Annual activity reports


2009-2010 (April 1 to March 31st)
The Shiled is a network of services that includes two external centers, a shelter, a community outreach and public awareness department designed to inform communities on family violence, the law and police procedures.  In addition to French and Encglish, we offer in-house service in Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Creole, Farsi, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Punjabi, Spanish, Rumanian, Polish, Russian and Urdu with Turkish on call.



  •  New service: cultural intermediaries : The cultural intermediaries are trained community workers who enhance access to communities through awareness supports services that are sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of victims.
  •  New program on sexual violence : This year we launched a new campaign which includes multilingual tools on the issue of sexual violence in the context of intimate partner relationships.
  •  Our website : This is a multilingual site and includes information on services, activities and publications. 


  • 484 individuals, benefitted from our intervention and support services.
  • The centres in Montreal and in Laval handled  28, 697 calls this year.


  • 96%  of our clients come from different ethnic backgrounds
  • 67% are from Montreal, including CDN, St. Laurent, Cartierville, Park Extension, East End, Mile End and Lasalle
  • 43% of our cases represent monoparental families headed by single mothers
  • 49% are women 20-39 years of age & 42% are women 40-59 years of age
  • 52% of our clients are referred from the existing  social services, including CLSC’S, hospitals, the police and community centers
  • 43% came through word of mouth and our community outreach program
  • 5% came from Athena´s House
  • 17% of the clients could only speak in a language other than English or French


  • 1,440 telephone consultations 
  • 845 advocacy services
  • 287 individual consultations
  • 46 legal clinics
  • 64 accompaniments
  • home visits for women
  • 162 children exposed to family violence were recorded at our centers.
  • 6 children exposed to conjugal violence benefited from our new art therapy program.
  • 18 consultations with children and 9 family consultations with children and their mothers were given. 


  • Support group for women victims, in Greek, and Spanish
  • Support group for women victims of intimate partner sexual violence in English 
  • The cultural intermediairy service was used for 97 consultations: Arabic, Farsi, Russian and Punjabi


  •    Christmas activity - December 17, 2009 : 202 people benefited
  •    Easter activity: March 31, 2009 : 115 individuals benefited
  • May 13: Launch of Annual Membership Drive
  • November 08: 16th Annual Art Auction




  • The Shield's community outreach program on CONJUGAL/FAMILY VIOLENCE was publicised by The Suburban, Corriere Italiano and Hellas Spectrum (CJNT)
  • The Shield's multilingual PSA on SEXUAL VIOLENCE was played on CJNT Montreal, Radio Centre-Ville and CFMB Montreal.


  • CONJUGAL/FAMILY VIOLENCE: 19 information sessions to a total of 482 participants in French, English and 6 ethnic languages 
  • SEXUAL VIOLENCE: 6 information sessions to a total of 129 participants. They were given in French and 5 ethnic languages.


  • 14 presentations were given to 437 service providers in the existing network about the Shield's multilingual services.


  • The Shield was implicated in 12 committees in Montreal and Laval


  • MONTREAL-Launch of the multilingual public awareness campaing on sexual violence entitled "Do you have a secret?" September 15, 2009 at Ogilvy's Tudor Hall
  • LAVAL-Press conference for a new telephone line to provide information in 13 languages to victims seeking resources in Laval. November 24, 2009 at the Laval Police Headquarters


  •  300 volunteers contributed 6076 volunteer hours


  • 2497 hours were spent on training for volunteers, interns and employees


  • 56 people in our French language courses and they represented 24 ethnic communities.





