Liberty: A Manual For Survivors of
Woman Abuse

by Barbara Cottrell

Every day women leave men who have abused them and begin the process of healing, sometimes with little support. Often the physical and motional struggles are so harsh that the women give up and return to abusive partners.

Denise Taylor wanted to understand why she, and other women like her had been abused by the men they lived with. Why it had been so difficult to leave and why they had returned. She realized they had to find a way to break through feelings of isolation and guilt to find pride and strength.. She worked with social worker Diane Kays to design a series of workshops which they called "Liberty,"

The Liberty program assumes that all forms of abuse against women--emotional, physical, sexual, and child abuse, prostitution , pornography, sexual harassment and poverty-are connected, and that, in order to survive and improve our lives and ultimately to, change-society's values, women must empower themselves. it also assumes that maintaining balance between women's vulnerability women taking control of. their own lives--in a society which has for centuries permitted, even encouraged violence against women--is not easy.

We also know that it can be very difficult for women. who are involved in the cycle of abuse to leave men whom they love who can be as kind as they are abusive. Through Liberty, women can support and validate each other. Providing a safe, place for women to explore why the abuse happened and :learning how to keep themselves as safe as possible in the future is what Liberty is all about

developed by Denise Taylor and Diane Kay;
written by Barbara Cottrell

The first series of eleven two-hour workshops was held in 1990. The Group covered six topics: Our Families, Our Selves; Looking at Core Relationships; The Use of Power and Control; Why Women Stay; Setting Boundaries and Limits; and Taking Care of Ourselves. Catherine, one of the first Liberty participants, said, "Liberty was the key to a different way of looking at my life. It can throw your life into major chaos, but it's worth it. Now I feel inside a lot more peace, contentment, and acceptance. I feel more secure about where my future will go. I'm not certain, I have fears, but I've gone from being terrified of life to being just a little anxious about it. I don't feel totally helpless any more. I've learned this is where I've been and if I don't want to I don't have to stay there."

Since then, four further groups have been held and a handbook for running the groups is being produced. Information on how to set up a group and interview potential group members, as well as a detailed outline of each group session, a questionnaire for potential group facilitators, and an evaluation sheet are included. For further information contact Family Service Association, 561 Fenwick Street, Suite 106, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 1P9, (902) 420-1980.

Barbara Cottrell is freelance writer, researcher, and adult educator, and an active member of the CCWW-Nova Scotia network.

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