Life Beyond Shelter: Toward Coordinated Public Policies for Women’s Safety and Violence Prevention

In the 12 months between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008, 101,000 women and children – almost the equivalent of the entire population of Thunder Bay – entered shelters in Canada. Three-quarters were fleeing abuse. Despite more than three decades of building Canada’s violence against women movement, violence continues. Across Canada, homeless women who have experienced the trauma of violence shelter in frigid alleys, cocooned in cardboard, with a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted. In the northern territories, a single house might provide a haven for as many as 20 relatives unable to find or afford their own places, many of them daughters, sisters, aunts or mothers seeking refuge from abuse in their own homes. As Canada’s only established national network and largest single provider of shelter services for women and children leaving domestic abuse, YWCA Canada has deep roots in the country’s violence against women movement, offering services to approximately 20,000 women every year. To rightly position violence against women as a wide social issue demanding action, in 2001, YWCA Canada launched a multi-phase system-change initiative: Beyond Shelter Walls.

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