New Online Platform Teaches Ontario Resettlement Workers about Intimate Partner Violence

Friday, June 16, 2017
Rexdale Women's centre - A world of different logo Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children at Western University Logo OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants Logo

June 20, 2017—Ontario, Canada - A new online training program for Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) centres in Canada will assist resettlement service workers in helping the more than 40,000 refugees who have entered Canada since 2014.

The World Health Organization estimates that world-wide, 1 in 3 women experience Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the course of their lifetime. For refugee women in Canada, the issues of IPV are complicated by barriers to service, such as language, cultural differences, transportation and awareness.  As an added complication, many of these women have also experienced trauma as a result of war and, in some cases, sexual assault by non-family members.

RAP workers are typically the first contact point for refugee women, providing front-line assistance to those who experience IPV.  RAP workers require customized training to understand the implications of IPV as well as specific approaches related to abuse that refugee women may experience, such as fear of family breakdown and/or loss of immigration status used to control a partner.  As one RAP worker noted, "women won't say they are abused because they are afraid of ending up alone and losing the children."

A survey of RAP workers across the Province of Ontario revealed they lack consistent preparation and training for dealing with IPV among refugee women.  Several workers noted that the lack of a standardized response leads to coordination problems and impedes an effective response to refugee women’s needs.  RAP workers identified the need for training on this critical issue within the sector.

To address the challenges faced by frontline RAP settlement workers, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), Rexdale Women's Centre and the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) developed Advancing Recognition and Response to Violence Against Women in Ontario: A Collaborative Initiative for Resettlement Service Delivery. The project is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.  Fatima Filippi, Executive Director of Rexdale Women’s Centre, affirmed her support for the work saying, “we believe that the materials and now the online training tool will assist frontline RAP resettlement workers to better assist refugee women experiencing IPV.”

The goal of the project is to promote uniform organizational responses to IPV against refugee women in a way that is sensitive to gender and culture.  With contributions from our partners and advisory committee members, including OCASI, CREVAWC, COSTI Immigrant Services, the Rexdale Women’s Centre (lead agency), Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County, and Wesley Urban Ministries, we have developed a resource guide, standardized protocols and training materials.  We are launching a self-directed online training program that is accessible to all RAP workers, providing training that will ensure consistent responses to the problems refugee women face when they experience IPV.  As Barb MacQuarrie, Community Director, CREVAWC noted, "violence against women is a complex problem.  The training will teach RAP workers about resources and experts they can turn to for assistance in addressing it." 

To mark World Refugee Day, the partners will showcase the new online learning program by presenting Signals for Safety in Settlement Services.  The program kick-off takes place on Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at the Rexdale Women's Centre, in the Rexdale Community Hub at 21 Panorama Court, in Ontario, Canada, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Contact:  Fatima Filippi, Executive Director
The Rexdale Women's Centre
416-745-0062 ext 265 / ffilippi@rexdalewomen.org