COMPENDIUM OF PROMISING PRACTICES TO REDUCE VIOLENCE AND INCREASE SAFETY OF ABORIGINAL WOMEN IN CANADA – COMPENDIUM ANNEX: DETAILED PRACTICE DESCRIPTIONS
INTERACTIONS WITHIN COMMUNITIES
Changing Community Attitudes toward Violence
- Program name:
Akwesasne Family Wellness Program
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Akwesasne Territory, Ontario
- Target Group:
- Contact Name:
Catherine Lelievre, Program Manager
The program began in 1993 and has continued since that time. The only service available at the beginning was the Women's Shelter Program; but it has expanded its services to include Transitional (Second Stage) Housing and a Partner Assault response Program.
- Goals & Objectives:
To educate women on domestic violence, how to build and sustain healthy relationships and lifestyles, and how to deal constructively with mental health issues.
- Traditional/Indigenous ways:
There are two cultural experts on staff; one full-time and one part-time. They conduct three cultural sessions during the week, and use holistic traditions which include traditional cooking, ceremonies, and medicines. Participants are taken to different sites where they may take their own medicine(s), access a seer or healer, or other knowledge holder with a particular expertise the client is seeking. Culture is in everything that the Akwesasne Family Wellness Program does. Storytelling is widely used to teach respect, honour and other life lessons in all programs. Different stories are also relayed by videos, and other media.
- Components of program:
The program does prevention and awareness work in the community by holding conferences open to all, and by creating a large billboard with Mohawk police drawing awareness to violence in the community. Staff go into community schools and speak to children about violence in homes and inform the children what they can do (i.e. the creation and understanding of safety plans). Brochures are given to police officers to offer to victims to encourage them to come to the shelter for help. First and second stage shelter programs are available to women. Batterers' programs are available for men. The affiliated Partner Assault Response program helps men and women who perpetrate violence against their partners in changing their behaviours into more positive and healthy life choices.
- Services/How they work:
Services are provided on site at the facility.
Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy; the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada; Community Information, Empowerment Canada; and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
Relationships and Stakeholders
- Involvement of Target Groups:
Once a person comes into and leaves the program (for all the programs), a client satisfaction survey (or Exit Survey) is taken for that program. He/she is asked for his/her opinion on how to improve the program, what would work better, etc.; this is done anonymously. The men do this as well within the 16-week Partner Assault Response (PAR) program.
There are partners affiliated but none are specified.
- Other relationships:
Details of Program Evaluation
An evaluation has been completed.
- Highlights of Evaluation Findings:
The findings concluded that the Akwesasne Family Wellness Program is seriously under-funded, that staff are paid well below that of other shelters and that there is significantly more reporting than required than provincial shelters.
- Measures of Success:
Success is measured by clients staying clean after a year; staying out of violent relationships; living successfully and independently; and going back to school and college.
Increase in education regarding these issues. Increased community and organizational support has been substantial. Individuals successfully completing the program have often become involved in the community in a meaningful way.
Obtaining funding. The access to drugs and guns in the community is a challenge. Having the Canada-US border so close is a challenge too, as many women do not have formal identification. Wait times on the bridge can be very long too.
Things to Know to Replicate
- Replication Advice:
The program is considered replicable. Women need strong viable options other than just going back to abusive partners; and it is vitally important to provide more options for women in terms of housing, empowering programs, and to facilitate awareness of what these options are, and how they can be accessed. Women need to know all about safety planning, legal advice, how court processes work. Knowing how the justice system works is important. Therapies should be offered over the long term.
Sufficient funding, trained staff and a facility to operate out of are essential to program success.
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