Reducing Barriers to Support for Women who Experience Violence

The BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) has just released a Reducing Barriers toolkit that provides Transition Housing programs and other service providers that support women, with tools to effectively provide services to women fleeing violence who have varying levels of mental wellness and/or substance use.

In Canada, one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime. The stress and fear stemming from violent experiences can lead to chronic health problems and affect levels of mental wellness and substance use. However, it is often these women who experience barriers to accessing transition housing.

The toolkit draws upon current policies, procedures and practices of BCSTH Members and non-BCSTH Members in BC; a review practices in Canada and internationally; group discussions and surveys with 94 women who had experienced violence in BC; and, surveys of staff in Transition Housing programs in BC.

The toolkit includes background information about the relationships between violence against women, mental wellness and substance use, and why it is important to provide services to women with experiences of each and promising practices for working with women.

On the subject of pregnancy and mothering, the authors comment:

“While pregnant and mothering women who experience violence are often viewed sympathetically, predominant messages around mothering have lead women whose mental wellness and/or substance use is impacted by violence, to be labelled as abusers themselves. Service providers working with mothers and pregnant women tend to focus on the child or fetus, at the expense of the woman and the context she lives in. Substance use especially is seen as a choice, and the contexts that lead to substance use (such as violence and poverty) are often overlooked.”

You can download Reducing Barriers to Support for Women Fleeing Violence: A Toolkit for Supporting Women withVarying Levels of Mental Wellness and Substance Use here and visit the BC Society of Transition Houses website to learn more about the project here.

The development of the toolkit was funded through Status of Women Canada.

I’ve posted about the Power and Control Model for Women’s Substance Abuse from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence before, but I thought I’d add it again as it’s a good visual way of seeing the interrelationships between alcohol and substance use and violence.

POWER AND CONTROL MODEL FOR WOMEN’S SUBSTANCE ABUSE Copyright © 1996 Marie T. O’Neil, adapted from the Power and Control Wheel developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, Duluth, MN. Available from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.