June 24th, 2024

Alternative approach vital to helping families experiencing domestic violence

By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on February 2, 2022.

Getting a shift in perspective on domestic abuse was the focus as the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs met for it’s weekly online Zoom session.
Onhand as the guest speaker was Nara Fedozzi, the program director with the Safe Home program, who is also a registered social worker with an extensive background in community services and program development.
Safe at Home – a four-year pilot project funded by the federal government – is designed to be an alternative approach to serving families experiencing domestic abuse and violence, with a focus on healing the whole family. The abusive partner is the one to move to an off-site facility or independent living; while their partner and children stay in their home and work with an outreach team to ensure their safety and help them begin to heal as well.
“There is a lot of stigma about this topic,” said Fedozzi, who assumed the program director role for Safe at Home in June 2021. “So I really hope to continue the conversation to try and normalize this topic so more people can feel safe and reach out to supports and heal from this.”
The vision of “Safe at Home” is that this innovative approach will help us break the cycle of domestic abuse in our communities.
“The hope of this program is to end the cycle of abuse. The program is the first of its kind in rural communities in Canada. At the end of the pilot project, which we are looking at next year, we are committed by our funder to produce to blue prints. So we’re going to be documenting all recommendations and everything that could be improved upon so other organizations across Canada get referred to this document as a guiding tool. So if they are looking to implement something similar within an area in the organization they can refer to that.”
In the program, individuals are able to access psychoeducation – including a range of coercive or abusive behaviours, common abusive tactics and the effects that abuse has on partners and families – and ongoing supports to address the unhealthy patterns and behaviours of abuse. This men’s only facility is a place to live and to obtain supports in the hopes of making meaningful change to eliminate violence and abuse in relationships, families and communities.
Safe at Home is one of the programs led by Rowan House, a larger organization that provides a range of services and supports to individuals who are facing domestic abuse and violence.
“The way we are designed to end domestic violence is that instead of providing services to one part of the family, we are trying to address the issue through a holistic approach,” said Fedozzi. “We provide a range of services and support to individuals with a history of perpetrating abuse, abusive partners toward their intimate partner. We work collaboratively with the outreach team through Rowan House who is actually supporting the impacted family through this process.”
In addition to psychoeducation sessions with either a group or individuals, Safe at Home also provides transitional housing and that gives the opportunity for the person who has been impacted by the abuse to stay safe at home with minimal interruptions in their day-to-day lives so they can still be close to their informal and formal social supports, said Fedozzi.
“Kids can still attend school while they are also receiving supports through the outreach team. So clients who come to our program are actually required to sign a document where they are giving information for their partner and we share the information with the outreach team. They reach out to them to make sure they are doing safety checks and making sure the family remains safe and providing a range of services and support throughout their engagement within the program.”
Fedozzi said emergency shelters and all of those services that are out there already are “amazing” and are critical services throughout the cycle, while trying to “end domestic abuse.”
“However, when we are providing services through shelter we need to think that people accessing shelters, usually when they reach out to social services at that point, the abuse has been occurring for quite some time,” she said. “So it has increased not just in terms of risk, but also in terms of how many events. We’re trying to shift the perspective to a more proactive and early intervention. When you’re providing shelters for folks who are fleeing domestic violence we are not addressing the root cause of the problem and that’s the key part of this program.”
Fedozzi spoke to some of the contributing factors.
“Talking about mental health and addictions, those are not causes for the problem, they are contributing (factors). They can amplify the issue.”
There’s a lack of consequences as well.
The program talks about accountability through the different phases.
“So there is no excuse for abuse,” said Fedozzi. “So it’s really learning how they got there so they can see some of the triggers and they can learn some of these tips to self-intervene and end the cycle of abuse.”
Fedozzi added it’s talking about the implication portion as well, a critical component.
“It’s talking about normalizing the conversation about abuse so people can feel there’s a safe space for them to be able to share their experiences without being judged. Each individual is unique with specific needs and strengths. So the focus of our program is really working with each individual and meeting with them where they’re actually creating those safe spaces for those conversations.”
Safe at Home can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/SafeAtHomeAB.

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