The Healthy & WHISE program ran for a period of 6 weeks. Every fortnight two WHISE facilitators worked alongside two facilitators with a lived experience of having been criminalised by the system, to support participants’ (women on community correction orders) to explore of the gendered drivers of violence, reinforcing factors, and intersecting forms of oppression that influence violence against women. These sessions were supported by the presence of a social worker with expertise in supporting criminalised women.
The program was designed with the intent that, at the end of the program, participants would be able to identify heighten risks for exposure to abuse/violence. It also aimed to provide them with some practical strategies to protect themselves against repeated and/or ongoing perpetration, either from partners or systems.
Feedback from participants highlighted the power of primary prevention as a tool for recovery in that they had realisations about their own experiences after just one session - that the lens of primary prevention and gender analysis helped them relieve a sense of burden - that they felt more empowered to act for themselves. The program had helped to shift the sense of personal blame and re-focus attention on men’s perpetration of violence, and the systemic enablers for this violence.
Responses demonstrated increases in self-empowerment and confidence and showed the positive changes that have been made in these women’s lives even after only a few sessions (considering they didn’t attend all sessions). The fact that the program was co-presented with a lived experience of family violence and having been criminalised by the system, was a very significant factor in the success of the program.