Shelters for abused women function within a broad context that includes intersecting social structures, policies, and resources, which may constrain and limit the options available to abused women and tacitly reinforce the cycle of abuse. This feminist, qualitative study combined in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted with 37 staff and four executive directors from four shelters in Ontario, Canada, along with a critical discourse analysis of salient policy texts. Together, the interviews and critical discourse analysis formed an integrated analysis of the dialectic between policy as written and enacted. The study findings illuminate the complexity of the system and its impact on women, shelters, and the community and highlight how specific types of social policies and various social system subsystems and structures, and system configuration, shape the day to day reality of shelter service delivery and impact outcomes for abused women and their children. Collectively, these findings offer direction regarding where these policies could be improved and provide a basis for shelters, policy makers, advocates, and the community to strengthen current services and policies, potentially enhancing outcomes for women.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/n-wathen/1/