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Frequently Asked Questions about the VIGOR

If you are in an emergency situation call 911

Why a new safety planning and risk management tool?

Safety planning for domestic violence has hardly changed in decades. Also, safety planning remains too narrowly focused on the physical danger to the woman. Other risks faced by victims, including familial, financial, and emotional risks, are important too. These risks can include losing housing, moving to higher crime areas, and losing custody of children. Many victims want a safety plan that includes the needs of children and other loved ones. Also, separation violence — violence that starts or gets worse after trying to leave a relationship — is a serious, common problem but also is not included in most safety plan. The VIGOR (the Victim Inventory of Goals, Options, and Risks) is a new safety plan that asks victims about all of their risks and helps develop a plan that includes what is important to them.

How is the VIGOR different?

The VIGOR uses Multiple Criteria Decision Making (MCDM). MCDM is a well-known risk assessment framework. MCDM is common in environmental science and other fields where they also deal with complex problems. An MCDM approach lets victims identify multiple risks that they wish to address. Victims can also identify strengths and resources—making the VIGOR a more positive, strengths-based tool than most safety planning. A key feature of the VIGOR is its strength-based framework.

After identifying risks and strengths, victims can then think about different choices and identify the best steps to make them safer and also improve as many other outcomes as possible. The result is a personalized safety plan for each victim’s unique life, not a one-size-fits-all checklist (which is what most other safety plans are).

More details on the VIGOR framework are available in the book Battered Women’s Protective Strategies: Stronger Than You Know.

How can I avoid victim blaming?

Remember that victims are not responsible for the violence of perpetrators. Perpetrators are responsible for controlling their own aggressive and angry impulses. We all have to learn how to do that. Any adult is rightfully held to that standard, no matter what frustrations or even provocations exist. However, just like anyone else facing a problem, victims of violence try to cope when bad things happen. The VIGOR is designed to help victims cope with the complex problem of battering.

What are the limits of safety planning?

Anyone who is likely to be reading this website will know that violence is a difficult and unpredictable problem. The outcomes can’t be guaranteed, no matter how carefully thought out and executed the steps are. Victims need to know that there are some things that they can’t control. Victims certainly can’t control perpetrators’ behavior, but they also can’t control the behavior of police, judges, doctors, or others who they might approach for help.

If you or your client’s first efforts at helpseeking don’t turn out as expected, the VIGOR — or other safety plans — can be used again. If the situation changes or a strategy doesn’t turn out as expected, try again.

Should I talk to an advocate, counselor, or other specialized domestic violence provider?

Domestic violence advocates know a lot about the options and resources in their own communities. They are based in domestic violence agencies and shelters. You might find it helpful to complete the VIGOR with an advocate, who can provide you with detailed information about the resources in your home town. The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) (or 1-800-787-3224 for TTY) will help you find the nearest advocate.

What are the limits of the help I can get from this website?

The materials on this website are for informational purposes and should not be construed as professional psychological advice.

Every victim’s situation is unique. Putting more emphasis on each person’s individual life is one of the main purposes of the VIGOR. A website is not a substitute for professional help and individualized attention. Many victims of violence are in serious danger and will need personalized professional help in their communities.