1) What does DVSD stand for, how long has it been around and where is it located?
Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue (formerly known as Domestic Violence Surrogate Dialogue) was founded as a pilot program in 2000 in Hillsboro, Oregon. DVSD became a non-profit in 2006 and is currently housed in Portland, Oregon.
2) Whom do I contact in order to participate?
All adult survivor and offender participants are required to currently be in therapy. Your therapist can refer you to our program by applying online or you can apply online and DVSD will make contact with your therapist. Teens must be enrolled in a program that offers DVSD. If your program does not currently offer DVSD, you may fill out the form and we will contact your organization. If you are interested in becoming a facilitator, you may fill out the form and we will contact you with training dates and locations. Click on the appropriate like for more information on and to sign up to participate as a Survivor, Offender, Teen, Referring Counselor or Facilitator.
3) How do you choose who I will be paired with?
After carefully reviewing the applications submitted by each participant’s therapist, we compare their life experiences and generally try to match age and whether there were children in the relationships. Second, we send the application of who we have selected to pair them up with to each of the therapists to ensure that 1) they do not know each other and 2) they do not know their partners. Finally, the therapists will approve the match and work with DVSD to set up convenient times. If there are questions, the therapists or survivor/offender participants can contact DVSD at anytime.
If a survivor or an offender has a special request based on their specific history with domestic violence (Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian, religious affiliation, etc.) we try and meet them.
4) How will you ensure my safety?
We only take referrals from counseling programs that believe that their clients are suitable. DVSD facilitators meet with each participant prior to the dialogue sessions to determine their level of appropriateness for this type of intervention. Both survivors and offenders need to be able to discuss their past with domestic violence in a respectful manner. If a participant is unable to do so, they are not a positive fit for the program at that time.
5) How do you determine if an abuser or a victim is prepared/ready for a dialogue?
There are specific requirements that DVSD has put into place to help a therapist determine if his or her client is appropriate for the DVSD program. Click on the appropriate link for more information on and to sign up to participate as a Survivor, Offender, Teen, Referring Counselor or Facilitator. The information provided by referring counselors is invaluable in helping DVSD to determine if the program is a good fit for a participant.
6) How will I know that I am prepared/ready to participate in a dialogue?
Those who have participate in the DVSD program have been at varying stages of their healing.
Survivors have expressed afterwards that they have left gaining specifically what they needed from the program- whether that be answers about manipulation, children, their roles in the relationship or even just to acknowledge their inner strength by the act of telling an abuser to their face what has happened to them. Basically, if you need answers for questions that only someone who has been in the role of an offender can answer and you (with a therapist's help) can formulate questions, you are appropriate.
Offenders have come to the program stating that they feel very good about giving back to the community they have harmed. Further, they are really able to hear - sometimes for the first time - the effects their violence has had on a survivor. If you are accountable for your actions and want to continue to educate yourself in order to break your pattern of violence, you are appropriate.
7) Where would the dialogue take place?
The dialogue can take place at one of the participant's therapist's offices, facilitator's office or a mutually agreed upon site. All participants must be able to feel secure in order for the process to work.
8) Will my information be kept private?
By agreeing to participate in the program, you are agreeing to respect the honesty revealed during a dialogue session and keep any personal information private. If agreed upon by both participants, sessions may be audio or videotaped for training purposes unless other purposes have been agreed upon by all prior to the dialogue session. The tapes are property of DVSD and will not be shared without the expressed written consent of each participant.
9) I fear this process would bring up a lot of old memories and I would risk being re-traumatized. How is this not the case?
The DVSD process answers lingering questions that survivors have had regarding their abusive pasts. Often times the painful memories and emotional triggers that survivors report are caused by a lack of information about their pasts that causes them to panic about security. The DVSD process can help heal those triggers by providing answers from an "expert" in the situation - an offender. Further, there is a support person in the room whose one and only job is to make sure that this is a positive experience. By discussing areas of personal concern that you have with your abusive past with the support person prior to the dialogue, they will be able to call for a break during the dialogue session when those specific topics are broached in order to check in with you to make sure that you are comfortable proceeding.
10) Do you offer surrogate dialogues for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender people?
This program is appropriate for any gender. Because the core issue of domestic violence is about having power and control or another, there is usually a clear offender and survivor role in any domestic violence relationship. When a counseling agency has clearly identified the roles, they may refer their clients regardless of gendered roles.