Marie De Santis, who started the independent bilingual advocacy organization Women’s Justice Center / Centro de Justicia Para Mujeres has written a guide How To Start an Independent Advocacy Center to End Violence Against Women, …and Why. From the introduction:
This guide is for anyone who wants to work to end violence against women and children. It’s for those who want to strike out in new directions, forge new strategies, advocate without compromise, confront the patriarchal roots of the violence, and be independent of government funds. It’s for those who don’t have access to big money. It’s for advocates who have done this work before but who feel restricted by the current crisis center models. And it’s for individuals who have never done this work, but who are burning to reignite the movement to end violence against women and change the world. And most especially, this guide is for those of you who have asked us to put together a few tips from our own experience establishing a low-budget, independent, activist center to end violence against women.
Whatever your ideas for advocating for individual victims or communities, and for securing non-violence and justice, we hope you consider the advantages and power of breaking out of the mold and of staying as independent as possible.
Part 1 of this guide explains why we believe there is an urgent need to reinvent independent advocacy and activism to end violence against women. Part 2 lays out some practical nuts-and-bolts tips from our own experience getting started as an alternative, independent feminist center. Our hope isn’t that you’ll necessarily copy what we’ve done. Rather we hope you’ll see that it can be done, that it needs to be done, that you can do it in many ways, and that you can make a difference with minimal resources.
In addition to reading this text, we urge you to look around at the variety of other groups that have struck out on their own, in diverse directions, independent of constricting government funds. Here are just a few you can google: INCITE!, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Mujerescreando, Arte-sana, Rural Womyn Zone, Women and Girls CAN, etc.
We also highly recommend a recent paper by Women and Girls Collective Action Network titled Communities Engaged in Resisting Violence. It provides more in-depth and varied views on some of the related issues we only touch on here.
Quote from the guide:
Over the last 15 years, the U.S. violence against women movement has become increasingly embedded in the very institutions we most need to change. The feminist rape and domestic violence centers of yesterday have become morphed into the quasi governmental service agencies of today. The influx of federal funding with its many strings attached, combined with big budget hungry programs, are trends that are crippling our capacity to advocate effectively for victims’ rights and to get at the root causes of the violence. There’s no question that the current system of rape and domestic violence centers is accomplishing a huge task of providing some much needed services to literally millions of women. But the often restrictive requirements of big funders, especially government funders, combined with the compromising liaisons many centers have entered into with powerful patriarchal systems, in particular the justice system, have frozen the movement in place, institutionalized it, and stripped it from its roots in a feminist movement for social change.