Community Support Groups for Women

Many communities offer free drop-in groups for battered women that have the same goals as those run within a shelter. These groups provide support on an as-needed basis and rely mostly on education, referral to services, and the chance to speak with other women about their experiences. The group leaders may be volunteers, formerly battered women and/or professionals, and the number of participants varies from week to week. Many women go to drop-in groups as a first step in getting help. Thus, they differ from shelter groups in that some women may still reside with their partner, while others may be in the process of leaving, may have already left, or may have returned. Once again, the important contribution of drop-in groups is the opportunity to listen to other women with shared experiences. Most often community dropin groups are supported and run as part of the shelter program. Very few groups are provided by established clinical settings, such as mental health clinics, social service agencies, or private practice settings.

Some communities do provide longer term, or ongoing, clinical intervention groups for battered women. These are distinguished from drop-in groups by the stability of the group, for example, the same women return each week, and often by the presence of professionally trained group leaders such as social workers or psychologists. Ongoing groups take many forms and can last anywhere from several weeks to several years. Some programs are free, while others charge a nominal fee.

One program which adopts a feminist-ecological model in efforts to help women to overcome the effects of battering on their lives was created in 1985 by Ginette Larouche in Quebec, Canada. Feminists believe that woman abuse originates in a maledominated society and that the responsibility for ending the violence rests with the community. The aims of the feminist model are to denounce woman abuse, to return responsibility for violence to the man, as opposed to the victim, and to focus on counterbalancing the negative consequences to the woman.

These groups take a social and psycho-educational approach that includes listening to the woman and providing active support, as well as clarification and education designed to explode myths perpetrated by the abuser. For example, many women come to believe that they are the cause of the violence against them, as batterers often cite small infractions by the woman as the reason for their violent behavior. Over time, some battered women come to believe the abuser and work diligently to avoid setting off a confrontation. These efforts are seldom successful and lead to low self-esteem, to self-blame, and to guilt, as well as to the risk of injury. Support groups provide battered women with information about their rights,

Domestic Violence Intervention available resources, and they empower women to endorse a broader range of gender roles. Along the way, it is hoped that tension is reduced, support is provided for reducing victim behaviors, and the woman's sense of autonomy is restored.

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