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About VAW

The Violence Against Women (VAW) Program assists women who have experienced abuse during the course of their lives.  Abuse may have occurred in childhood, during a past relationship, or it may be an ongoing concern in a current relationship”and a woman may have escaped abuse recently, last year, or a long time ago.

Our counselling services for women who have experienced any type of abuse, are available in English, Tamil, Somali, Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Dari and Pashto and to all women who live and/or work in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

In the VAW program, although our primary focus is on the abuse women sustain from men with whom they are involved – or have been involved – in intimate relationship, we also provide services to women who have experienced abuse from other family members.  Woman abuse spans a large range of possibilities and does not always end with a final incident of violence or abuse in a specific context.  Even when the threat is gone, a woman who was victimized may spend years working through the effects of what she experienced.  And multiple experiences may trigger earlier effects, causing deep tendrils of pain to infiltrate what appears to be a well-functioning exterior.

If you are in an abusive same-sex relationship, you may want to visit our David Kelly Services page

If you are a senior experiencing abuse please visit our Seniors and Caregivers Support Services page

We also provide counselling for women who have been labelled with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Please visit Women with Intellectual Disabilities page.

For more information, contact:

  • Service Access Unit
    Tel: 416-595-9618 to arrange an appointment with a VAW counsellor or register for an in-house group program;
  • Janet Wilson, Manager, Violence Against Women and Healthy Families program
    Tel: 416-755-5565 ext. 422 to receive information on other VAW related services and programs
  • Dari-speaking counsellor
    416-586-9780 ext. 427  for individual counselling and community-based programs for the Afghan community
  • Tamil-speaking VAW counsellor
    Tel 416-755-5565 ext. 525, for individual counselling and community-based programs for the Tamil community
  • Farsi-speaking VAW Counsellor and Community Facilitator
    Tel: 647 960 0351 for individual counselling and
    Tel: 416-586-9780 ext. 512 for community-based programs for the Iranian community
  • Somali-speaking Community Facilitator
    Tel: 416 585 2044 ext. 566 for community-based programs for the Somali community

Peer Mentor Training Opportunity!

This fall, FST will be offering a peer mentor training program. Over a few training sessions in September, participants will develop leadership and peer mentoring skills and make connections with other labelled women.

Once they’ve completed the training, they may have the opportunity to participate as peer mentors in an FST peer mentoring program that is being developed for women with labels who have been sexually abused.

Within the next two to three weeks, we are hoping to recruit up to 10 women who meet the following criteria:

  • labelled with ID/DD and diagnosed before 18 years of age;
  • live in Toronto;
  • are aged 18+ ;
  • have experienced abuse (eg. physical, emotional, and/or sexual);
  • can communicate verbally;
  • can provide informed consent;
  • have received support (counselling, group peer support etc) related to the impacts of the abuse;
  • are not currently in crisis, and must be showing signs of moving forward with their lives, such as being engaged in their community through working or volunteering or having a foundation of good relationships in their lives, and/or demonstrating that they
  • have the skills and tools to take care of themselves;
  • are established in their independent supportive living situations, meaning that they may live on their own, with family or in a group home, and can govern some life skills on their own with support.

TTC transportation costs will be covered and on-site child care can be offered.

If you know of any women who appear to meet the criteria and who you think would be interested, please give them them the attached flyer and/or contact Vania Sukola. Vania can be reached at Family Service Toronto at 416-586-9780 ext 446 or at vaniasu@familyservicetoronto.org.

Participate in our study!

Family Service Toronto (FST), with support from York University, is running a small feasibility study looking at providing counselling and peer support to women labelled with intellectual/developmental disabilities (ID/DD). The study is funded by the Women’s Xchange at Women’s College Hospital.

Our research team includes Marcia Rioux, PhD, at the School of Health Policy and Management of York University. Our study has been approved by the York’s Ethics Review Board.

Within the next month, we need to recruit 10 women who meet the following criteria:

  • labelled with ID/DD;
  • live in Toronto;
  • are aged 18+ ;
  • have been sexually abused;
  • have not received any counselling or support related to the abuse or it has been a year or more since they received the counselling.

The study participants will receive counselling and peer support. They will not receive any financial compensation for participating in the study.

All women who are referred as study participants will be offered counselling, regardless of whether they choose to participate in the study or not.

If you know of any women who may be suitable to recruit to either group, please contact Vania Sukola. She will explain the referral process. Vania can be reached at Family Service Toronto at 416-586-9780 ext 446 or vaniasu@familyservicetoronto.org.

