Programming Responses for Intimate Partner Violence

QUÉBEC

Background

Domestic violence legislation: No legislation

Domestic Violence Court: N/A

Provincial Action Plan: 2012-2017 Government Action Plan on Domestic Violence (Action Plan).

This third Action Plan is based on the Policy on Intervention in Conjugal Violence: Preventing, Detecting, Ending Conjugal Violence (Intervention Policy) adopted by the Government of Québec in 1995. Highlights of the Intervention Policy are available in English.

The Action Plan includes 135 commitments in 4 strategic directions (1) prevention of violence and promotion of non-violence; (2) early detection and identification; (3) psychosocial intervention and (4) police, judicial and correctional intervention. The guiding principles of government action on domestic violence are the following:

  1. Society must reject and denounce any form of violence.
  2. Society must promote respect for people and their differences.
  3. The elimination of conjugal violence depends primarily on gender equality. IPV is criminal.
  4. IPV is a means of dominating another person and asserting power over that person.
  5. The safety and protection of abused women and children are priorities for intervention.
  6. Any intervention with victims must be based on respect for their independence and on their ability to regain control over their lives.
  7. Any intervention must take into consideration, and aim to mitigate, the effects of IPV violence on children.
  8. Abusers are responsible for their violent behaviour; intervention must be aimed at making them recognize and assume responsibility for their violence.

Intervention with aggressors aims to encourage them to take responsibility for their actions. Some of the proposed measures divert offenders to specialized services that are tailored to the conditions of their release which may include mandatory attendance; these services also seek to strengthen intersectoral cooperation, both locally and regionally.

The Action Plan also sets out an approach specifically targeted to the culture of First Nations and Inuit Peoples, for example by adapting intervention tools for IPV and by promoting consistency and making interventions complementary in all sectors. An Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee on conjugal, domestic, and sexual violence was formed to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the Plan.

Risk assessment

Québec police services are required to use a checklist for police investigations into domestic violence when dealing with any incident related to a domestic violence situation.

Community organizations that provide IPV services do not use any specific tool to measure or evaluate risk. The information is only shared in cases of acute risk, and the consent of the offender is not required.

The Carrefour sécurité en violence conjugale is a working group whose mission is to train the various stakeholders involved in domestic violence to use risk assessment tools, to provide them support, and to enhance cooperation among them.

Throughout the province, there are 33 organizations offering programs for perpetrators of IPV. In addition to group intervention programs, many of them offer men other services, such as violence prevention for teens, therapeutic and support services to men with mental health problems (for example depression or trauma) and individual and group therapies that address issues such as bereavement, loss, separation or dismissal. In Québec City, there is also a group providing services to men who have been victims of domestic violence.

Funding

The programs are funded primarily by la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (the Department of Health and Social Services of Québec). Some organizations supplement their provincial funding through other means, for example, from private sources and customer fees. Information is only shared in cases where risk changes or there is evidence of potential danger.

The programs offered by agencies for IPV include the following components:

Telephone Intervention: first communicating with the men by phone to establish a relationship of trust and to assess risk and whether there is a need for referral to other agencies. Intervention by telephone also allows facilitators to communicate with victims to explain the program, to assess whether they are safe, and to offer resources.

Home and preparedness group sessions: before an offender joins a group, a facilitator meets him at least twice to provide support and assistance, to see if he is ready to join a group, to assess his needs, motivation, and the type of violence he used, and also to refer him to other agencies if appropriate. Participants receive an ‘awareness notebook’ which is used as a tool to measure the impact of violence in their lives.

Prior therapy to group therapy: men who need more preparation before joining a group meet in private to try to resolve some problems, set goals, and help to break down their resistance. Two to eight sessions of this nature may take place, after which the men join a group.

Men can attend group intervention programs at any stage of the process (prior to sentencing, pursuant to a condition of probation, on the recommendation of another organization or voluntarily); such programs are intended for offenders who are motivated to change their behaviour and who have no addiction issues or serious mental illness. The groups are "semi-open" because they accept new members if there is room. The program consists of 15 to 25 sessions (usually 20) of 2.5 hours each with between 4 and 8 participants. The groups are usually led by a man and a woman. The objective of group intervention is to help participants identify their patterns of violence, to choose non-violence, and to adopt alternative strategies to resolve conflicts. During the first meeting, participants must present themselves to the group. In subsequent meetings, they share their experiences and consider strategies to prevent recurrence through discussions, simulations, activities and exchange of ideas. At the twentieth meeting, participants are asked to do a self-assessment of their progress. It is possible to extend the participation of members by negotiating additional objectives and setting a deadline for achieving them. The program content is not unified across the province. From one group to another, the method of treatment varies: some stakeholders apply a humanistic therapeutic approach and are process-oriented, while others use a cognitive-behavioral, motivational or narrative, or combine several of these approaches.

Individual therapy: men who do not meet the requirements to join a group are offered individual counselling sessions. Participants who are not progressing enough in group therapy can also be transferred to individual counselling to continue working on their goals.

Post-program monitoring: Participants can attend monthly meetings as follow-up. The purpose of monitoring is to help people to remember what they have learned. Individual sessions are offered 6, 12 and 18 months after the end of the group program.

Parenting/Impact of child witnessing

The issue of the impact of IPV on children who are exposed is normally covered in one or two treatment sessions, although this practice is subject to certain exceptions. Moreover, in Québec City, one organization, GAPI offers a group session called "Papa" to men who have used violence in their families and who are enrolled in a family violence treatment program. The themes addressed in group therapy include identifying forms of violence against children, the consequences of this violence, the intergenerational cycle of violence, support for the mother-child relationship, the co-parental relationship with the mother, separation, reunification of the family, and education focused on children's needs. This is a 10 week program based on a cognitive behavioral therapy model.

Accountability to Victims

Most Québec organizations offer support and guidance to victims of violence, usually by phone. Information sessions are also usually offered in conjunction with shelters and other service organizations for women. Some organizations hold information sessions for victims of IPV to review the content and requirements of the program; these sessions are often organized in cooperation with shelters and services for women. In Québec, it is rare that an organization offering services to IPV offenders would also offer support and other services to victims. This responsibility is more likely to fall on shelters and agencies that work with abused women. Information is shared between agencies for men and women only in cases with very high risk.

Evaluation

Studies have been conducted on a number of aspects of Québec intervention programs for IPV. For example, Sonia Gauthier, associate professor, interviewed police officers on their power to release men accused of domestic violence. She also studied the perceptions of stakeholders about the impact of the abandonment of criminal prosecutions in English only. Genevieve Lessard examined initiatives to promote greater coordination between the justice system and the youth protection system in cases where children have been exposed to family violence.

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