Just Between You and Me: A Peer Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) Programme for Women in Family Violence Situations

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The authors wish to thank the following individuals for their assistance and contribution to this study:

  • Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, Northern Ontario Violence Against Women Prevention Initiative, for assisting with the funding of the Peer Training;
  • Donna Woldanski, Deborah Loosemore and Algoma University College for their kind assistance in promoting the programme and providing space for the training;
  • "Just Between You and Me" Advisory Committee Members, who generously donated of their time and expertise to review the processes and materials for the training:
  • The eighteen individuals who faithfully attended eight training sessions and who now are beginning to share their new knowledge and insight with abused women in the Sault Ste. Marie and area;
  • Gisele Beausoleil and Connie Manitowabi, who did not write this report, but are responsible for much of the work that went into creating the "Just Between You and Me" project and process, and without whom, the project would not have been possible;
  • And finally, to Susan McDonald and the Research and Statistics Division of the Department of Justice Canada, who have given so much encouragement and support to the ongoing development and understanding of PLEI.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The "Just Between You and Me" project was designed to provide Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) peer support to women who had experienced family violence and assess its validity as a model for PLEI delivery. The goal of the project was that the peers would then share this information within their own networks of family, coworkers and communities, using resources already developed and existing in their areas.

In October 2003, the Research and Statistics Division of the Department of Justice Canada contracted with Gayle Broad, Community Research and Development, to conduct an assessment of peer model of delivery of PLEI to women who had been abused by their partners. The research included the delivery of the training programme to at least sixteen women drawn from the Indigenous communities of Sault Ste. Marie and area and from an urban centre in Northern Ontario (Sault Ste. Marie), and the assessment of the model for its validity as a method of delivering PLEI.

The study adapted an evaluation tool from earlier research (Broad, 2002), developed a recruitment tool, and used materials already produced by other PLEI providers as the basis for the curriculum. A total of twenty women were recruited for the eight-week training session, approximately one-half from the Indigenous communities. A total of eighteen women "graduated" from the training.

The Evaluation Framework served as a basis for an Action Research methodology. A local evaluator was hired to provide ongoing assessment throughout the project, including all aspects from adapting the framework, through recruiting participants, developing the training modules, and assessing the outcomes. Both the Advisory Group and the peer participants were invited to give feedback, which was incorporated into the process.

The findings of this study support the use of an Evaluation Framework as a method for ensuring that PLEI is delivered from a "best practice" approach. Building on previous research, the adaptation of the Framework for this project was easily accomplished, and served as a guide to the recruiting, curriculum development and training delivery. The Framework then provided guidance to the evaluator for assessing the validity of the peer model of PLEI.

The findings of this research support a recruitment process, which includes a media conference and information session to raise community awareness, followed by a careful selection of participants. The application and interview process ensures that peers are not in crisis themselves, and provides assurance that the training can focus on learning, not on the therapeutic needs of the participants.

This research also supports earlier PLEI studies that identify the need for culturally-appropriate materials and delivery. The role modeling provided by one of the Instructors, the use of community networks and personal contacts in the recruitment process, and the presentation and adaptation of materials that reflected Indigenous content, were important factors in recruiting and retaining Indigenous peers.

The findings of this study support peer development as a valid PLEI model of delivery. The participants, in their final self-assessment, identified substantial changes in the areas of knowledge growth, perception/attitudinal and behaviour changes. Their comments indicate that they found the training empowering, and participants were already beginning to distribute the information through their community networks.

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