Programming Responses for Intimate Partner Violence

INTRODUCTION

The Department Justice Canada has a mandate to ensure a strong justice system response to family violence with appropriate criminal laws and procedures that ensure offender accountability. While there is no specific family violence offence in the Criminal Code, there is a wide range of offences related to the use of physical and sexual violence that are applicable within intimate partner relationships. Such offenses are referred to in this report as intimate partner violence (IPV). Criminal Code sentencingprovisions consider IPV as an aggravating factor and have been designed to provide sanctions that are both punitive and rehabilitative. This report was undertaken for the Research and Statistics Division and the Family, Children and Youth Section of the Department of Justice Canada to provide a better understanding of the current landscape of programming aimed at perpetrators of IPV across Canada. The report also augments the now archived 2008 Directory of Canada’s Treatment Programs for Men Who Abuse Their Partners, one of a series of directories prepared under the Family Violence Initiative of the Government of Canada.

CONTEXT

Justice-linked intervention responses to IPV have been developed and implemented in virtually all regions of Canada. With respect to federal offenders, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is legally mandated to provide programs and services that address offenders’ criminal behaviour and contribute to their successful transition into the community. For the majority of those convicted of IPV-related offending, services provided by CSC are augmented by community-based treatment.

Many of Canada’s provinces and territories have developed IPV action plans, either current or in the recent past, that are relevant to understanding the nature of justice-linked IPV services. IPV action plans both reflect and direct the priorities for justice-linked services. Provincial and territorial action plans were most often developed as a result of strong advocacy by, and in close collaboration with, grassroots and community level organizations. As such, these plans reflect the unique culture, needs, and political landscapes of different regions of Canada.

IPV action plans also substantially direct the funding and availability of justice-linked family violence services across the provinces and territories. For example, provincial level decisions around the existence and nature of designated IPV courts (or court processes) substantially influence how men interact with the criminal justice system (CJS) and therefore how they access services mandated by the CJS. In some provinces, the Justice of the Peace (JP) or Judge has the ability to order treatment prior to a conviction for an IPV-related offence, including addictions treatment. In these provinces, community-based services are designated to meet this need. In other cases, police identify high-risk families where no charges have been laid for intervention. In this context, community agencies have services to engage at-risk men in treatment. Other policy-related differences concern the integration (or lack of integration) of child protection, addictions treatment, and broader social services (e.g., housing) into justice-linked intervention responses to IPV. Although, recommendations with respect to therapeutic intervention or programming for offenders are generally a small part of IPV action plans, the overall priorities of the action plan are directly reflected in the justice-linked services provided to address family violence.

In this report, we begin our review of services in each province and territory with a brief description of the broader IPV action plans, legislation and/or processes that reflect and direct justice linked intervention services. Links to original documents are provided whenever possible. We recognize that this “top-down” organization can obscure the historic and ongoing influence of grassroots and community organizations on setting and implementing policy. Given the considerable body of implementation literature showing that with greater stakeholder involvement, IPV action plans are more comprehensive, stronger, and more likely to be implemented (Burby 2003; Hawking, Catalano and Arthur 2002), it is critical to remember the bidirectional influence of government and agencies on policy creation, implementation, and oversight.

Following the section on context, the justice-linked IPV intervention response in each province and territory is described. A summary of key aspects of the response is provided in Table 1. As part of this summary, information is provided on the intervention services themselves. This includes a listing of major intervention service providers, how they are funded, and who they serve. Additionally, the length, organization, and conceptual models that currently guide intervention are summarized. On the basis of program descriptions (available online and as discussed in interviews with key informants), intervention modalities are classified into the categories listed below. We recognize that many intervention programs use more than one modality and in some cases, two or more modalities are fully integrated (e.g., addictions and IPV services, Alberta YWCA Calgary).

  • Psychoeducational model focuses on providing education on the nature of violence and abuse and alternatives to such behaviors. In IPV treatment, psychoeducational programs are often based on the Duluth model which adds a focus on re-educating men to hold less sexist attitudes, form more egalitarian relationships, and better recognize and confront male privilege personally and in society.
  • Cognitive-behavioural approaches focus directly on changing unhelpful/maladaptive thinking and behaviour. This treatment modality is present- and goal-focused and often incorporates segments on anger regulation where participants are taught self-monitoring, methods to alter maladaptive thinking, and skills for appropriate expression of anger and related emotions.
  • Narrative therapy (within a feminist perspective) assists participants to review their beliefs about themselves in relation to their world, challenging those beliefs that are distorted, and helps them to access their preferred self. In IPV treatment, narratives around gender are often emphasized.
  • Risk, Needs, Responsivity model refers to a broader organization of services where attempts are made to match the intensity and focus of the intervention with the offender’s level of risk, focus service on factors that directly relate to reduced risk of recidivism (called criminogenic needs) and deliver intervention in a manner that is most accessible to the offender’s learning style and strengths.
  • Life-skills approaches target problem solving in all domains, teach skills such as job searching, computer literacy, and budgeting, and link men to resources to meet their specific needs, such as housing or employment.

Intervention programs for IPV are one component of a broader justice response and must be understood within the context of these systems. Accordingly, we also review key aspects of how the justice system interacts with IPV intervention programs. We consider how risk assessment information is used to direct response, the provisions made for accountability to victims, and the nature of community coordination including how information is shared across and between systems.

A high level of overlap between IPV and child maltreatment has been repeatedly documented in research and official statistics. Co-occurrence of IPV and child maltreatment is a challenge to Canadian systems, which have typically responded to these issues independently. For this review, we examined the extent to which parenting interventions relevant to IPV exposure and maltreatment are available as a component of justice-linked responses to IPV. Particular attention was paid to identifying robust responses; in other words, those that integrate and/or coordinated justice/probation and child protection responses as well as provided relevant intervention programming to support healthy parenting.

Finally, when possible, we highlight aspects of program evaluation and innovation for each province and territory.

OBJECTIVES

This report was designed to review and summarize programming provided in court-based, clinical, and community settings and directed towards perpetrators of IPV identified by the justice system. Focus was placed on programs for majority offenders; specifically, heterosexual men involved in the criminal justice system as a result of offending against women. Programs for perpetrators seeking services voluntarily or referred via community agencies or child protection services may be mentioned, but were not the focus of our review. Similarly, interventions specific to women offenders and LGBTQ offenders were not specifically reviewed. Services developed for specific language and cultural minority groups are reviewed and described when they are a key component of a justice-linked intervention response, but otherwise are not covered comprehensively. Finally, this report is limited to justice-linked responses that are community based; programs offered to offenders while incarcerated were not reviewed.

METHODOLOGY

Justice-linked intervention services across Canada were reviewed based on the following data: 1) policy and practice documents that direct and describe justice-linked interventions for IPV in each province or territory; 2) review of online material from agencies providing justice-linked services to perpetrators of IPV; 3) interviews with key informants from each province and territory (see Appendix B for a complete list); and 4) review of research on Canadian programs. Online reviews and interviews with key informants covered the following:

  • Source of funding
  • Intake protocols
    • Source of referrals
    • Information sharing protocols
  • Service components
    • Service model
    • Theoretical framework
    • Risk assessment
    • Provisions for victim service/safety planning
  • Community integration/collaborationFootnote 1
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