Programming Responses for Intimate Partner Violence

NOVA SCOTIA

Context

Legislation: Domestic Violence Intervention Act, 2001

Domestic Violence Court

Nova Scotia is currently piloting a Domestic Violence Court based in Sydney (including the Cape Breton Regional Municipality). Other regions do not have a specialized court or prosecution process.

Provincial action plan: The Domestic Violence Action Plan: All persons in Nova Scotia should live free from domestic violence and abuse (2010).

Nova Scotia’s provincial action plan defines IPV as “harmful behaviour that happens in our homes, in our families and in our intimate relationships”. IPV is described as being deliberate and purposeful violence occurring in the context of an intimate relationship where one exercises power over the other. The plan acknowledges that men are most often perpetrators of IPV and that children and young people “may experience harm by being exposed to violence in adult relationships”.

The key principles of the action plan include safety of women and children as a priority in government policies and programs. Increasing case coordination and access to programs and services for victims and strengthening case processing, coordination, and management to hold those who commit abuse accountable and to support their rehabilitation. The Plan promotes the piloting of the Caring Dads program to “increase the parental capacity of fathers”.

Risk Assessment

Police throughout Nova Scotia uses ODARA to assess risk. Probation services uses SARA to assess risk in IPV cases.

The High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework allows the Department of Justice and Community Services to share critical information in cases that are deemed high-risk (score above 7 on ODARA). Critical information includes re-offence; release; breach; no-contact orders; victim begins dating; victim moves; application for an emergency protection order is made; court dates approaching; change in custody/access or family court proceedings are initiated. Signatories to the protocol are police, victim services; child welfare, corrections, transition house and men’s intervention programs.

Risk assessment is done by probation in partnership with the police to determine which stream is most appropriate for the offender using the ODARA and SARA.

Domestic Violence Court

Nova Scotia’s DV court differs from those of many other jurisdictions in that offenders at a range of risk levels are eligible for the DV stream so long as they plead guilty to the offence and would likely receive a community based sentence. Offenders who opt out of the DV court or are ineligible enter the regular prosecutorial system.

There are 3 court streams for offenders in the DV court catchment jurisdiction. The lowest risk individuals participate in the Level 1 program, offered by the Second Chance Society. This group program runs for five weeks and has continuous intake. It uses five modules of the Respectful Relationship program developed in British Columbia. Higher risk offenders attend the 10-week Respectful Relationship program, also delivered by Second Chance Society. The highest risk offenders complete the Respectful Relationship program with the Second Chance Society then go on to the Relationship Violence Program offered through Family Services of Eastern Nova Scotia.

The court monitors offenders’ progress and participation. All offenders, even those still in the midst of treatment, must reappear in the court within three months. They may also be called to appear in court if the service provider reports that they have failed to attend programming. At sentencing, the judge receives the agreed statement of facts and the outcome of the treatment before passing sentence.

Intervention Services Associated with the DV Court

Funding

Intervention services associated with the domestic violence court are funded by the Department of Justice and are located in Sydney. Referrals to the programs are also accepted from child welfare and community counselling agencies. Self-referrals are also accepted. Information regarding evolving risk is shared according to the High Risk Protocol.

CornerStone Cape Breton Association
Sydney, NS

Second Chance is designed for low risk offenders. It is a psychoeducational program that is 5 weeks in duration. The group covers the ABCD thinking, what is a respectful relationship, definition of abuse, thinking errors, understanding anger, time out and cool down, intergenerational cycle, impact on children, communication and empathy. These materials have been based on the Respectful Relationships program. The 5th session is an individual meeting to evaluate progress and set goals.

Respectful Relationships is a 10-week program (See BC for a description of Respectful Relationships).

CornerStone also offers a program called Continued Support and Intervention Circle for Men (CSI-Circle for Men). This is an open therapist-facilitated peer support group that meets weekly.

Family Services of Eastern Nova Scotia
Sydney, NS
Other offices in Port Hawkesbury, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Glace Bay and Inverness

Relationship Violence is a 17-week program, which is based, in a cognitive behaviour therapeutic model (See BC for description of the Relationship Violence Program).

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

Some information regarding the impact on children exposed to IPV is incorporated into the Respectful Relationships and Relationship Violence treatment groups. Family Services of Eastern Nova Scotia also offers a group intervention programs to support cooperative parenting through separation and divorce and an education and skills-building group for parents of young children.

Accountability to Victims

All services in Nova Scotia include some form of victim contact. Agencies generally conduct phone outreach to victims for safety planning and referral. The justice-linked DV court response relies on letters to victims.

Evaluation

There is an ongoing evaluation of the domestic violence court (Diane Crocker, Saint Mary’s University).

Services in regions outside the DV Court jurisdiction

Funding

Services outside the DV court jurisdiction are funded by the Department of Community Services. The exception is the Mi’Kmaq Family Healing Centre. Programs may also fundraise, charge client fees and/or have grants through various agencies, including the United Way, for specific programs.

New Start Society
Dartmouth, NS

Risk assessment

The program provides services to offenders of varying levels of risk. No formal risk assessment is done through the program, however therapists monitor risk of self-harm, ongoing violence, dangerous thoughts and behaviours.

Structure

Participants attend on a voluntary basis. Referrals are received from Probation and child welfare. Self-referrals are also accepted. New Start shares information with the referral agency around attendance and client progress only with the consent of the participant.

Treatment

New Start is a 16-week closed, therapeutic group based on Narrative Therapy (Tod Augusta Scott). The group has 10 – 12 participants. Individual counselling is also available and is offered with no cap on the number of sessions a participant can access.

