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Experiencing violence is known to have long term consequences for the health and well-being of women and girls and to significantly impact on their ability to fully participate in society. Women and girls may require longer term assistance to support their recovery and to lead productive lives. Women and girls with extensive experience of violence are more likely to require specialist and sometimes long-term services. Promising practice models with women fleeing domestic violence focus on woman-centered approaches, empowerment, trauma-informed care, integrated health and mental wellness services, safety, system advocacy, accountability and compassion.
✓ Instead of a short-term crisis intervention model, uses a long-term holistic approach to support all and particularly Indigenous women and children fleeing domestic violence so that support is available for them throughout their journey through the system;
✓ Offers direct and immediate access to funds and basic needs to help women flee their abusive partners, and includes clothing, household items, transportation, job-related expenses, dental care, necessities for children and childcare, home security features, as well as affordable housing and bad debt supports;
✓ Assesses women's level of risk for femicide and uses safety planning to plan and implement strategies to keep women and their children safe.
✓ Provides immediate support independent of where women and children access services (“No Wrong Door approach);
✓ Emphasizes the value of peer support - linkages with someone who is not a professional and can empathise and relate to women’s experiences, helps women know that they are not alone and can be very powerful in their journey.
✓ Ensures that any representation on behalf of women and girls is carried out with their explicit and informed consent;
✓ Implements collaborative advocacy and intervention efforts by bringing together professionals and informal supports (e.g., “Circle of Safety”);
✓ Provides wrap-around, individualized supports, including case management as well as supportive group and individual counselling;
✓ Uses therapeutic approaches that balance empowerment and choice with service provision and advocacy to encourage women to take ownership of their transition;
✓ Provides trauma-informed services, ensuring that all women accessing services are not re-traumatized;
✓ Has a “system navigator” position that provides guidance, advocacy and access to a spectrum of services for women, including to stable employment and affordable permanent housing options;
✓ Uses intersectional strategies that address the needs of all women and girls, including most vulnerable and marginalized women, Indigenous women and newcomer women;
✓ Provides access to safe and secure and accessible emergency accommodation until the immediate threat is removed;
✓ Supports women wherever they may be;
✓ In addition to emergency shelters, provides access to a broad spectrum of housing options that includes longer-term second-stage shelters, transitional housing, housing first, permanent or subsidized housing. All those options are accessible to women at any stage in their journey.
✓ Ensures that community housing programs for women and children exposed to domestic violence employ staff with in-depth understanding of domestic violence and related issues as well as knowledge of housing services and tenant rights and responsibilities;
✓ Provides continuous education and training programs for service providers, focusing on gender based violence, trauma-informed services, and culturally competent intervention approaches.
Story: Community Supports and Legal Enforcement Working in Tandem
The safety of the woman is paramount at all times and she is empowered to make decisions about her own safety.
Legal enforcement mechanisms are employed to support the good-intentions of the perpetrator and to ensure a change in behaviour.
The community provides specific services based on the couple’s circumstances.
Trevor and Bernice reside in a rural Alberta community. The couple has been together 6 years and have two small children. They are struggling with financial pressures, parenting challenges and an inability to communicate about either. Both are working multiple part time jobs and the toll is weighing heavily on both. Bernice’s mother travels to Alberta to assist the young couple with childcare. Rather than alleviate strain, having extended family in the home exacerbates the existing struggles.
The relationship which has been riddled with conflict reaches a boiling point, resulting in Bernice being pushed down the steps in the garage as Trevor attempts to leave the home enraged. RCMP are called and Trevor is arrested. He is removed from the home and conditions are imposed which restrict him from contacting Bernice or attending the family home. Trevor stays with friends several nights, before deciding to live in his truck. His first court appearance is 6 weeks away.
The family violence prevention program is designed to support couple’s like Trevor and Bernice. The outcomes are meaningful when couples are engaged and supported in their plans for the future. Bernice is contacted to collect a relationship history and complete a detailed risk assessment. Safety planning remains a priority throughout the process. Involving Bernice in identifying risk factors ensures that a criminal resolution is responsive to her individual circumstance. Bernice is provided community referrals and resources. She becomes involved with shelter Outreach services where she is able to access supportive counselling and assistance with parenting orders and other community referrals. She is supported with ongoing safety planning and receives education on healthy relationships.
Trevor is contacted to assess his commitment and motivation to change. If Trevor demonstrates insight and a willingness to participate in programming, referrals are provided to Men’s treatment programs. Initiating contact with Trevor at a very early stage capitalizes on his motivation to be a better father and husband. It provides a goal to focus on prior to his court date. Encouraging him to use the time to seek support and counselling contributes to lowered risk should the couple decide to reconcile. Trevor will have acquired new skills and insight during his treatment program which will align with the work Bernice has been doing.
When a couple is supported in the community in which they live, receiving services specific to their circumstance and doing so concurrently the likelihood of success is exponentially higher.
Upon completion of the 15-week treatment program Trevor enters into a Peace Bond which ensures a year of ongoing monitoring and availability of services. Bernice is confident that Trevor has been held accountable and will remain committed to the changes he has made. The couple remains enriched by their expanded circle of supports that includes valuable community agencies designed to support families is distress. The new skills each has acquired supports the success of both.
At the end of Trevor’s Peace Bond the couple prepares a letter and delivers it to the local shelter. They express their gratitude, and acknowledge their respect for each other and the commitment of the community who supported them.
Organizations Providing Tools / Resources
Airdrie Victim Services
Contact organization for information and resources.
Central Alberta Women's
Prevention and Trauma Specialist
Contact organization for information and resources.
Manager of Programs and Clinical Services
Medicine Hat Women's
Director of Programs and Services
780-538-1332 ext 147
Peer Support Program Lead
403-234-7337 ext 10
Strathmore Region Victims'