Responding to Intimate Partner Violence: Refugee Assistance Program Workers
The government of Canada has resettled over 30,000 refugees since November 2015, with over 25,000 of them welcomed to Canada before February 2016. This represents a sharp increase from the 12,310 refugees resettled in 2014. Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) Centres across the country, including 11 in Ontario, have worked tirelessly to provide these new refugees with the comprehensive support and services necessary to their successful resettlement.
The Refugee Resettlement Assistance Programs in Ontario Recognizing and Responding to Intimate Partner Violence project began its work in August, 2016
This initiative strives to enhance the current capacity of Resettlement Assistance Programs (RAPs) in Ontario to identify and respond to incidents of intimate partner violence within the context of their service delivery. The resources provided on this website will expand the sector’s knowledge base and strengthen the capacity of individual service providers and agencies.
Rexdale Women’s Centre has been the lead project manager with important contributions from partner agencies, The Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children (CREVAWC) and The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI). The project also values the essential contributions of an advisory committee members; COSTI Immigrant Services, Wesley Urban Ministries and the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County.
RAP centres offer an important level of support at a critical and vulnerable time for refugee families as they resettle and integrate into Canadian society. This is also a key stage for identifying crucial (potentially life-threatening) coexisting issues.
Here we offer strategies and tools to respond to incidents of intimate partner violence refugee women have experienced or are experiencing. This includes violence experienced before, during or after resettlement.
Gender-based violence is by no means unique to refugee communities. Refugee women may experience the same forms of violence in their intimate relationships as other Canadian women, but often they also face additional barriers to seeking and obtaining help. These barriers are related to their status as refugees, a lack of access to information on their legal rights as a result of isolation, language barriers, a lack of accessible information for refugees with disabilities, and a lack of supports for women with intersectional identities including Trans and Queer refugees.
It is critically important that that all RAP centres in Ontario sign onto a shared, standardised protocol to guide their actions when violence against women is suspected, witnessed and/or disclosed. This Protocol will improve and standardise the organizational responses to intimate partner violence by RAP centres, and strengthen the capacity of RAP Centres to aid female refugee survivors of violence. The response should be uniform across RAP centres, coordinated with other institutions and service providers, and decisive. Duties and responsibilities of collaborating agencies and institutions need to be clearly defined. This will have an important impact on the resettlement experience of individual women, their children and ultimately the communities that welcome new families.