Taking action against woman abuse
The Woman Abuse Council of Toronto consists of
representatives from key sectors in the community who have come together to develop a
coordinated community response to woman abuse in Toronto. The Council membership is made
up of police, shelters, support service agencies, hospitals, community health centres,
probation, survivors, etc. The Woman Abuse Council was initiated under the sponsorship of
Alan Tonks, the former Metro Chairman.
Violence against women and children has dire
consequences for communities, families, and individuals. Estimates indicate that one in
every six women in Canada is abused by her partner each year. Women with disabilities are
up to ten times as likely to be abused as non-disabled women Over 60% of female homicides
are due to family violence. Estimates of annual health related costs of violence against
women in Canada is $1, 539, 650, 387. (Centre for Research on Violence Against
Women and Children, 1995.)
A significant problem in various attempts to
address this issue has been the lack of coordination and fragmentation of programs and
services across all sectors. The 1998 Provincial Coroner's Inquest into domestic
violence made over 200 recommendations. These recommendations speak to the need for a
seamless system that requires all sectors to work together as partners. In order for
victims not to "fall through the cracks" a coordinated response to woman abuse
is essential. (Provincial Coroner's Inquest, 1998.)
Why is the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto
important to the city of Toronto?
Why should the Council have city of
Role of the Council
Successes of the Council
Current and projected activities
Why is the Woman Abuse Council
of Toronto important to the city?
- The Woman Abuse Council of Toronto is the only
woman abuse coordinating body in Toronto, which has such a diverse and all-encompassing
membership. Coordination, collaboration and consistency are the key elements in ensuring
the safety of abused women and their children. It is, therefore, an essential component
of an infra-structure which works towards ensuring that Toronto is a safe city.
- The Council has been faced with many
challenges arising from the size and diversity of the population of Toronto. In its
approach it serves as a model to other large communities facing similar challenges.
- To have a centralized, autonomous body
focussing on the issue of woman abuse, enables sectors to negotiate and resolve common
issues/conflicts more expediently and effectively.
- Although the Council does not profess to be the
voice of all those working towards ending violence against women, it does speak from a strong
community-based position. Similarly, when investigating or responding to a relevant
issue, the city of Toronto can access the Council for consultation.
- The Woman Abuse council began as a small
community-based initiative and has grown to a membership of 175 organizations and sectors.
As such it is a significant body, which potentially has the ability to affect change, within
the community of Toronto.
Why should the Council have city of Toronto
- The Funding for the Woman Abuse Council of
Toronto has come from a number of different sources including the Provincial Government,
the Trillium Foundation, Breaking the Cycle Municipal Grants, Federal Status of Women
Funding, along with fund-raising activities such as the Nissan Run, and donations. As of
1995, the Province of Ontario severely limited the funding that was made available to the
Council for our groundbreaking work.
- The Council has received numerous grants for
special projects, however, the base budget required by the Council for its ongoing
survival is $ 110, 000 based on the continued in-kind support from the City of
Toronto. This covers the cost of the Council coordinator, office administrator, limited
office supplies and expenses and honorariums for women survivors, who participate through
an Accountability Committee.
- Since 1991 the City of Toronto has supplied
in-kind support to the Council in the form of space and limited office supplies. The
Council now requires a firm commitment for an operating budget in order to build on our
successes and to ensure that the coordination work to date will not be lost in the newly
amalgamated City of Toronto.
Background of the Woman Abuse
Council of Toronto
Research in 1990 identified that the response to
woman abuse in Toronto was ineffective, inconsistent, inefficient and fragmented.
In 1992 the Metro Woman Abuse Council of Toronto
was formed to "Create a Metro-wide integrated community response to woman abuse which
promotes effective and efficient provision of services for assaulted women and their
The Woman Abuse Council of Toronto ( name
changed in 1998) has the voluntary participation of a diverse cross-section of
organizations and sectors, including membership from the Toronto Police Service, Office of
the Crown Attorney, Probation and Parole Services, Shelters for Abused Women and
The organization fulfills its mandate through
activities of an 18 member Council, five standing committees, and a number of time-limited
Role of the Council
The Woman Abuse Council of Toronto is an
inter-sectoral body that provides a unique mechanism for:
- Ensure that all policy development and systemic
changes reflect the voice, experience, and reality of women survivors of abuse.
- Increase the understanding and awareness of the
different roles various organizations and sectors play within the community response to
- Development of Best Practice Guidelines for
Community Agencies, and Health Practitioners for responding to woman abuse in an
accountable and consistent manner.
- Development of Accountability Standards and
Guidelines for Batterers' Programs to ensure a common framework for intervention
which maximizes the safety of victims.
- Work closely with police in reviewing police
response by providing feedback and consultation regarding necessary changes to current
- Provide a mechanism through the formal standing
Council to hold individual sectors accountable regarding the services they offer to abused
women and children.
- Initiate the development of inter-sectoral
partnerships and protocols to create a better integrated system. (ie. The Police / Shelter
- Develop innovative projects and models for a more
effective response. For example, the Specialized Domestic Violence Criminal Courts,
which includes a coordinated model for providing batterers' programs for abusers
mandated through the criminal courts.
Successes of the Woman Abuse Council
- Hosted a province wide Conference for Woman
Abuse Coordinating Committees.
- The Council developed a Best Practice Resource
Manual for community support service agencies, which includes tools and resources to
assist in the implementation process.
- Completed Best Practice Guidelines for
Responding to Woman Abuse for Health Practitioners. The document was adopted by the
Ontario Hospital Association and is being promoted through distribution to all O. H. A.
- Promoted and assisted in the development of
two specialized domestic violence court pilot projects in Toronto. The courts have
since become models for six new Courts across the Province.
- Accountability Standards and Guidelines for
Intervention Programs for Abusers. The Guidelines are currently being used by
community agencies who are providing programs for offenders mandated through the two new
specialized domestic violence criminal courts in Toronto, as well as by other community
1997 - present
- Develops and provides project management to a
coordinated model for the provision of batterers' programs for offenders mandated
through the two Toronto specialized domestic violence courts. This intervention model
includes a centralized intake function, case tracking and monitoring, managing and
coordinating a roster of agencies, who provide batterers' programs, based on the
accountability guidelines and a systematic review and ongoing support to the programs. Key
to the intervention model is the bringing together of all relevant sectors, i.e.
batterers' programs, Police, Probation, Crowns and Women's Services, to review
the system on a regular basis and make necessary revisions in order to ensure a
consistent, coordinated response. As of September 1998, 340 offenders have participated in
- Ongoing monitoring of current practice and
policies within the criminal courts and in particular monitoring of judicial decisions
in woman abuse cases through the Women's Court Watch Project.
- Jointly sponsored and organized a Toronto
Conference: Partner Abuse - Integrating Community Responses. Held in partnership
with the Toronto Police Services and Police Services Board the Conference had over 150
participants, almost one half of whom were police officers. Recommendations from the
Conference were reviewed in a strategic planning workshop and were used to develop a
strategic plan for the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto for the next two years.
- Consultation and participation with two other
courts in Toronto regarding a proposal to develop a specialized domestic violence court.
Current and Projected Activities
1998 - 1999
- Participation in an ongoing review and
evaluation of the specialized domestic violence courts. The Woman Abuse Council
is committed to ensuring the participation of community agencies and women survivors
working together with representatives from the criminal justice sectors. As the Domestic
Violence pilot courts were developed in Toronto, they continue to play a lead role as a
model for similar initiatives that are being developed across the province.
- Develop and get formal commitment to implementing
a Police / Shelter Guidelines, which will identify roles and responsibilities of
Toronto Police and community based women shelters.
- Continue to manage and evaluate the Male
Batterers' Program, which is an integral part of the Specialized Domestic
- Continue to monitor the Specialized Domestic
Violence Court, in order to streamline and increase effectiveness and sensitivity of
- Host a Toronto workshop for a provincial
initiative creating ways to make the criminal courts more accessible and sensitive to
women with disabilities and provide a mechanism for implementation of changes.
- Review and revise the Best Practice Guidelines
developed by the council in order to assess the utility and level of implementation of the
- Participate in a formal review of the Police
Domestic Violence Policy.
- Create opportunities for all participating
sectors to review and work toward implementation of the massive recommendations coming out
of the 1998 Provincial Coroner's Inquest into Domestic Violence.
- Conclude a two year Court Watch Project where
women survivors monitor the criminal courts and judicial decisions in domestic violence
cases; in particular the final report will include data on the two specialized domestic
violence courts in Toronto as compared to the normal court process.