Determining how safe house professionals approach their clients

November 17, 2010

Hundreds of victims find respite and sanctuary each year in one of dozens of safe houses throughout Colorado. The professionals at these safe houses offer support and assistance to women who have been abused. Yet, how do these professionals approach victims and how much of a role does societal and personal biases influence how they treat the people they’ve set out to help?

Candan Duran-Aydintug, associate professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is exploring how influences such as intense emotions, unquestioned ideologies and wider cultural dictates affect the way safe house professionals treat their clients. “These advocates may have certain ambiguities in dealing with their clients and therefore might not be effective in reaching the shelter’s empowerment goals,” she explains. 

Using focus groups and semi-structured face-to-face interviews, Duran-Aydintug is gaining an in-depth understanding of how shelter staff construct their clients’ identities and their narratives as they grapple with the common question: “Why do they stay in or go back to abusive relationships?”

The research, “Safe House Members’ Understanding and Social Construction of Their Clients’ Identities and Accounts” is being supported by a grant from the Center for Faculty Development.

Duran-Aydintug plans to answer the questions:

  • Why do shelter staff members believe that these women go back?
  • How do shelter staff members describe these women, their lives and the choices they make?
  • In working with these women toward empowerment (the shelter’s main goal), what obstacles do they encounter and what role do they attribute to the women in the existence of these obstacles and in giving into them?

“These questions will lead to a better understanding of the phenomenon, may result in more focused training of shelter staff and certainly will carry legal and policy implications,” Duran-Aydintug explains.