Sagesse: Peer Support for Domestic Violence

Sagesse is all about empowering individuals, organizations and communities to break the cycle of domestic violence by curating environments to heal and develop skills to lead safe, healthy lives. Our programs and services are available in communities across Alberta – at no cost. We work with more than 50 partner agencies, which help deliver our programs. Our programs are available to anyone who identifies as a woman, regardless of age, ability, race, religion or sexual orientation. Our volunteer program supports and honors the critical role that volunteers play in helping women open up and be vulnerable, so they can heal and grow.

The Problem

Domestic violence continues to be a pervasive societal issue in Canada. Alberta has the third highest rate of domestic violence in the country. Moreover, in 2016 the Calgary Women’s Emergency 24-Hour Family Violence Helpline fielded 11,988 calls. The total number of clients the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter served was 15, 417. Furthermore, recent data from the Calgary Police Service indicates that domestic violence incidents were 34 percent higher than the five-year average and up six percent from the previous year. Statistics from 2016 showed a 35 percent increase from the national average and an increase of ten percent from 2015.

Social isolation has been identified as a risk factor for domestic violence and violent partners often use isolation as a medium of control over the victim (Wells et al., 2013). Many women who have left violent situations experience ongoing trauma, fear and isolation (Katerndahl et al., 2013). Further, experiencing a violent relationship often changes a woman’s sense of self and affects her confidence, self-esteem, and motivation to seek support (Lynch, 2013). Women who have experienced domestic violence need opportunities to rebuild positive relationships in order to escape the isolating effects of the trauma and violence they have experienced and feel empowered to move on with lives free of abuse (Goodman & Smyth, 2011).

The Solution

Finding Our Voices is a six-week group program focuses on issues related to self-esteem and the importance of effective communication. In Finding Our Voices, participants share their experiences and learn from each other. Topics include self-image, shame, compassion and the significance of healthy relationships – both with ourselves and others. This program is facilitated by peers, allowing for no power differential. By providing support and skills to those affected by domestic violence, we are able to work towards breaking the pervasive cycle of abuse.

Growth Circles is a 14-week group program that delves into the experience of domestic violence. Topics range from understanding domestic violence, contextualizing experiences of trauma and shame, to creating support systems and building personal power. Facilitators are women who have experienced abuse themselves or have a specific life experience that helps them to understand abuse.

Moving on With Mentors is a unique program that offers individual support to women by connecting them with a peer mentor.

The goal of the program and its benefit to communities include:

  1. Increase social connections;
  2. Increase engagement in community & society: research shows that when engaged in community, social risk factors including domestic violence decrease;
  3. Support women to make decisions to effectively deal with violence: when they are aware of resources available, women make decisions that keep them and their children safe, making our communities stronger;
  4. Social Return on Investment: when women make different decisions for their families, their reliance on social systems decreases and their participation in society increases.
  5. In 2017, Sagesse engaged over 2,500 individuals, through direct service, awareness building and community development across the province. 393 women participated in peer support or mentorship programs. 160 volunteers contributed 4,500 hours of service province wide.

Planned Use Of Funds

Sagesse would use the funding to establish and maintain more peer support groups for women experiencing domestic violence throughout our communities.

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

Our organization is called Sagesse. Sagesse works to empower individuals, communities and organizations to break the cycle of domestic violence by curating environments to heal and develop skills to lead sage, healthy lives.

This project was nominated by: