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Feminist intervention approach - Maison Alice Desmarais

Feminist intervention approach

Maison Alice-Desmarais adheres to the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the Government of Quebec’s Domestic Violence Intervention Policy: Prevent, detect and counter domestic violence.

In 1993, the UN recognized that “[…] this violence is the manifestation of historically unequal power relations that have led to the domination of men over women.”

(Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women – Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, New York, 20 December 1993)

• … that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men;

• … the term “violence against women” means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to  women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

The Government of Quebec’s Spousal Abuse Intervention Policy, Preventing and Detecting Domestic Violence, defines violence as a takeover in order to dominate and is based on these nine guiding principles:

  1. Society must reject all forms of violence and denounce it.
  2. Society must promote respect for people and their differences.
  3. The elimination of domestic violence is based primarily on gender equality.
  4. Domestic violence is criminal.
  5. Domestic violence is a chosen way to dominate another person and asserts his / her power over it.
  6. The safety and protection of victim women and children has priority for intervention.
  7. Any intervention with victims must be based on the respect for their autonomy and on their ability to regain control of their lives.
  8. Any intervention must take into account the effects of domestic violence on children and seek to mitigate them.
  9. The perpetrators are responsible for their violent behavior; the intervention must aim to make them recognize their responsibility for their violence and to assume it.

The interventionist approach, which is feminist, aims [1] to:

  • Support and respect women in their efforts.
  • Provide support to women here and now.
  • Respect the pace, choices, values and needs of women.
  • Make an alliance with women and establish a bond of trust.
  • Establish and maintain the bond of trust.
  • Promote the resumption of power over their lives.
  • Transform the feeling of helplessness into action power.
  • Help women become subject of their lives.
  • Develop the capacity of women to assert themselves in the different spheres of their lives and to defend their rights.
  • Enhance self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Work to raise women’s awareness by taking into account the plurality and complexity of oppressive experiences.
  • Understand the combined effects of social gender relations and other grounds for division (class, race, sexual orientation, etc.) on women’s self-perceptions and life circumstances.
  • Help women to become aware of traditional gender roles and to break free from them.
  • Promote egalitarian relationships.
  • Become aware of the inherent influence in the helping relationship by recognizing the power privileges associated to the counselor status.
  • Break the isolation of women and develop their solidarity.
  • Work to reduce the impact of power inequalities in the relationship between care receiver and caregiver or in group work.
  • Develop mutual aid practices among women and create networks of solidarity.
  • Taming the differences in culture, religion and social conditions.
  • Fight for individual and social changes.
  • Link individual change and social change.

Contributions of the feminist intervention of Alice-Desmarais House:

  • Women who experience domestic violence have some difficulty putting words on what they live and externalizing their real-life experiences. The feminist intervention helps these women to get to know each other better, to feel guilt-free, to assert themselves, to regain their self-confidence and self-esteem and to defend their rights.
  • Women are best placed to find answers to their needs, and the feminist intervention works to develop an alliance with them in order to help them and to foster egalitarian relationships. Thus, the feminist intervention considers that the process of change is as important as the result, that is why the intervention takes into account the approach, pace and freedom of choice of each woman.
  • The feminist intervention builds on similarities. It counts on the strength of the group to enable women to support each other, to exchange among themselves in order to find solutions collectively, to develop mutual aid and solidarity, which aims to share their experiences and to break the isolation.
  • The feminist approach helps women to become aware of the impacts of violence on their lives. The messages internalized by women lead them to be gentle, generous, submissive, understanding and in service to others, while men are encouraged to be strong, assertive, go-getters, virile and independent. These sexist messages create inequalities that explain why a woman will be at greater risk than a man of experiencing violence. The feminist approach then helps to deconstruct these sexist messages that refer to gendered attitudes and behaviors.

[1] Corbeil and Marchand, summary table: Objectives, strategies and challenges of feminist intervention.