2009-2010 (April 1st to March 31st)


We handled 131 cases in Laval this year, representing 25% of our total cases at the external services. The Laval offices handled 5,646 calls this year.

 from this number:

  • 100% of our clients were women;
  • 69% were between 30-49 years of age;
  • 65% preferred English as their language of communication, 26% Greek and 6% French;
  • 40% were of Greek origins and 53% of other origins which includes Arab, Hispanic, Armenian, and South Asian; 
  • 41% were referred from word of mouth & 30% from the existing social services and community organizations;
  • 32 children witnesses to violence were registered by our organization;


  • 618 telephone consultations
  • 24 referrals
  • 102 active listening
  • 27 accompaniments;
  • 120 individual consultations
  • 11 youth consultations
  • 1 family consultations (mother and children)
  • 10 legal clinics
  • 6 home visits
  • 140 cases of advocacy


  • Support group for women victims of conjugal violence, in Greek
  • Clients were given numerous consultations in languages other than French & English


(April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010)

 This year, our shelter was open for 365 days, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. During the 365 days of regular operation, we housed 56 women and 42 children.

 Ethnic origins and languages of communication:

39% of the women we accommodated this year at La Maisond’Athéna were not Canadian citizens. Most were sponsored and non-sponsored permanent residents and a few women had precarious immigration status: refugee claimants, refused refugee or visitor to Canada. Even among the “Canadian citizens”, 10 (29%) were born outside of Canada.  In all, 57% of women were born outside of Canada.





Canadian citizen


Sponsored permanent residents


Not-sponsored permanent residents


Refugee claimants


Visitor Visa


Refused refugee






Country of birth


Canadian born


Born outside of Canada




The women who we provided housing for came from a total of 27 different ethno-cultural communities; 32 of these women, representing more than half(57%), came from ethnic backgrounds other than English/French Canadian and First Nations.

Of all women that we sheltered this year, 14% (8 women)had severe linguistic barriers and difficulties in communicating in either French or English. The languages they spoke are the following: Arabic, Russian, Gujrati, Hindi, Spanish, Mandarin and Tamil. With the assistance of our trained cultural interpreters at the Montreal office, the communication with these clients was easily facilitated. The cultural interpreters spoke: Arabic, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, Armenian, Farsi, and Romanian. If there was a language not spoken by a member of our staff, we enlisted the services of a translator from the “Banque d’interprètes”. This year we used interpreters on 10 occasions, for one language - Tamil.

It is noteworthy that the shelter staff also spoke a variety of languages thatallowed many women to express themselves in their mother tongue at the shelter. These languages included: Armenian, Creole, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, English and French. Even if the clients possessed an adequate knowledge of French or English, it was a relief for them to be able to express their emotions and thoughts in their language of origin, especially at such vulnerable time of their life. Thus, the women sheltered at Maison d’Athena this year spoke a total of 18 languages this year. Naturally, English and French were the languages spoken the most and they were followed by Arabic (16% of the women), Spanish (13%), Urdu (5%), Creole (5%), etc.


Average age of our clients:

Almost a third of the women (30%) who stayed at the shelter this year were between 41 and 50 years of age, while most of the women (41%) were between 18 and 30 years of age.  The ages of all women are as follows:























 Generally, women were younger than their partners,the average age gap in couples being 5 years. Interestingly, the age gap between women and men was even higher for the clients born outside of Canada (7 years), than for Canadian-born where the average age gap was less significant (3 years).
Children accommodated:



Less than one year old














This year there was an increase of 27% in the number of younger children: 52% children were between 0 and 4 years of age. The oldest children were 16 years old. Younger children are more dependent on their caregivers for support. We speculate that an increase in the number of younger children is related to increased vulnerability of our clients. Consequently, increased vulnerability led to longer shelter stays, as will be revealed in the section below.(Please refer to activities & services for children and their mothers in the annex.) 

Length of stay:

The length of stay increased this year by eight days, as women stayed in the shelter on average 28 days. This represents a substantial increase of 40% from last year!The long stays are also a record for our organization, since the average number of days that women stayed at the shelter for the last five years is 21 (for 2004-2009). The principal cause for this increase is that some women found themselves in extremely vulnerable situations and needed the shelter services for a longer period of time. Lengthier stays directly limit the ability of the shelter to receive a high number of women, since the resources are already used for the existing clients. As a result, the 40% increase in the length of stay mirrors the decrease of 27% in the total number of women.

