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Domestic violence is an attempt, act or intent of someone within a relationship, where the relationship is characterized by intimacy, dependency or trust, to intimidate or threaten another person or their property which may also include the use of physical force. The purpose of the abuse is to control and/or exploit through neglect, intimidation, inducement of fear or by inflicting pain. Abusive behaviour can take many forms including verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, spiritual, economic and the violation of rights. All forms of abusive behaviour are ways in which one human being is trying to have control or power over another.
Violence against women and children has been recognized at both the national and international levels as a serious and ongoing impediment to gender equality and to women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms (United Nations, 1993). A lack of integrated, trauma informed, and women’s centered approaches to service delivery act as significant barriers to keeping women safe from violence.
The “Safety from domestic violence: Using evidence based practices to keep women safe” project, developed and facilitated by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS), builds on the individual and collaborative work of community and government services in Alberta to address barriers to women’s safety by identifying promising practices in service provision for women fleeing violence. To date, the project has encompassed:
- A Project Development Committee formed to provide advice and consultation in support of Project implementation activities;
- A literature review based on over 260 documents, including both empirical research studies and community based literature, summarized as an annotated bibliography, and 11 research briefs;
- Focus groups and interviews with 75 women receiving domestic violence services;
- Interviews with 19 system leaders;
- Seven regional consultations, highlighting promising practices to enhance women’s safety, identifying barriers to effective service provision, and suggestions for action;
- A Discussion Paper, which summarized all of the information gathered from literature, interviews, focus groups and Regional Consultations;
- A Provincial consultation, which validated and expanded Project results; and,
- The Promising Practices Inventory (Inventory), which was compiled and informed by all of the previous work as well as additional interviews with 52 Alberta service providers (this document).
All project results affirm six key Foundational Approaches required to keep women safe:
- Placing women at the centre so that the often-invisible barriers of gendered inequalities to successful outcomes of women facing violence are addressed;
- Incorporating an understanding of the pervasiveness and impact of trauma to reduce re-traumatization, support healing and resiliency, and address the root causes of abuse and violence;
- Recognizing a long-term history of colonization, racism, discrimination, residential schools and assimilation that has had a profound effect on Indigenous people resulting in significant intergenerational historic trauma;
- Taking into account the diverse cultures of women and children accessing domestic violence services, as well as the complex needs presented when working with those from the LGBT community, women with disabilities, women with mental health issues, as well as seniors;
- Recognizing the impact of violence on children and how their safety and well-being are integrally linked with the safety of their mother; and,
- Ensuring accountability to women and their safety and building awareness of how various practices might place women and children at risk.
The Inventory concludes the first phase of the Project. It reflects the voice and experience of the Alberta service providing community and is designed as a resource and a practical tool for those working to keep women and children safe.
Contents of the Inventory
The Inventory contains a listing of practices that have been identified in literature, interviews and consultations with Alberta service providers. It also reflects the results of interviews with service providers identified by participants of both Provincial and Regional Consultations as delivering promising practices in Alberta (please refer to Addendum document for the listing of participants and interview processes).
The Inventory is divided into seven key thematic areas representing directions for action related to women’s safety. Each thematic area includes:
- Essential elements for promising practices associated with the thematic area;
- An illustrative example that best reflects the work done across the province; and,
- List of service providers who shared their experience with us in the Inventory interviews.
Reflecting the complex and multi-faceted nature of the work, each of the areas is a combination of different types of service elements, including types of activities, population groups, location of service and service sectors. The thematic areas informing directions for action include:
- Cross Sectoral Collaboration
- Systematic Risk Assessment, Safety Planning and Screening
- Intersectional Practices (highlighting services for Indigenous Women and immigrant women, their Families and Communities)
- Accessible and Responsive Legal and Justice Systems (including Legal Services, Court Systems, Enforcement, and Perpetrator Accountability)
- Wrap-Around, Supportive Responses for Women
- Protection and Support for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence
- Focus on Prevention and Awareness
Using the Inventory
The Promising Practices Inventory sets the stage for continued gathering of practices and supportive evidence to ensure that the community has access to the most current information and tools on which to base service delivery for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
The Inventory contains seven thematic areas informing directions for action related to women’s safety. For each of the thematic areas the Inventory includes:
- A summary of promising practices that emerged over the course of the literature review, consultations, focus groups and interviews;
- A list of references supporting the highlighted promising practices;
- Alberta-based examples illustrating the work in each particular area;
- Contact information for service providers who were identified by the Regional and Provincial Consultation participants as delivering promising practices in Alberta and interviewed for the Inventory;
- Links to the practical tools that the interviewed service providers identified as valuable in delivering promising practices in their areas; and,
- Links to summaries of promising practices identified by the interviewed service providers that currently inform and support their program or practices.
This Inventory does not represent an exhaustive list of all programs or agencies across Alberta that are working to keep women safe. Contents of the Inventory were determined by service provider feedback during the consultation process supplemented and contextualized by literature and promising practice research. Service providers selected for interviews were identified by the Regional and Provincial Consultation participants as delivering promising practices in Alberta.
It is not an evaluative document, and does not assess the degree to which each individual program or agency highlighted here embodies the approaches essential for effective service delivery. The stories chosen to illustrate each of the theme areas were selected to most accurately reflect the voices of all contributors, rather than as best examples of promising practices currently delivered across Alberta.
The Inventory is intended to be a living document, to be continually updated as programs evolve and new programs are implemented. It will be further refined based on community input and emerging research. Professionals across Alberta are invited to use the Inventory as a tool in their on-going program development and enhancement both at the individual agency and community level.
The tools pertaining to each theme area were selected by the interview participants, reflecting the way they used the tools in their organizations. These tools may need to be adjusted or used differently by other service providers across the province to reflect their own service delivery approaches or the needs of the surrounding community.
Names, contact information, tools and stories are included here with express permission of the service providers who participated in the Inventory interviews.