – a safe
haven that will provide a respite from the physical, sexual, verbal, psychological/emotional or economic
abuse from a perpetrator. Once a victim is made to feel safe, most DV/IPV agencies work to support that
safety through counseling, case management, resource acquisition, advocacy, among other things.
Together, these two elements – these two S’s – have served DV/IPV agencies well.
But, society has changed and there is greater indicator of that change than welfare reform. After decades
of welfare dependency caused by categorical entitlements, welfare reform changed to goal orientation of
public assistance from subsistence to self sufficiency. From that piece of legislation, a reform movement
started to emerge that gave birth to new concepts of outcome measurement and goals that looked to the
extent that a person receiving assistance could reach a point where they no longer needed assistance. This
concept of self-sufficiency resulted in a pressure to move people, particularly women, from “welfare to
work” and, indeed, for many years that was the name of the movement. Behind this legislative priority
was a philosophy that spoke to a society desire to go beyond triage and band-aids to a new value called
self-sufficiency and, in a later legislative formulation, independence.
This evolution should serve as a clarion bell for the DV/IPV movement. Society will soon turn its
attention to a movement which considers its primary mission to be safety and support without
participating in moving the victim from survivor to something more. This presaged desire by society
does not, in any way, denigrate the value of safety and support. Rather, it asks a very basic question:
“Now that she is safe and you’ve supported her safety, now what?
It is from this question that Rivera, Sierra & Company, Inc. (RSC) developed the Triple S Paradigm.
Without diminishing the importance of the first two S formulations, RSC added a third so that the mission
and now outcome of DV/IPV agencies becomes:
Safety Support Success
The addition of success to the traditional value systems is part of the societal evolution described above.
It says that DV/IPV agencies need to do more than just assist a woman complete the journey from victim
to survivor. They need to be invested in their success, their ability to navigate outside the sanctuary, their
ability to utilize their newly acquired resiliency skills for proactive forward movement.
In the final analysis, the Triple S Paradigm is a reflection of the true nature of the journey that a victim
makes as they leave the valley of violence and ascend to a new level.
The adjoining diagram depicts the journey in its
totality. All people, regardless of violence,
embark on life’s journey from Point 0 (birth) to
Point 1 (the Point of Adversity). For some,
Point 1 might not result in as dramatic a dip as
depicted in the diagram and minor setbacks, up
and down by small degrees generally keeps the
person on the original path (called the Life
Path). For others, like a woman terrorized by
DV, a person who succumbs to substance abuse,
a person who receives a diagnosis of malignant
breast cancer, a person who loses everything due
to Katrina – for that person, the journey may
lead them down a spiraling slope from Point 1 to
Point 2 (known as “The Dark Place”).
People who have been there describe it with striking similarity – a place where logic no longer rules,
where the need to survive is twisted by the anticipation of another beating, where substance abuse
becomes so possessive that one is willing to violate primordial laws resulting in stealing from one’s
grandmother. For the DV victim, the dark place involves a form of sensory deprivation where one is
deluded in believing that kids do not know what is going on or that “he will change” or that “maybe he’s
right about the way I keep the house.”
An important side thought here is that the journey from Point 1 to Point 2 uses a tremendous amount of
negative energy but energy nonetheless. The negative energy associated with spiraling down is
characterized by depression, self-medication, anger, guilt, self-loathing, among other things. This is
important because as can be seen in the diagram, the amount of energy to get out of the “dark place” is
equal and opposite to the amount of energy necessary to get in.
While in that dark place, an intervention may occur in many ways. It might be a friend, a pastor, a
colleague, a social services case manager – anyone. And, in that moment, a flicker of light shows from
the other end of the dark place and hope for an exit arises. But, the journey to the light is treacherous and
long and, as said before, uses up as much energy as that which got her into the dark place originally. Yet,
on the bright side, this is now a positive energy. And it is not only positive energy; it is also more energy
than that which was ever expended previous to this (except, of course, for the negative energy that got her
into the dark place).
