The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) is a feminist organization that supports and advocates for personal, social, and political change directed at ending violence against women.
We can offer abused and exploited women and girls over the age of 12 hope and help. This includes women and girls exploited in prostitution/sex trafficking, abused by their intimate partners and/or exposed to sexual harassment/harassment.
Women either seek out the agency directly or are referred by another agency or community helper and call the London Abused Women’s Centre themselves. Women must make their own choice to use our services and come on their own accord.
Outline of Services
Individual Intake Appointment with Advocate:
- Women, who are interested in LAWC programs and services, meet with an Advocate/Counsellor for an initial interview that includes the following:
- the Advocate and the woman work together to assess the woman’s current safety situation – i.e., whether or not she is being abused by an intimate partner, sexually harassed, sexually exploited, prostituted and/or sex trafficked, and what specific risks she may be facing at the present time;
- an opportunity for the woman to express her reasons for seeking service and key needs which may include for example: support, information, legal resources, housing, shelter, safety and/or exit planning, needs of children and other services;
- the Advocate and the woman work together to create a safety plan for the woman and her children;
- the Advocate and the woman jointly determine the appropriateness of LAWC services in meeting her needs; and,
- the Advocate may assist the woman in making contacts to other services or resources as required
Individual Advocacy/Counselling Meetings:
If a woman or girl chooses, and her situation fits with LAWC’s mandate and programs, an Advocate/ Counsellor will be assigned to meet with her. A woman or girl who has been/is being abused by an intimate partner or sexually harassed can meet with the Advocate on an individual basis for a maximum of six to eight sessions, or 15 sessions or more over three years of support if she has been sexually exploited, prostituted and/or sex-trafficked. These meetings are one hour long, are scheduled about once every three weeks, and can include the following:
- identifying the nature of the abuse/trauma (from the individual abuser/harasser/ pimps/traffickers as well as from institutions such as the justice system), and reflect on how the abuse/trauma affects the woman’s life;
- the woman and her Advocate working together to create/update a personal safety plan relating to the changes in her situation with respect to her relationship with the abuser/pimp/trafficker;
- assistance in devising and taking steps to seek safety in her life, usually through ensuring that she has access to appropriate information and resources;
- providing information, options, and referrals regarding other helpers, agencies and groups in the community which may be useful to her. The advocate may act as a liaison to the referral on behalf of the woman; and,
- providing advocacy when required with agencies, institutions, services and systems (e.g., the justice or child welfare systems); accompanying the woman, when requested and available, to meetings with Crown Attorneys, lawyers, and social service professionals when advocacy is required
Urgent Support Services Program
The Urgent Support Services runs Monday – Friday and provides women and girls with immediate access to the London Abused Women’s Centre for urgent needs. Women and girls are able to walk in or phone in and see/speak to the Urgent Support Advocate Counsellor for 15 minutes. This 15-minute session allows for urgent safety planning, debriefing and/or next steps. Referrals will be provided to those in need or an intake can be booked for an appointment in the coming days if requested.
Drop-in Program/Drop-In Group:
- The Drop-in Program provides emotional support and advocacy as needed on a drop-in basis. Brief Individual Drop-in meetings are available on Tuesdays from 1:00 – 2:00 pm.
- A Drop-In Group is held weekly on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00 pm. The Drop-In Group covers various topics, chosen by the participating women, on violence against women and healing from abuse, harassment and sexual exploitation.
- The Drop-In Program and Group are available to women who have completed their Individual Intake Appointment
Making Connections Group:
- The Making Connections Group program is available to women/girls who choose this option after having had at least one individual meeting with an Advocate/Counsellor. The Making Connections Group meets for 2 hours each week for twelve weeks. An evening and afternoon group are usually available during the fall, winter, and spring.
- The Making Connections Group offers women/girls an opportunity to learn from other women/girls who have faced similar abusive situations (intimate partner abuse, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, prostitution and/or sex-trafficking). The group is based on a popular educational feminist model.
- Women are provided with information and engage in discussions about the abuse/trauma they are being/were subjected to and how this personal abuse/trauma connects to the woman abuse/sexual harassment/sexual exploitation/prostitution/sex-trafficking that is perpetuated by societal values and community institutions.
- It is also an opportunity to connect with other women/girls who have been abused by an intimate partner, sexually harassed, sexually exploited, prostituted, and/or sex-trafficked to break the isolation women/girls are subjected to and to work towards building a supportive community.
Women’s Support Group:
- The Women’s Support Group is available to women who choose this option after having completed both their individual counselling and the Making Connections Group. The group meets for two hours each week for 12 weeks. An evening group is usually available during the fall, winter and spring.
- The Women’s Support Group offers women an opportunity to address individual safety needs and plans, and to share skills, strategies, and information related to dealing with abusive partners/harassers/pimps/traffickers as well as institutions. The group provides a safe atmosphere in which to discuss topics (related to woman abuse/sexual harassment/sexual exploitation/prostitution/sex trafficking) which the participants select. The Women’s Support Group facilitates connection to community resources, and assists in the development of supportive relationships to form a community of women supporting each other.
Phoenix Program: Prevention, Healing and Recovery from Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation – More information
What might happen during a woman’s work with LAWC
The decision to attend counselling and advocacy services is difficult for many women and girls. Participation in LAWC’s program does not guarantee that the violence will end. There are too many complex issues involved in ending violence including the responsibility of abusers/harassers/pimps/traffickers/sex purchasers to end the violence. Each woman or girl is provided with the opportunity to explore options/resources that may help to keep herself and her family safe in the face of this violence.
Women and girls may not feel better at the end of each meeting with the Advocate/Counsellor. Talking about issues related to woman abuse/sexual harassment/sexual exploitation/prostitution/sex trafficking can raise uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. It is difficult for some women and girls to recognize the real extent of the violence in their lives. Minimizing the violence is a way that many women and girls cope with the abuse and trauma caused by being subjected to violence against women. As a result, working with an Advocate/Counsellor and discussing the situation can raise difficult emotions.
The choice of women and girls who decide to stop attending appointments or participating in group will be respected. One appointment may be all a woman/girl needs, or a woman may voluntarily choose to withdraw from service prior to completion of the program. It is entirely up to each woman or girl.
Clients are asked to understand and consider that a great many women and girls wish to utilize LAWC services. Therefore it is LAWC’s policy that if a woman/girl has not had contact with the Centre for a period of four weeks, her file will be closed and another woman will be offered that space in the program. While this may appear to be a harsh policy, it is a reflection of insufficient resources to meet a very heavy demand for service. Women and girls, whose files have been closed because they have not had contact for four weeks, can however contact us and have their files reopened when they are ready to resume services.
If a woman is dissatisfied with LAWC services
During a woman’s or girl’s first appointment, the Advocate/Counsellor will describe the nature of LAWC services. There are limits to the services which can be provided, and LAWC is not always the most appropriate service for a woman or girl. In that situation, available alternatives and/or community resources which may assist her are explained.
Sometimes, however, after a woman chooses to receive assistance from LAWC, she may become dissatisfied. This could be for a variety of reasons: e.g., problems in contacting the Advocate/Counsellor, disliking the Advocate’s approach, lack of accommodation for special needs or disagreements with LAWC’s policies or program.
It is every woman’s and girl’s right to have concerns addressed and responded to by LAWC. As a public service organization, LAWC is dedicated to being directly accountable to our clients, our community and our funders. To this end, a complaints procedure has been created to give women the opportunity to bring their concerns to the attention of LAWC. The complaints procedure can be obtained in the client resource area.