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Organizational readiness

Women’s shelters must consider and address safety, confidentiality and capacity issues when planning to provide online services. The requirements to assess and prepare the organization for online counseling involve detailed analysis of organizational resources and safety factors. Consulting women’s shelter organizations that have successfully established these services is important in addressing the full range of issues and needs in this area.

Organizations should be able to provide women clear and complete information about safety, confidentiality and capacity issues so they are equipped to make realistic and informed choices about use of online services. A pre-drafted message that can be quickly sent to women at the beginning of a session can assist women in making informed decisions, including on whether they want to proceed in this manner or pursue other available options.

At a minimum, organizations should evaluate and address the:

  • Technological competence (e.g. knowledge, skills) of staff, volunteers, and survivors with online counseling approaches and tools, and provide ongoing training for those who will be providing these services. The time and ability of organizations to develop new modes of service provision without negatively impacting comfort levels or core services should also be considered.
  • Time and knowledge required to incorporate survivor-centered standards and ethics for online communication and services into existing organizational practices and policies. For example, many policies and practices, such as those related to liability may not cover the issues associated with providing online services.
  • Potential demand for online services by girls, which should include plans for how the organization will screen and implement protocols and policies for working with minors.

 

Case Study: Young Women’s Empowerment Centres and Online Gateway (Sweden)

The Swedish Association of Women’s Shelters and Young Women’s Empowerment Centres and the National Organization of Women’s and Young Women’s Shelters established volunteer-based Young Women’s Empowerment Centres to support women and girls aged between 12 and 20 years. The first centre started in 1995, and as of 2011, there were 60 such Centres in different cities across Sweden, all started by young women who collaborate to support and empower teenage girls and young women. The initiative utilizes technology to provide information, opportunities for peer dialogue, and support services to young women, as well as to promote knowledge sharing of promising practices among service providers.

In particular, it has developed a national empowerment website for all young women: (Tjejjouren.se); created user-friendly websites for local Centres and tailor-made web tools to facilitate safe Centre staff communication with young women; and established a national intranet where all Centres can exchange ideas. The Tjejjouren.se website has been a critical resource for reaching young women who might not otherwise access support services. It features information on topics such as bodily ideals, violence, friendship and drug abuse; articles on current events of interest to young women; monthly polls; a blog for young women to contribute text or photos; and a mailbox feature for visitors to post questions anonymously.

See the full Case Study on the initiative.

Source: Carin Göranson, Kvinnojourer. Stockholm.

Tool:

Assessing Organizational Readiness to Provide Advocacy & Services Online. (Safety Net: the National Safe & Strategic Technology Project, National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2005).

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