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

Information regarding the impact on children of exposure to IPV is incorporated into the treatment group.

Accountability to Victims

Counselling is available for partners (face-to-face or telephone). The therapist that works with the victim is not the same therapist that works with the perpetrator.

Integration

New Start is a member of the Metro Agency on Family Violence and attends monthly meetings to address systemic issues. New Start may also be involved with clients being monitored by the High Risk Protocol of Nova Scotia.

Bridges Institute
Truro, NS

Risk Assessment

Bridges does not conduct any independent risk assessment. The program accepts men of all levels of risk as assessed by the referral source.

Structure

Referrals are received from community partners, child welfare, and probation. Self-referrals are also accepted. Offenders referred by probation are court mandated to participate. Information is shared with the referring agency with the participant’s consent.

Treatment

The Bridges Institute offers individual, couple, family, and group counselling to male offenders. Treatment is based on a restorative justice approach and mostly uses a narrative and feminist approach to help offenders take responsibility for their choices and be accountable for repairing the harms they have created. Men attending Bridges may be referred to a group counselling program to address their abuse. Group treatment begins with three preparatory individual sessions followed by 20 weeks of feminist-informed narrative group therapy. The group is presented in a 4 stage process: 1) Preparing to take responsibility; 2) Formalize relapse prevention plan – study past incidents of abuse; 3) Studying the effects of abuse; and 4) Demonstrate respect – healing/repairing the effects of abuse. Alternatively, men might be referred to individual, couples or family counselling.

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

Information regarding the impact on children exposed to IPV is incorporated into the treatment group.

Accountability to Victims

Female victims are offered individual services and regular contact with counsellor.

Integration

Bridges is the coordinating member of the inter-agency family violence team in their area and supports regular meetings to address systemic issues. Bridges may also be involved with clients being monitored by the High Risk Protocol of Nova Scotia.

New Leaf
Pictou County Opportunity for Men Association

Risk Assessment

New Leaf does not conduct any independent risk assessment. The program accepts men of all levels of risk as assessed by the referral source. In addition, New Leaf is part of the Integrated Case Management Pilot Project (ICMP), an initiative between justice, social services, housing and health. Case managers referred to as ‘Pathfinders’ work with clients with multiple, complex needs to assist with systems navigation and obtaining needed services. While not specifically an IPV initiative, many of the clients reviewed by the ICMP are DV offenders.

Structure

The New Leaf program is an open group with the minimum number of sessions required for mandated clients as determined by the referring agency.

Treatment

The program utilizes an adult experiential model of education treatment modality, using counsellors instead of therapists who are trained in a dialogue for peaceful change. Because the group is open, there is no specific order in which the information presented. Topics covered include cycle of violence, healthy relationships, impact of violence, and types of abuse.

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

A parenting program, Parenting with a Purpose, was a group specifically for fathers who were violent. The group has been discontinued due to lack of funding.

Accountability to Victims

Victim contact is done by a female staff person for the purpose of assessing risk and explaining the services available at the women’s shelter (Tearmann House). The women’s shelter sets up an information meeting with the woman if she wishes and staff from New Leaf attend where possible.

Integration

Pictou County Opportunity for Men Association works within a coordinated community response, which includes case conferencing and monthly High Risk Assessment meetings. The agency is also a member of the Interagency Committee on Domestic Violence.

New Directions
Autumn House/Cumberland County Transition House Association
Amherst

Risk Assessment

New Directions is part of the Cumberland County Interagency of Family Violence (all key stakeholders) and High Risk Committee. The Committees meet quarterly and share information regarding risk, which is faxed to committee members on an ongoing basis. New Directions uses a tool that they developed to assess suitability for the group.

Structure

Participants are referred by probation and child welfare (mandatory) or can self-refer (voluntary). Information is shared monthly with the referring agency about the participant’s attendance and general progress.

Treatment

New Directions is a 25-week program based in a psychoeducational framework. Two weeks of the program are dedicated to parenting.

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

The agency has recently received training on Caring Dads and plans to offer it in collaboration with a partner agency.

Accountability to Victims

As part of service, clients consent to partner contact. Victims are met by program staff to share information about the program, gather information about the client and safety plan. The Danger Assessment is used for assessing risk. Victim contact happens throughout the program.

The Journey of Two Wolves (Tapusijik Paqtismk)
Mi’kmaq Family Healing Centre
Truro, NS

Risk Assessment

The program does not assess risk. Assessment is done by the referring agency that has case management oversight. The shares assessments of participants’ progress only with participants’ consent.

Funding

The Journey of Two Wolves program is funded by Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services of Nova Scotia, which in turn, is funded by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Structure

The program accepts both mandatory and voluntary participants. Mandatory offender referrals come from probation and the child protection services. Information is shared with the referral agency through consent of the offender. Participants are provided with a certificate of completion at the end of the program.

Treatment

The program is 12 weeks long and utilizes Narrative Therapy and CBT treatment modalities. Topics covered include time-outs and cool downs, family violence, values and beliefs, impact on children, power and control, emotional awareness, grief and loss, gender socialization cultural socialization, communication, anger management and stress management.

Unlike most intervention programs across Canada, the Mi’kmaq program makes a point of using facilitators who have experienced IPV. Male leaders in their offender groups have been IPV perpetrators and female leaders have been victims of IPV.

Accountability to Victims

Victims are contacted by the women’s support counsellors from the Mi’kmaq Family Healing Centre to offer support and counselling.

Parenting/Impact on child witnesses

The Mi’kmaq Family Healing Centre does not offer a specific IPV parenting program. Information regarding the impact of children exposed to IPV is included in the treatment program.

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