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Responding to and Preventing Future Family Violence...
The BC-Yukon Society of Transition House’s "Children
Who Witness Abuse" Programs
by Shahnaz Rahman
Coordinator of Children’s Services
BC/Yukon Society of Transition Houses
Transition Houses have been providing safety, shelter and
advocacy to abused women and their
children for over twenty-five years in the province of British
Columbia. Over a decade ago, front-line workers in transition
houses identified the pressing need for services to children
who had witnessed their mother’s abuse. A statistics Canada
Survey conducted in 1993 indicated that 59% of BC women had
been violently victimized compared with the national average
of 51%. Studies have indicated that approximately 80% of children
whose mothers have been abused have witnessed the violence
against their mother. (Jaffe, Wolfe, & Wilson, 1989).
A positive indication from the research is that the right
intervention at the right time can stop the cycle. As Peter
Jaffe states in the video "Seen But Not Heard" (BCYSTH,
1993), "children who witness abuse are not doomed to
become batterers and victims". Programs specific to their
needs and their situations interrupt the intergenerational
cycle of abuse.
The Children Who Witness Abuse Counseling Programs were first
established in 1992 as an initiative led by the BC/Yukon Society
of Transition Houses. The Vancouver Foundation and United
Way of Greater Vancouver provided the funds for research and
development of these programs and the Ministry of Social Services
granted initial operational funds. For two years the organization,
spearheaded by the work of Sharon White, researched and developed
the program that began operation in 1993. Historically, the
Children Who Witness Abuse Program has been tied to services
for abused mothers and the goal of the program remains the
To break the cycle of intergenerational abuse
by focusing on the children of the family, to teach them non-violent
ways of resolving conflict and begin healing the wounds inflicted
Mandate and Description
CWWA is a community-based prevention program with a focus
on children who have been exposed to the abuse of their mothers.
- The program provides group and individual counseling services
for children ages 3 – 19 who are living in the community
and who have witnessed the abuse of their mothers.
- It provides information and support to the mother or other
supportive adult, and includes a school-based educational
component focusing on violence prevention.
- The program description includes information to assist
referring parents in deciding whether CWWA counseling is
appropriate for their children.
- CWWA Counseling is not intended as a crisis response to
the witnessing of abuse. It is intended for when a child’s
situation has stabilized, when he/she is out danger and
when there is better opportunity for intervention.
- CWWA counseling is based on a psycho-educational model
with a feminist perspective.
Children Who Witness Abuse Program Evaluation
BC/Yukon Society of Transition Houses received funding from
the Vancouver Foundation in July 1998 to undertake an evaluation
of the Children Who Witness Abuse Programs from the children’s
point of view. "Children Who Witness Abuse Program Evaluation:
Pre/Post Program Questionnaire" was prepared by Valerie
Oglov on behalf of the BC/Yukon Society of Transition Houses.
Children were given questionnaires before or shortly after
beginning the group or individual counseling. The Post-Test
questionnaire was given at the conclusion of the groups. For
children in individual counseling sessions, in most cases
counseling continued after the post-test questionnaire was
The children’s evaluations of the CWWA program were very
positive. The BC/Yukon Society and the Children Who Witness
Abuse Programs it coordinates now have specific and concrete
feedback about what children have learned in the programs
about definitions of abuse, safety skills, knowledge and attitudes
about violence/abuse, identifying, expressing and coping with
the feelings and self esteem. In addition, children and mother’s/caregiver’s
evaluations of the groups and/or individual counseling was
positive. It was noted that children enjoyed the programs
and had indeed learned many of the skills the programs were
designed to develop. Mothers or caregivers observed positive
changes in their children after they had participated in the
Copies of "A CWWA (Children Who Witness Abuse) Program
Evaluation…", which includes the evaluation Pre/Post
Program Questionnaire, are available by contacting the BC
Yukon Society of Transition Houses at (604) 669-6943. The
cost of the manual is $10 for Society members; $15 for non-members.
For more information about other BCYSTH publications and/or
programs, please call 669-6943, or consult our website, located