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Safety from domestic violence: Using evidence-based practices to keep women safe

Briefly, Alberta Justice and the Solicitor General have worked to address the issue of domestic violence through its policing initiatives, victim services, community corrections, prosecution services, civil protection services and specialized domestic violence courts.  While these efforts as well as the efforts of other government agencies and community partners have made a difference in keeping women safe, a significant number of women continue to call the police, flee to women’s shelters, or are injured or killed by their abusive partners.  Alberta Justice and Solicitor General initiated this project recognizing the need for further evidence informed practices and evolving collaboration between shelters, police, other government agencies and key stakeholders.

This project is made possible by funds provided by Status of Women Canada and Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.

Safety from Domestic Violence: Inventory of Promising Practices in Alberta

Online Inventory
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Foundational Approaches

Provincial Consultation Summary

2016 Provincial Consultation Summary

Appendix items:

Regional Summaries

ACWS respectfully acknowledges the following Elders who opened the seven Regional Consultations in a good way and who shared their time, blessings, and wisdom with us.

Thank you to Irene Morin (Edmonton Regional Consultation), Lillian Gladue (Red Deer Regional Consultation), Doreen Spence (Calgary Regional Consultation), Glenda Schneider (Medicine Hat Regional Consultation), Rick Makokis (St. Paul Regional Consultation), Tyrone Healy (Lethbridge Regional Consultation) and Angie Crerar (Grande Prairie Regional Consultation).

We would also like to acknowledge the following ACWS members who co-hosted our Regional Consultations. We are very grateful for your partnership and support. Thank you to A Safe Place, Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter Association, Lasalle, Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, Columbus House of Hope, Discovery House, Lurana Shelter, Odyssey House, Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society, WIN House, Wings of Providence, YWCA Harbour House, YWCA Sheriff King Home.

Provincial Consultation

A discussion paper was prepared for review by community and government partners on November 16th, 2016, synthesizing the information provided by community stakeholders, system leaders, women’s focus groups and the literature review. 125 multi-sector participants attended from across the province to review and discuss the findings.

Invitation to Provincial Consultation

Discussion Paper

Project Background

Project Description and Backgrounder

Literature Review: Annotated Bibliography

Thematic Briefs

Legal Services and Criminal Justice

Article Summary: Women fleeing domestic violence have to manage multiple and interrelated legal issues in criminal, family and child protection systems. The criminal law is a branch of public law and is primarily concerned with protecting the safety of individuals. Family law is a branch of private law designed to regulate the rights and responsibilities of family members upon the breakdown of a family unit. The child protection system is often referred to as part of the family justice system but involves government-initiated proceedings focused on the safety of children.

Supporting Women Exposed to Domestic Violence

Article Summary: Women are much more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence and be killed by their partners. Violence against women and girls often begins before adolescence and its impact becomes more pronounced and debilitating in adulthood as women and girls are also disproportionately impacted by other factors such as poverty, homelessness, isolation, disabilities, racism, sexism and other factors.

Supporting Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Article Summary: Children’s safety and well-being are integrally linked with the safety of the mother. Children can be exposed to their mother’s abuse in many ways, including when they see their mother assaulted and demeaned, hear loud conflict and violence or see the aftermath (e.g. injuries). Children might also be used by an abusive partner to perpetuate abuse, for example, threatening violence against the children, talking inappropriately to children about their mother’s behaviour and holding the children hostage or abducting them. Two-thirds of women admitted to women’s shelters in Alberta are accompanied by children (estimated 5,000 per year) and almost half of these pre-schoolers.

Coordination and Collective Impact

Article Summary: The interrelationship between trauma exposure, inequality, social disadvantage, health problems, mental health difficulties, and homelessness requires a high level of coordination and collaboration among all services – government and community – to ensure women’s safety and their success in creating violence free lives. Uncoordinated efforts result in the waste of scarce resources, duplication of effort, disillusionment of staff working within systems, unmet public expectations and, most detrimentally, compromise community and system efforts to keep women safe.

Services and Supports for Diverse Women and Children Fleeing Domestic Violence

Article Summary: Domestic violence impacts women from all socio-economic, cultural and other backgrounds. However, some circumstances surrounding the experience of domestic violence and service access differ for women with diverse backgrounds. This is particularly evident for several vulnerable population groups including Indigenous women; immigrant women; women who are culturally and linguistically diverse; women with disabilities; older women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer discussed in a separate document because of their disproportionate exposure to the issue of domestic violence and violence against women in general).

Services and Supports for Indigenous Women and Their Families

Article Summary: Domestic violence impacts women from all socio-economic, cultural and other backgrounds. However, some circumstances surrounding the experience of domestic violence and service access differ for women with diverse backgrounds. This is particularly evident for several vulnerable population groups including Indigenous women; immigrant women; women who are culturally and linguistically diverse; women with disabilities; older women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) women; and women living in rural and remote communities. This article focuses on how domestic violence affects Indigenous women; they face disproportionate exposure to the issue of domestic violence and violence against women in general.

Law Enforcement

Article Summary: The police have a critical role in addressing the issue of violence against women. They are often the first responders to a domestic violence situation and make decisions with respect to charging and arresting the offender as well as ensuring that the victims and others in the community are safe. They work closely with the courts and the justice system as well as with community service providers. The police complete risk assessments, enforce protection orders and investigate or follow up on breaches of court orders.

Offender Treatment

Article Summary: The main purpose of offender treatment is to increase victim and community safety by reducing the risk of re-assault or assault of future partners. Offender treatment is usually mandated by courts, although offenders may also choose to access treatment on a voluntary basis. The treatment is usually provided in a group form, over a cource of 10 to 12 weeks, sometimes supplemented with individual sessions.

Risk Assessment

Article Summary: Risk assessment is essential in safeguarding the safety of women and children fleeing domestic violence: it helps determine risk of re-assault (or femicide as in the case of the DA) and supports collaborative risk management including victim safety planning, referrals and advocacy, as well as police monitoring, court resolutions and conditions, bail decisions, correctional decisions, and offender treatment. Several risk assessment tools are broadly used across Canada and in Alberta, including ODARA (Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment), SARA (Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide), B-Safer and the DA (Danger Assessment Questionnaire and Calendar). In Alberta, the Family Violence Investigative Report (FVIR) is a standardized reporting tool used by police, which may identify specific areas of risk for the victim. Safety considerations are an important follow-up to the FVIR.

Sheltering and Housing

Article Summary: Domestic violence is one of the main causes of homelessness among Canadian families. Fleeing an abusive partner is not only a factor in women becoming homeless, but also influences their continued homelessness, because it is unsafe to return home to a partner or live in a place that the abusive partner may be able to find and access. When they are not able to remain in their homes or communities because of their abuse, women may try to access a spectrum of housing options that includes short-term emergency shelters, second-stage shelters, transitional housing, housing first, permanent or subsidized housing.

Gendered Perspective and Societal Change

Article Summary: Statistics overwhelmingly point to the fact that most victims of abuse are women, and that most often they are abused by men. This does not mean that men are not abused by women, that women are not abused by their same sex partners, that male seniors are not abused by their children of either gender. We do know that if we successfully address violence against women, domestic violence will decrease, making our homes and communities safer for everyone.

Consultation Summaries

System Leaders Overview

Consultations with Women – Summary

Article Summary: Women were consulted using focus groups, interviews and questionnaires. A total of 75 women participated, comprised of women of all backgrounds and including two groups with First Nations women.