2017 Violence Against Women Community Needs Assessment Exec Summary

2017 Violence Against Women Community Needs Assessment


Executive Summary (Draft)[1]


Authored by: Annie Isabel Fukushima, Ph.D.; Lindsay Gezinski, Ph.D.; and Elizabeth Boley
University of Utah. Version: June 24, 2018.


Domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking are pressing concerns in the city of San Francisco. The City recognizes the importance of funding services in these areas with an annual commitment of almost $7 million. As such, the Department on the Status of Women funded the researchers to conduct an assessment of the most pressing needs of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to inform the allocation of its Violence Against Women Grants Program. From January 2018 to July 2018, the research team conducted a mixed-methods needs assessment with both survivors served by, and staff employed at, organizations funded by the Department and in the city of San Francisco. This report details the findings and recommendations emerging from this community needs assessment.



Data was collected via focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Participants overall represented 32 agencies from the city of San Francisco. Ninety-three individuals participated in one of 11 focus groups, of which 5 focus groups were exclusive to staff and 6 were restricted to survivors. To maximize participation, survivor focus groups were conducted in English, Chinese, and Spanish. Additionally, 37 individual interviews were conducted either in-person or via an online meeting platform (in-person interview was provided upon request), of which two of the interviews included two interviewees desiring to interview together (39 total interviewees). All focus groups and interviews were audio-recorded with the participants’ consent. These recordings were transcribed verbatim, and data analysis consisted of coding and identifying themes (34 themes across 53.5 hours of qualitative data). Thirty-five service providers working with survivors in San Francisco participated in the online survey, in addition to 4 survivors. This structured questionnaire was composed of 114 items, and data analysis consisted of descriptive statistics.


Findings Summarized

In 2014, recommendations were made by an unaffiliated research team with regards to a Violence Against Women Community Needs Assessment. Since that assessment, the current research team ascertains the following have been successful: innovation in prevention, education and outreach initiatives; development and growth of opportunities available to staff and service providers; enhancement of dynamic collaborations in the city; investment in culturally responsive and coordinated case management; and increased resources towards transitional housing. However, areas for improvement that were identified in the 2014 Community Needs Assessment, and that still exist today include: the retention of staff and service providers; funding for under-resourced satellite programs (services and programs provided outside of headquarters such as outreach and direct services); and funding for long-term housing solutions.


Underserved Populations

            There are seven groups whom are considered by service providers and survivors as underserved vulnerable populations: transgender community; unprotected workers (i.e., trafficked migrant laborers, sex workers, and the working poor who survive in low-wage and informal economies); (un)documented migrants; LGBQQ individuals; the incarcerated/formerly incarcerated; children and youth; and economically marginalized (i.e., people with mental and/or physical disabilities, the homeless, and the marginally housed).


Primary Needs

            Participants recognized that survivors are not a monolithic group and that they experience a wide range of complex needs. However, several primary needs include safe and affordable housing, legal support, mental health/therapy (including nonwestern modalities), safety (i.e., emergency responses such as crisis-line and immediate resources that enable survivors to leave abusive conditions), and financial support including job training / job development support. Additional needs identified by survivors were basic needs, such as child care, job training employment opportunities; knowledgeable service providers; long-term, on-going services; medical services; translation; transportation support; and victim services in general. These identified needs tended to overlap with those needs identified by service providers. Other needs identified by service providers were advocacy, case management, crisis intervention, culturally aware services, education of the community, family support (i.e., childcare, family reunification, and supporting family members who are witnesses to violence, legal needs related to family law), financial resources and economic support, support for immigrant communities, increasing awareness of where and how to access services, support with law enforcement investigations, medical services, multilingual services, survivor centered and survivor led advocacy, and women oriented services. While there is a need to serve male survivors, multiple survivor and service provider participants conveyed the need to also have women-oriented housing and services (i.e., women’s groups). Community based services ranked as most insufficient were housing and medical services, in that order.


Top Barriers

            Survivors and service providers identified the primary barriers to accessing and delivering services, respectively. Survivors reported their top barriers to accessing services as: a distrust of law enforcement, and affordable legal services and/or more attorneys available to provide pro-bono representation. Survivors’ secondary barriers included a lack of knowledge of available services, the presence of stigma and shame, a lack of financial resources, and a fear of losing custody of their children. Moreover, service providers reported their top barriers as staff turnover, challenges with collaborations, a lack of development and training for employees, and finally, but no less important, an overall shortage of staff.



Based on the previous community needs assessment (2014) and findings from the present study, the following seven recommendations are made with regards to intervention, prevention, and policy. We recognize that to facilitate all seven recommendations, an increase in the annual budget would be required.