The upward climb from Point 2 to Point 3 is not easy and is more like an upward spiral with downturns
and upswings (the equivalent of relapse and recovery or going back to abuser and then back to the
counselor). What is remarkable is that most programs involved in recovery (a broad term referring to all
the activities that are designed to overcome life's challenges) - all of these programs - consider getting a
person to Point 3 to be a success resulting invariably in a case closure.
Point 3 is actually the "Point of Past Expectations" – that point where a person provided with recovery
services finds themselves at the exact place where they would have been but for the DV or other negative
activity which had taken control of their life. People who conduct this type of empowerment counseling
will often hear from a consumer/client/survivor the following seemingly anomalous statement: “Were it
not for my DV and recovery (or my addiction and recovery), I would not have a Masters Degree today.”
While that seems to be oxymoronic, it states a simple truth. The energy expended in getting from Point 2
to Point 3 and the fact that there is a confrontation between the new self (that made the journey) and the
old self (that person who never would have need to overcome adversity), gives the survivor the ability to
exclaim to the universe: I DESERVE BETTER! This exclamation is a statement that the survivor does
not intend to settle and continue along life’s original path. She now sees that she wants more and
In fairness, if a person reaches Point 3 and turns right, i.e. continues with life as it was, one cannot say
that this is wrong. Indeed, for some, this is best that can be expected and life moves on. However, what
we know is that this person is considered high risk for relapse because, in effect, no changes have been
made that insulate that person from another assault. But, Point 3 is also a watershed moment because, at
that moment, the opportunity to move to Point 4 (the “Higher Place”) is manifest. In that moment, the
person in recovery from domestic violence or the like can look at life and say that "I have lost some,
gained some but having come back to where I was, I now want more and I deserve more." And, it is at
this critical juncture that so many social services agencies close their file because they believe their work
And it is unique journey from Point 3 to Point 4 that characterizes the third S – Success. Getting to Point
3 is important and many DV/IPV agencies do that well. But, society now demands more than getting a
victim back to the status quo ante – the place where the person was before the adversity. The reason why
society demands more is grounded in the knowledge that merely returning a person to the status quo ante
is the equivalent of putting someone through revolving door or turnstile that will invariably result in new
abusive relationships, new victimization and continued utilization of limited resources. Anecdotally,
DV/IPV agencies acknowledge that turnstile clients are a significant part of their caseload though exact
numbers and percentages have never been kept.
Thus, the addition of success to the paradigm helps the woman survivor of DV to understand the power
that made them survivors and helps them to chart a new course based upon the principle of “I deserve
better” and, in so doing, help others less fortunate to make the same journey. At the same time, this
approach assists DV/IPV agencies to understand the empowerment model of addressing DV and how that
model can advance legitimate agency goals such as“self sufficiency,” “self efficacy” and “independence.”
As indicated below, the Triple S Paradigm becomes a framework for a new type of collaboration
between DV/IPV agencies and their natural allies (vocational programs, workforce development, etc.):
ACTIVITY DEFINITION PARTNERSHIP
SAFETY Addressing the immediate or emergency needs 100% of this activity is best performed by DV
of victims of violence through timely agency.
intervention and shelter.
SUPPORT Providing a broad array of services to 75% of this activity is best performed by DV
victims/survivors in order to insure their ability agency and 25% of this activity is best performed
to plan for safe and secure family living. in collaboration with community partners.
SUCCESS Assisting victims/survivors to obtain self- 25% of this activity is best performed by DV
efficacy and economic independence via agency and 75% of this activity is best performed
workforce development and related services. in collaboration with community partners.
In order to adopt this cutting edge paradigm, two initiatives are critical:
1. A decision must be made by the DV/IPV agency to engage in a strategic planning
process that changes the two S approach to the Triple S Paradigm.
2. If this strategic approach is adopted, then training must be implemented that changes
the case management model to reflect outcome measurable success factors.
3. A marketing campaign must be instituted to develop new collaborative relationships
with workforce development agencies, vocational schools, educational institutions
and other entities with a stake in achieving success for participants.
For further information regarding this new approach to addressing domestic and intimate partner violence
in your community, contact José A. Rivera, JD at 917-769-7021.