The Coalition for Woman Abuse Policy and
Protocol in Prince Edward Island
With over 85% of invitees in attendance, the workshop held on April 22 was a success. The information gathered at the event will assist the committee to meet the goal of Phase 1: to determine the gaps and needs in policy and protocol for responses to woman abuse within relationships in Prince Edward Island.
During the day, some messages emerged loud and clear...
Survivors of family violence and community organizations must be significantly involved in policy development and evaluation.
We need to move towards a holistic, co-ordinated response to woman abuse. Service providers need to share information on policies, procedures and services to ensure that they provide appropriate and timely responses.
We need to recognize that policies can't change attitudes. Service providers require training that sensitizes them to the realities of woman abuse.
A public education effort aimed at assisting the community at large to understand the dynamics of abuse, the services available and to better respond to disclosures of abuse is required.
Front-line service providers need to be supported. Resources must be dedicated to ensure adequate staffing and training as well as emotional support for the front-line staff.
Policies and services need to move from offender-focussed to victim-centered.
Women need to have decision- making power over issues that affect their future. As service providers, we need to offer options and trust women to make choices.
Policies and procedures have to be flexible so that service providers can work together with individual women to develop the best options for them in each particular situation.
The "powers-that-be" need to take action and put woman abuse high on the list of priorities. They then have to promote the development of safe and appropriate policies and protocols and support their staff to implement them with adequate resources.
All polices and procedures should be made available to all service providers and consumers. Materials should be accessible for all levels of literacy.
During the workshop, the group participated in a "Carousel" exercise during which they were asked to identify current written policies and unwritten procedures. The information collected will be included in a POLICY GAP MAP.
The workshop participants noted that there are many informal responses to woman abuse, those responding being everyone from friends, family and neighbours to service clubs to community advocates to health professionals to income support workers to the criminal and family justice system. Sometimes the responses are good. Sometimes the responses are inappropriate and may not encourage the woman to seek further assistance. The broad range of people and services that could respond to woman abuse highlights the need to broaden the target group for education and policy and procedure development.
There were a number of policies and procedures, both written and unwritten, identified. It was noted that most of the written policy is for government services and is mainly legislation. Participants commented that there seems to be very little written policy for community organizations. It was also noted that very few written policies and procedures outline, step-by-step, how to work one on one with women in abuse situations and what other services are available.
Participants identified quite a lot of current training in responding to woman abuse in PEI. The gaps listed include:
- training is often not compulsory
- there are groups who are not provided with training opportunities including the business community, friends and family and neighbours (the broader community)
- current training often doesn't emphasize prevention
- current training may not be in-depth enough
- service providers need training in personal issues and conflict management
- too professionally focussed (not socially sensitive)
Participants talk about what makes a policy work well...
the policy is accompanied by extensive, mandatory training that includes hearing survivors' stories
it includes mandatory reporting of abuse
abused women seeking service are given priority over other consumers
the approach is victim-centered
there is solid working relationship, or team approach, between agencies and organizations that are responding to abuse
the response is sensitive, caring and immediate
new staff is trained in responding to woman abuse immediately
all staff receive written policies
the "higher-ups" commit resources to implement the policy
staff is held accountable for their response
the policy attempts to balance power between the victim and abuser
it includes mandatory intervention focussing on the needs of children
victim's needs are identified and fulfilled (transportation, child care, etc.)
there is support for front-line workers
the policy is developed, evaluated and updated regularly in collaboration with victims, community and other service providers
confidentiality is emphasized
the policy is flexible and can fit a specific women's needs
it is made public in a way that is accessible (plain language, conscious of literacy levels)
it includes a step-by-step format
it is gender-sensitive
it includes decision-making opportunities for women
it acknowledges systemic discrimination of women, and specifically women with disabilities and senior women
it provides an always available emergency response
it provides for a province-wide response
it provides for follow-up services re: emotional and physical health
it provides a screening process for service providers to ensure appropriate staffing of front-line positions
Workshoppers were asked for one word to describe
feelings at the end of the day:
long (and short)
discouraged (people left)
Gaps in policy and service that were identified at the workshop include:
- an advocate to assist women in accessing services and making choices
- provincial leadership in policy development
- support for front-line workers
- practices that attempt to balance power between victims and abusers
- "how to's" of working with abused women
- identified shared core values
- liability protection for service providers
- existing written policy
- accessible legal aid for victims of family violence
- special/core team to respond immediately
- anti-violence framework through which all existing and new policies must be screened
- emotional support for women available 24 hours a day
- a focus on early intervention and empowering and supporting mothers
- a holistic approach (service providers working together)
- flexibility/common sense/problem solving skills
- adequate focus on adult survivors
- adequate focus on senior abuse
- adequate focus on abuse of women with disabilities
- follow-up responses
- province-wide responses
- written information for professionals on available services
- adequate training
- helping women to re-enter community (ex. training, jobs, etc.)
- attitudes of community and service providers
- provision of basic needs (food, shelter, financial, etc.)
- public education
- accountability of service providers, mechanism to allow for feedback from consumers
Workshop participants were asked to spend a few minutes in their sector groups of "Justice", "Health", "Social Services, "Community", "Education" and "Professional Associations". Together, they identified some priority areas to focus on within their sectors and in collaboration with other sectors.
- attempt to change patterns by focussing on early intervention: empower mothers and provide them with tools
- take a holistic, collaborative approach to responding to woman abuse
- place more emphasis on adult survivors, senior women and women with disabilities
- create advocacy positions to assist women to access services and make choices
- community education (social marketing approach)
- develop provincial policy on abuse
- develop educational materials for service providers about other services available
- develop policies re: follow-up responses
- develop plain language policies with step-by-step
- revisit and update existing policies
- examine the difference between policy and practice
- identify the needs of victims of family violence
- do economic case studies - analysis of short term and long term costs
- overcome the issue of confidentiality so that systems cannot hide behind it
- develop regional, expert teams to help problem solve
- don't accept the status quo of organizational structure simply because "that's the way it is"
Workshop participants had a lot to say about who should be involved in the development and revision of policy and protocol for responding to woman abuse in Prince Edward Island:
truly recovered abusers
front line service providers
Health and Social Services
PEI Law Society
John Howard Society
Provincial policy sector
Canadian Bar Association
Emergency Response People
community resource programs
Victim Services Advisory Committee
Project Next Steps
Over the summer, the project co-ordinator will be gathering written policies, protocols and procedures for responding to woman abuse from Island service providers as well as from service providers in other provinces and territories. These will be compiled into a resource manual which will assist policy working groups in Phase II to write or update their own policies.
If your organization has written policies, please assist us by contacting the project co-ordinator at the number listed below.
Still to be completed in Phase I is the development of a POLICY GAP MAP, with information gathered at the workshop and during interviews with 22 survivors of family violence. This map will be used as a tool for policy development and will be distributed to workshop participants upon completion.
The Coalition for Woman Abuse Policy and
Protocol in PEI has submitted a funding proposal for Phase II of the Response to Woman Abuse: Policy and Protocol Initiative. We anticipate that this phase will begin in September, 1999. We are looking forward to your active participation in this future phase and will keep you posted.
For more information about the project, please contact:
Kirstin Lund, Project Co-ordinator
(902) 569-2913 (f)