To substantiate the above observations, a brief analysis of the ten longest stays and the ten shortest stays at the shelter is necessary. The ten longest shelter stays this year were between 61 and 91 days. Indeed, these ten women were in extremely precarious situations: 100% were immigrants, out of which 50% recently arrived to Canada; 7 were mothers of 1-3 children, 1 woman was pregnant, while another woman gave birth during the shelter stay; half of all these women (50%) had severe language problems. Conversely, the ten shortest stays were between 1 and 2 days. The majority of these women were French Canadian-born (70%). The remaining 30% were born outside of Canada, but had a stable Canadian status (two were citizens, while one was permanent resident). 30% of these women had 1-2 children. Since the mothers in this group were Canadian-born, we hypothesize that they were able to find resources in their own community or families, allowing them to leave the shelter sooner.

Consequently, these observations lead us to believe that the length of stay is determined by the precariousness of women’s situations and their access, or lack thereof, to resources. Thus, the risk factors associated to increased vulnerability are: immigration status; language skills; motherhood; pregnancy.

The nature of the problems

Among the 56 women we accommodated this year, in 88% of the cases women endured violence from their current partners, 5% were constantly harassed and threatened by their ex-partners, while 7% experienced violence from family members.

We accommodated women who have lived through different types of violence. While most shelter residents (88%) were victims of physical violence, all women experienced psychological and/or verbal violence. The sexual violence and the economic abuse are also found in alarmingly high rates, as follows: 



Type abuse










It is noteworthy that very few women (only 5%) experienced just one form of violence. Most of them endured two forms of violence (41%) or even three forms (38%), out of the four mentioned above. Unfortunately, a high number of women (16%) were victims of all forms of violence when admitted to the shelter, as their partner or family member abused them physically, sexually, psychologically and economically. It is relevant to note that the psychological violence was present in all cases this year, as was last year. This clearly emphasizes the difference between regular ‘couple conflict’ and ‘domestic violence’, as the latter always occurs in a specific cycle of control and psychological abuse.

Among the various forms of psychological violence, women report mostly: death threats and threats to harm; physical intimidation (breaking objects in the house, hitting the walls, being yelled at); insults and other forms of denigration and humiliation.

Source of referrals

The women accommodated this year were referred to our shelter by various organizations and/or individuals. 43% came from the SOS line, 25% were referred from other shelters, 18% from CLSC’s, police, hospitals and community organizations, 11% were referred by the external offices, by former residents or were self referred.





SOS Violence Conjugale


Other shelters








Community Resources/community org.


Referred by BASF (external clients)


Referred by former residents


Self-referred (previous clients)






 Available data about the abusive partners or family members:

At least 46% of the men had substance abuse issues(alcohol or drug addictions). The exact number is not known for two main reasons: some women chose not to disclose data about their abusive partners or family members; in a few cases, the shelter stay was too short to collect the necessary information from women. However, out of the 56 clients, 48 revealed the ethnic identities of their abusive partners or family members. Thus, 39% of the men were Canadian, while 61% came from 22 different ethno-cultural communities, to mention a few: Italians (8%), Indians (6%), Afghans (4%), Algerians (4%), Columbians (4%), etc. Interestingly, where data for both partners were available (for 44 clients), it was observed that a significant number of couples didn’t share the country of origin (45%). This is an important finding, as it shows that cultural differences can play a role in abusive relationships.


Many women who used our services were not fully aware of their rights and of the resources available to them. As per the shelter workers’ observations, women were likely to be unaware of their legal rights in Canada as per the social isolation they experienced at the hands of their partner. This situation puts women at a disadvantage, particularly those women who come from ethno-cultural communities.

However, lately, we were happy to witness an increase in the number of women who press charges. 45% of all clients already pressed charges before coming to the shelter, of which 64% were immigrant women. Moreover, during the shelter stay even more women decide to press charges, as they learn about their rights and about the police and judicial procedures. We also remarked that there has been a significant increase from the previous year in the education levels of the women. This year, 47%of our clients had higher education, with college and university degrees, among which one woman held a PhD degree. This finding clearly shows that education is not a preventive factor, and that domestic violence can happen to any woman, even if she is in the higher academic bracket.

