We know that abusers often impose many rules on their partners, and that a primary harm of domestic violence is being robbed of one’s autonomy. We want to create environments where survivors can reclaim their autonomy, and feel secure without excessive rules and punitive systems that echo the abuser’s rules.
How to do this? Start by viewing this video that illustrates how domestic violence abusers impose rules on their intimate partners.
Then, ask yourself the questions below about your program’s rules and find out how other programs have made minimal rules work.
Finally, dig deeper with articles written by advocates, and explore our Building Dignity website, which focuses on design solutions to help minimize rules and maximize autonomy, security and advocacy.
Questions to ask yourself about program rules
- Does this rule mirror the abuser’s control?
- What problem are we trying to solve with this rule? Is this the least burdensome way to address this issue?
- Is this rule consistent with our mission and core values regarding our shelter work?
What makes minimal rules work?
- Survivor centered advocacy and conversation are valued over rule enforcement. Staff seeks to create conversations rather than impose consequences.
- Rules have a clear connection to agency’s mission and core values.
- The program makes time for routine reflection and re-evaluation.
- Battered Women’s Shelters: Reflections
- Changing the Script: Thinking about our Relationships with Shelter Residents
- How We Gave Up Curfew
- Moving from Rules to Rights and Responsibilities
- Rethinking Punitive Approaches to Shelter
- How the Earth Did Not Fly Into The Sun: Missouri’s Project to Reduce Rules in Shelter
- Rule-Making and Enforcement, the Violent and Controlling Tactics of Men Who Batter, and Rule-Compliance and Resistance, the Response of Battered Women
For additional information and resources, including model protocols, forms, and policies for domestic violence shelters, visit our Shelter Support page.