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Promising Practices to Prevent Violence Against Women

posted by Leslie Josling

On January 29, 2015, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women in Ottawa. I was honoured to be asked to share some of my thoughts and insights about how we can improve our response to abused women and their children in Canada. I wore two hats during my presentation: both as the Executive Director of KW Counselling Services and as the Co-Chair for the Violence Against Women (VAW) Forum of Central Ontario.

Organized responses to Violence Against Women in Canada only began in the 1960s. We are only the second generation in the history of humankind to address the use of violence in intimate relationships. It is not surprising that there is much still to learn. Although public understanding of violence against women has increased and policies and legislation have, in many cases, improved, violence against women continues to be a widespread and serious problem.

I presented three best practices to the Committee

One: Tri-Sector Collaboration

The VAW Forum, established in 2007, is a unique tri-sector (not-for-profit, university and government) collaboration model. Overall, the tri-sector partnership has added value for each partner, which could not have been achieved by one sector alone. I believe that tri-sector partnership is a best practice and should inform the Federal Government’s efforts. Tri-sector collaboration has resulted in a shared vision and commitment for women who live with abuse in their intimate relationships. This shared vision has mobilized each agency and partner to work towards common objectives, harnessing their efforts for collective impact. We believe that this model is worth examining and emulating as it may hold clues for how to better engage stakeholders to maximize their potential to effect change in VAW.

Two: Walk In Counselling

In 2007, KW Counselling Services launched a Walk In Counselling Clinic—one of the first and largest such clinics in the province. Since opening, the Clinic has served over ten thousand individuals, families and couples. Approximately one third of our Walk In Counselling clients are women who have experienced abuse in intimate relationships. All women and couples seen at the Clinic are screened for intimate partner violence using standardized tools. The Ministry of Community and Social Services has recently recognized the value of providing accessible counselling to women in their moment of need with funding for this new and innovative service. The Ministry’s funding was granted in response to the five years of research that was conducted in partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo looking into the clinical and cost effectiveness of our Walk In Counselling Clinic.

Three: Trauma and Attachment

Increasingly we have come to appreciate that many women who have experienced abuse (and men who use abuse) in intimate relationships have a history of trauma often stemming from abuse in their family of origin. We know that trauma affects a child’s brain development including emotion regulation. Trauma also affects a caregiver’s ability to form healthy connections and attachment with their children. Children who experience trauma and attachment disruptions often develop what the literature calls a ‘negative working model of the world”. They grow into adults who struggle with both positive intimate relationships and caregiving. Caregivers who have a history of trauma themselves often in turn traumatize their own children because they have no experience of positive connection in childhood.   We believe that our best VAW services must include a therapeutically potent intervention for a range of traumatic events. Our services must target and treat intergenerational trauma.

 Watch this blog for more detailed posts about each of these best practices, coming soon!

An audio recording of this meeting, including my presentation, is available for streaming online.