Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Marilyn Ford-Gilboe


Problem: 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.

Method: This feminist, qualitative study drew on in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted with 37 staff and 4 executive directors from 4 shelters in Ontario, Canada, along with a critical discourse analysis of salient policy texts in order to explore how salient policies and structures shape shelter service delivery and may indirectly contribute to the health and quality of life of women who access services. Together, the interviews and critical discourse analysis formed an integrated analysis of the dialectic between policy as written and enacted.

Findings: 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 (particularly those related to social housing, child welfare, and income assistance) and various system structures, shape the day to day reality of shelter service delivery and impact outcomes for abused women and their children. Collectively, these findings reflect a general lack of understanding about intimate partner violence that creates monumental barriers and obstacles for shelters in delivering their services. 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.

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