With regard to the employment status, many shelter residents stayed at home and a few were in the workforce. According to the shelter workers’ observations, there are several reasons for this situation: the controlling behavior of the abusive partners sometimes goes so far as to forbid women to work or to go to school; pregnancy and younger children limit the availability of the women to work outside the home (this year 52% of the children were between 0 and 4 years of age); some women experience severe post-traumatic symptoms, and other medical conditions, as a result of the abuse (physical, sexual or psychological) and need time to recover. Unfortunately, the situation of women remaining in the home further leaves some of them in complete financial dependency towards their partners, since 11% had no other source of income but their partner’s revenue. In total, 27% of our clients were benefiting from social assistance before they came to our shelter. Nonetheless, an important number of women were able to foster economic independence, as 27% had as main source of income their salary, or benefits from their work income contributions (Employment Insurance, CSST, etc.).

2. Services offered at the shelter

  •  Individual consultations– This year, our case workers held 364 individual consultations. While this represents a decrease of 17% from last year, fewer consultations are consistent with the decrease of 27% in the total number of women.
  •  Accompaniments – Our case workers offer a service for clients who need accompaniment to their external appointments such as: court, legal aid, welfare employment programs, etc. This year, our case workers carried out 103 accompaniments. This represented an increase of 8% from last year. The increase suggests that women were in more need of support and advocacy and illustrates the increased vulnerability of the clients this year.
  •  Telephone consultations – The shelter staff dealt with 7845calls this year. Of these, 3124 were consultations with victims of abuse who were residents, ex-residents and non-residents of the shelter.
  • Art therapy– Individual and group art therapy is an accessible form of communication for children who have not yet developed sufficient language skills, for clients who have experienced trauma and are unable to express their experience with words alone, or with clients who do not speak English or French.  The sessions are conducted several times a week at the shelter by our Art Therapist, Esther Kalaba and the length varies from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on their format. In total, there were 117 individual art sessions (66 with women, 51 with children), and 24 group art sessions. The group format includes families, groups made up of women, groups made up of children or heterogeneous groups made of families and other women/children.  
  • Legal information consultations – Each client is given the opportunity to consult with a student from the McGill University Law Faculty. The law students are not at liberty to give legal advice; they can only share legal information regarding the client’s rights. If the clients choose to exercise their rights, we refer them either to legal aid, or to a lawyer. This year, our law student had 11 legal clinics.
  • Info activities– We offer information activities on the different aspects of conjugal violence. These activities allow residents to speak about their experiences. Our clients appreciate these activities that last approximately 2 hours each. We often use multilingual videocassettes, produced by the Shield of Athena, on the police procedures and existing resources.  There were a total of 13 information sessions on conjugal violence and a total of 40 women benefited from these services. These services also demystify the existing social service network and the laws. 
  • Drama Therapy– These sessions help clients tell their stories, solve problems, and externalize their feelings through role playing and drama exercises. We had 4 drama therapy sessions and a total of 4 women participated. 
  • Economic assistance – It can happen that our clients arrive at the shelter with little or no personal belongings. We therefore offer them economic assistance which can consist of second-hand and new clothing. Each client (56 women) who resided at the shelter received a welcome package including toiletries for them and their children (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc.), in addition to the above clothing. Furthermore our cook and volunteer have enabled us to deliver food to 11 ex-residents and 14 children following their departure from the shelter.
  • Demystification of the social services network and the laws – This is ongoing and is considered a specialized service. Obviously the 14% of our clientele who had severe language issues benefited from this service since the information was given to them in their language of origins. Women coming from ethnic communities are doubly vulnerable because most of them present severe linguistic and or cultural blocks that may impede them from knowing basic issues regarding their rights and accessing the health and social services network.
  • Advocacy – This is ongoing and integrated into most of the services that are given such as the accompaniments (103 accompaniments were conducted), the phone and direct consultations with the government agencies and elsewhere. Advocacy is necessary where the presence of linguistic and cultural blocks impede access to the services, and also for the women who don’t have advocacy skills and need the support of a shelter social worker to sustain their cause.
  • Follow up services– Once a client is ready to leave, their needs are assessed and they are given information regarding the external services for follow up for themselves and their children. This may be a follow up of a series of consultations, support, economic or legal services. This year, 11 clients, upon departure from the shelter, received external services at one or either of our centers (Montreal and/or Laval).

