The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) is a feminist organization that supports and advocates for personal, social, and political change directed at ending violence against women.
One of the roles of the Advocate/Counsellor is to support, counsel and advocate for and with women who are or have been subjected to abuse by a current or former adult, intimate partner (eg: husband, boyfriend, common-law or lesbian partner). LAWC is a non-residential centre. Clients must be 16 years of age or older and residing within Middlesex County.
Women either seek out the agency directly or are referred by another agency or community helper and call LAWC themselves. Women must make their own choice to use LAWC services and come on their own accord.
OVERVIEW OF LAWC PROGRAMS:
1. Intake Information Session:
- Welcome, housekeeping (bathroom locations, coffee/tea, etc.), purpose of intake information session
- Outline of LAWC’s mission statement and goals
- Outline of services offered
- Review client information sheet
- General overview – safety plan for abused women
- Personal information data filled in
- Review next steps, conclusion
2. Initial Appointment with Advocate:
Women who are interested in LAWC programs and services, meet with an advocate for an initial interview that includes the following:
- the Advocate and the woman work together to assess the woman’s current safety situation — ie., whether or not she is being battered and what specific risks she may be facing at the present time;
- an opportunity for the woman to express her key needs which may include: information, legal resources, housing, shelter, support, needs of children and other services;
- the Advocate and the woman work together to create a safety plan for the woman and her children;
- the Advocate and the woman jointly determine the appropriateness of LAWC services in meeting her needs; and,
- the Advocate may assist the woman in making contacts to other services or resources as required.
3. Individual Advocacy/Counselling Meetings:
If a woman chooses, and her situation fits with LAWC’s mandate and programs, an Advocate will be assigned to meet with her. The woman can meet with the Advocate on an individual basis for a maximum of six to eight sessions. These meetings are one hour long, are scheduled about once every three weeks, and can include the following:
- identifying the nature of the abuse, (from the individual abuser as well as from institutions such as the justice system), and reflect on how the abuse affects the woman’s life;
- the woman and her advocate working together to create/update a personal safety plan relating to the changes in her situation with respect to her relationship with the abuser;
- assistance in devising and taking steps to seek safety in her life, usually through ensuring that she has access to appropriate information and resources;
- providing information, options, and referrals regarding other helpers, agencies and groups in the community which may be useful to her. The advocate may act as a liaison to the referral on behalf of the woman; and,
- accompanying the woman, when requested and available, to meetings with Crown Attorneys, lawyers, and social service professionals when advocacy is required.
4. Making Connections Group:
The Making Connections group program is available to women who choose this option after having had at least one individual meeting with an Advocate. Making Connections meets for 2 hours each week for twelve weeks. An evening and afternoon group during the Fall, Winter, and Spring is usually available.
The Making Connections Group offers women an opportunity to learn from other women who have faced similar abusive situations. The group is based on a popular educational feminist model.
Women are provided with information and engage in discussions about the abuse they are/were subjected to and how this personal abuse connects to the woman abuse that is perpetuated by societal values and community institutions.
It is also an opportunity to connect with other women who have been in abusive relationships, to break the isolation women are subjected to and to work
towards building a supportive community.
WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN DURING A WOMAN’S WORK WITH US AT LAWC:
The decision to attend counselling and advocacy services is difficult for many women. Participation in LAWC’s program does not guarantee that the violence will end. There are too many complex issues involved in ending violence including the abusers’ responsibility to end the violence. Each woman
is provided with the opportunity to explore options/resources that may help to keep herself and her family safe in the face of this violence.
Women may not feel better at the end of each meeting with the Advocate. Talking about woman abuse issues can raise uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. It is difficult for some women to recognize the real extent of the violence in their lives. Minimizing the violence is a way that many women cope with the battering. As a result, working with an advocate and discussing the situation can raise difficult emotions.
The choice of women who decide to stop attending appointments or participating in group will be respected. One appointment may be all a woman needs, or a woman may voluntarily choose to withdraw from service prior to completion of the program. It is entirely up to each woman.
Clients are asked to understand and consider that a great many women wish to utilize LAWC services. Therefore it is LAWC’s policy that if a woman has not been seen at the Centre for a period of six weeks, her file will be closed and another woman will be offered that space in the program. While this may appear to be a harsh policy, it is a reflection of insufficient resources to meet a very heavy demand for service.
IF A WOMAN IS DISSATISFIED WITH LAWC SERVICES:
During a woman’s first appointment, the Advocate will describe the nature of LAWC services. There are limits to the services which can be provided, and LAWC is not always the most appropriate service for a woman. In that situation, available alternatives and/or community resources which may assist her are explained.
Sometimes, however, after a woman chooses to receive assistance from LAWC, she may become dissatisfied. This could be for a variety of reasons: e.g., problems in contacting the Advocate, disliking the Advocate’s approach, lack of accommodation for special needs or disagreements with LAWC’s policies or program.
It is every woman’s right to have concerns addressed and responded to by LAWC. As a public service organization, LAWC is dedicated to being directly accountable to our clients, our community and our funders. To this end, a complaints procedure has been created to give women the opportunity to bring their concerns to the attention of LAWC. The complaints procedure can be obtained in the client resource area.