Peer Support for Women affected by Domestic Violence

The Cause

Sagesse is a non-profit organization that has been empowering individuals, organizations and communities to break the cycle of domestic violence for over 30 years. Our programs are available in communities across Alberta - at no cost. We work with more than 30 partner agencies, who help deliver our programs. Our direct service programs are available to anyone who identifies as a woman, regardless of age, ability, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Sagesse translates to wisdom. The wisdom to think and act based on experience, knowledge and skill. We are best known for our peer support programs, but in fact, we do much more than that. Our work falls into 3 categories:

Peer support and one-on-one mentorship programs - our programs are for women who have experienced domestic violence, are at risk of being abused, or have been involved in sex work. Our programs are facilitated by peers, allowing for no power differential. By providing support and skills to those affected by domestic violence, we are able to work towards breaking the pervasive cycle of abuse.

Finding Our Voices is a six-week group program focusing on issues related to self-esteem and the importance of effective communication. In Finding Our Voices, participants share their experiences and learn from each other. Topics include self-image, shame, compassion and the significance of healthy relationships – both with ourselves and others. Growth Circles is a 14-week group program that delves into the experience of domestic violence. Topics range from understanding domestic violence, contextualizing experiences of trauma and shame, to creating support systems and building personal power. Moving on With Mentors is a unique program that offers individual support to women by connecting them with a peer mentor.

Capacity Building, which is focused on mobilizing individuals, organizations and communities - our LGBTQ work is about enhancing knowledge within service providers to help them provide safe, inclusive service to people within the LGBTQ community who have experienced domestic violence. We offer education to informal support networks about how to recognize domestic violence, respond to domestic violence and refer to the appropriate supports.

We also serve as the backbone agency of the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective (CDVC).

Who Will it Benefit?

Alberta has the third highest rate of domestic violence in the country. In the 2016 fiscal year, the Calgary Women’s Emergency 24-Hour Family Violence Helpline fielded 11,988 calls and the total number of clients the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter served was 15, 417. The Calgary Police Service indicated that domestic violence incidents were 34 percent higher than the five-year average and up six percent from the previous year. Statistics from 2016 showed a 35 percent increase from the national average and an increase of ten percent from 2015. In Edmonton, the statistics are even more staggering. According to justice ministry figures, the number of criminal charges for domestic violence rose to 2, 336 in 2016 from 1,955 in 2011. This reflects a trend across Alberta’s seven largest urban centers, where total charges for domestic violence increased to 7,751 in 2016 from 6,368 in 2011.

Over 10,000 abused women and their children were accommodated by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters member shelters in 2016 (5,418 women respectively and 5,149 children respectively). Of the 5,418 women who were admitted by shelters in the province, 4,301 cited seeking safety from abuse as the main reason for contacting the shelter. In that same year, 8, 076 women and 8,238 children were turned away from shelters due to lack of capacity.

It is clear that domestic violence is a pervasive and systemic societal concern. Our programs are dedicated to supporting and helping these women (and their children) learn to heal and grow, to gain knowledge about healthy relationships and how to access the supports they need in order to find safety. We also educate the general public (as mentioned above) on how to recognize, respond and refer for domestic violence. Domestic violence is a societal problem and it takes communal effort and knowledge in order to break the cycle of domestic violence.

In 2017, Sagesse engaged over 2,500 individuals, through direct service, awareness building and community development across the province. 393 women participated in peer support or mentorship programs. 160 volunteers contributed 4,500 hours of service province wide.