 Activities for women and children:

 This year, la Maison d’Athéna conducted activities such as:

a)Cabane à sucre (1); 11 participants.
b)Wellness day, Tornade Hair School (1); 3 participants.
c) Marché aux puces (1); 4 participants.
d) Easter Egg Hunt for children (1); 4 participants
e) Women’s issues cinema (3); 7 participants.
f) Jungle Adventure (1); 5 participants.
g) Park Outings (4); 10 participants.
h) Christmas Celebration (1); 8 participants.
i) Arts and Crafts activity (1); 2 participants
j) Concert - The Moonlight Girls, the United Church (1); 4 participants.
k) Yoga (4); 12 women.
l) International Women’s Day (3); 10 participants.

A total of 22 activities were organized and 80 women and children participated. The objective of these activities was to strengthen group cohesion and to stimulate clients’ creativity and self-esteem.

Media discussion groups:

Social workers completed 3 media groups with a total of 7 participants. Animators presented videos on conjugal violence. Discussions were centered on feelings and emotions pertaining to the videos.


Shelter workers participated in 7 trainings (86 hours) such as sexual assault, correctional services, children exposed to violence, etc.

Community Outreach:

Social workers and case workers from the shelter participated in the community outreach program so as to raise awareness on the subject of conjugal violence and sexual assault and so as to promote the services offered via SOAFS. In total, 12 community outreach sessions were held and a total of 236 people participated. The communities approached by the shelter workers were the following: Italian, Armenian, Pilipino, Spanish, Haitian and English / French Quebecers.


The students are an important part of our work and their contribution is invaluable. While we offer a rich learning environment, and constructive supervision from the staff, they bring with them energy and innovative ideas. This year we had 5 students at the shelter from various educational institutions and educational levels (undergraduate, graduate, college): McGill University, Concordia University, the LaSalle Collegeand the Ahuntsic College. We thank them all for their precious contributions to Maison d’Athéna.



A) Mother

Objective. To help mothers understand the impact of violence on their children and what parenting strategies are recommended. This information session was held a total of 3 times and 7 residents benefited.

B) Children

Youth consultations : Objective: To help children express their feelings about the violence in the family. To facilitate the communication, sometimes the consultations included drawing activities, or puppet play. In total, there were 22 consultations and 9 children benefited between the ages 3-13.

C) Family Sessions

Objective:To aid the mother and her child or children to gain more insight into what they have both experienced at home and how they may or may not have dealt with it. To strengthen the bond between mothers and their children. In addition to allow the child or children to gain more understanding of the cycle of violence. This type of session was offered 9 times. A total of 6 women and 11 children participated.

D) Respite Activities

  • In addition, respite services were provided to shelter residents on site as well as to external clients and ex-residents at the Laval office to a total of 5 women and 7 children.


At the Maison d’Athénawe try and provide the resident with as much comfort in the surroundings as possible. The easiest way to make people feel at ease is by providing them with food that is familiar to them and part of their culture. Every time new residents come to the shelter the shelter workers review their medical history and their cultural and dietary needs. For religious women coming from the Muslim community hallal meat is provided, while for those coming from the Jewish community, we offer kosher foods; for women coming from the South Asian communities or others where there is large scale vegetarianism, more such meals are planned. The menus are adapted so as to reflect the cultural, religious and medical realities of the clients and their children. In general, the Canadian Food Guide is applied so as to also try and teach good eating practices for the residents and the children. The Cook also involves the women and the children at times in food preparation, as to create a warm environment for them.

Eating together with the clients also provides the staff with insights on their lives in another setting and promotes bonding with their children. Including the residents in certain aspects of food production also promotes feelings of bonding and belonging.