by Joan Krisch and Arlene Wells
How does a woman who has survived abuse put her life together? What does she need to regain her self-esteem and independence in the work world? A program in Victoria has been assisting women to make the transition to employment. BRIDGES Employment Training Project is unique in Canada in that the participants are women survivors of child- hood and/or adult abuse who identify the abuse as a major barrier to employment. Overcoming this barrier and making changes is accomplished through learning, both academic and social.
BRIDGES addresses gaps in education that are part of the legacy of abuse. Many of the women entering the program have not completed high school and few have formal vocational training. Childhood abuse influences early schooling; victimized children are frequently unable to concentrate at school and consequently are labeled "stupid" or incapable of learning, a label they come to believe and accept. In unhealthy adult relationships, the assaultive partner may denigrate the woman's intelligence or under-mine her attempts to get training or employment.
At BRIDGES, all curriculum areas work together toward changing the woman's perception of herself to that of an individual who can and wants to learn. We feel it is important to assess knowledge and attitudes, to start teaching from where she is now, to create a supportive and positive learning environment, and to design activities that are experience-based and challenging.
The BRIDGES program is divided into two 14-week phases. The first phase is classroom teaching in Life and Communication Skills, Employment Preparation Skills and Bridging Skills, which consist of upgrading english and math skills and introduction to computers. The second half of the program includes one or more work experiences which give on-the-job training in a woman's chosen career area.