Funding Recommendations


  1. Increase economic resources to grow existing intervention & advocacy efforts

Not surprisingly, funding represents a large need for anti-violence organizations, and continued funding of existing intervention and advocacy services is much needed. However, an increase in resources is also needed to increase staff salaries and to increase services to particularly vulnerable or underserved populations. Increasing intervention resources will also allow VAW program grantees to build upon and support long-term services. Additionally, an increase in resources will allow for programs to prioritize funds towards compensating staff time to participate in city-wide collaborative efforts that will enable organizations to better serve marginalized and underserved populations and grow their dynamic collaborations. Increased funds will enable organizations to prioritize satellite and mobile services to underserved neighborhoods and will enable organizations to hire bilingual advocates (on an as needed basis). Overall, improving non-profit salaries will enable organizations to increase their retention of social service staff.


  1. Increase economic resources to grow housing support for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking

The housing conditions in San Francisco have been described widely as a crisis. By increasing resources to housing the following will be made possible: existing shelter resources will be sustained, transitional housing will be sustained, and more survivors may be supported into long-term housing program solutions that will free up shelter and transitional options that are currently at capacity. Additionally, increasing resources will enable organizations to provide culturally aware and appropriate services that are costly (i.e., translation, cultural-based foods, and culturally appropriate therapy).


  1. Increase resources to innovate crisis-line services to adapt in technology

The decline in crisis-calls via the telephone illustrates a cultural shift in how mobile technologies are used. In spite of the decline, crisis-lines continue to be an important resource. By increasing resources to crisis-line services, survivor connections with violence against women programs will be diversified to include phone connection, and alternative ways to query about the resources. Modernizing of the technology will improve the overall service for survivors. Explorations of modernizing the technology will help service providers responding to callers know more immediately the resources available. Additionally, it may also modernize how survivors set up confidential appointments and / or also offer more immediate information that may be searchable, but during a crisis, may be overwhelming for survivors to find themselves by navigating multiple web pages. By modernizing the crisis-line services, able-friendly caller options will be available to survivors with a range of abilities. Additionally, increasing resources to crisis-line services will help organizations prioritize how they may modernize their crisis-line services in ways that also continue to maintain confidentiality and safety for survivors by implementing effective improved technological models for crisis-lines that exist. To assist with services such as crisis lines and language translation, online and mobile phone based applications would represent an innovative collaboration with the tech industry.


  1. Increase resources to implement a Trauma Informed Systems Approach in all VAW Programs

Vicarious and secondary trauma is reported as contributing to staff burnout and inhibits staff retention. Therefore, we recommend that the Department collaborate with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to increase the implementation of trauma informed initiative approaches to all Violence Against Women Programs. Technical assistance, webinars, and trainings would all be worthwhile in supporting the institutionalization of trauma-informed systems. Trauma-informed-systems are intended to improve organizational functions, increase resilience, and improve working conditions and environments, all central to sustainable service provision and burn-out management.


  1. Increase resources in prevention, education and awareness in high incident report neighborhoods and fund tertiary prevention

Current primary education (i.e., in schools) and secondary education (i.e., prevention, education) on violence against women must be sustained. Increasing resources to prevention, education and awareness will enable organizations to target high-incident reported neighborhoods (i.e., Bay view, Central, Ingleside, the Mission, and South of Market). Increasing resources in prevention, education, and awareness will allow programs to expand prevention, education and awareness efforts at the tertiary level (e.g., batterer intervention programs, youth and children who participate in acts of violence and are also survivors of violence). By increasing prevention, education and awareness, organizations will be able to fund ongoing city-wide campaigns, and also explore more options for campaigns that will increase visibility for smaller organizations, that are essential to services in the city.


Policy Recommendation


6. Advocate for new policies that will lead to an investment in alternatives to justice system responses to violence. 

Additionally, the study findings indicate that marginalized survivors of violence, such as sex workers, people of color, the transgender community, the working poor, and the homeless and marginally housed, are criminalized themselves. And, many survivors and service providers report that not all survivors trust the justice system. Therefore, we recommend that the Department invest in advocacy for policies that will address ongoing issues with the incarceration of survivors, as well as promote alternative forms of justice including storytelling, truth commission on violence against women, transitional justice options, “safe dialogues” or other restorative justice options, as these represent promising practices for survivor healing beyond criminal justice approaches. 


Allied Partner Recommendation


7. Continue to strengthen partnerships with the court system, educators, housing, law enforcement, medical services, and the private sectors, as a means to improve services and support for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking

The Department and the VAW Program grantees engage in dynamic forms of partnerships and collaborations. Ongoing support of such partnerships with other city departments, organizations, and the private sector is needed to continue to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in dynamic and relevant ways.



[1] After receiving feedback from the community and the Commission on the Status of Women, at the June 27 Commission meeting, a final version of the executive summary will appear in the full report, submitted to the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women by July 31, 2018.