If you have any questions about this study prior to considering a referral, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Maria Huijbregts, Research Lead and Director of Knowledge Building at FST, at 416-595-4032 or mariahu@familyservicetoronto.org.


  • VAW individual counselling services
    Our counselling services are for women who have experienced any type of abuse and are available in English, Tamil, Somali, Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Dari and Pashto
  • Women with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Partner Contact
    We provide telephone support to female partners of perpetrators of violence who are mandated by the courts to attend a Partner Assault Response program.
  • Healthy Families, Healthy Communities
    Groups and workshops for newcomers to Canada, presently provided in Farsi, Tamil, Somali, Pashto and Dari at various locations throughout Toronto.
  • Seniors Community Connections
    A community-based, drop-in centre for seniors from the Tamil, Iranian, Somali, Afghan and Spanish-speaking communities.


  • In-house groups and workshops held at various locations across Toronto
  • Community-based groups and workshops for women, held in various communities and agencies across Toronto
  • Presentations to agency staff and community
  • Training seminars for frontline workers
    Training for settlement workers, ESL workers, teachers, nurses and other service providers, who interface with women who may have experienced abuse
  • Consultation Services
    One to one and/or group consultation services for professionals, who work with women, who have experienced abuse and violence, including women who have been labelled with intellectual disabilities.

Woman abuse is defined as the intent by a man to intimidate and control his female partner, either by threat or by physical force on her person, her children, her pets or her property. The purpose of abuse is to induce fear and gain control. Underlying all abuse is a power imbalance between offender and victim.

If you are in danger now call 911.

If you are in crisis now, please call one of the following lines:

Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 416-863-0511

Distress Centre Line: 416-408-4357

Info & Resource Line: 211 – someone will direct you

How much do you know?

FST-VAW Early Warning Signs quiz is a simple way for girls and women of all ages and abilities to determine if they are in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship. The content of the questions were informed by women who were in abusive relationship and what they said they experienced with their partners. Read or take the Early Warning Signs quiz, or download/print Early Warning Signs brochure.

To learn more about abuse please read VAW – Issues you may be facing

Journey to self-compassion

Family Service Toronto – Violence Against Women Program is offering an 8-week self-compassion group for women-identified survivors of trauma. The group provides a supportive environment for women to cultivate a loving relationship with themselves, nurture resilience, and engage in creative self-expression. Download flyer

Date: October 16 – December 4
Location: Church St. (location is wheelchair accessible; no onsite parking)

Topics Include:

  • Understanding what self-compassion is and why it is important
  • Noticing how trauma can impact our relationships with ourselves
  • Silencing our inner critics
  • Letting go of difficult feelings, such as shame, anger, and sadness
  • Managing stress and difficult times
  • Soothing our own suffering

Refreshments will be provided.
Child Care subsidy and TTC tokens available if needed.
Registration is required.

For more information/registration call our Service Access Unit at: 415 595 9618

Parenting after trauma

A new weekly group for women offered by Family Service Toronto – Violence Against Women program. Join us as we discuss the impact of abuse on us as mothers and parents.

Key topics that will be discussed are:

  • Tools for mindful parenting
  • Attachment-based parenting strategies
  • Impact of abuse on us and our children
  • Self-care and self-compassion tools to become resilient
  • Tips to support you manage emotions – both yours and your children’s!
  • Support for each other – we cannot parent alone and shouldn’t have to!

This is a safe and inclusive space for all women-identified parents.

Date & time:  Spring 2020; dates to be announced
Location: Family Service Toronto, 128A Sterling Rd. Suite 202
Registration: 416.595.9618

Violence Against Women – Issues you may be facing

Community Agencies and Distress Centres

The following community agencies and supports are available for women who need support or who would like to talk to someone anonymously about their situation. For more agencies that provide support, please go to 211Toronto or call the helplines listed below.

Police and Ambulance
Call 911
For non-emergency police matters call 416-808-2222

Assaulted Women’s Helpline
Tel: 416-863-0511; TTY 416-364-8762
Hours: Monday – Sunday 24 hours: Service is provided in over 154 languages

Distress Centres 24 hours
Tel: 416-408-4357
Hours: Monday Sunday 24 Hours

Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape
Tel: 416-597-8808; TTY 416-597-1214
Hours: Crisis Line Monday-Sunday 24 hours

Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic: Offers legal representation and professional counselling to women who have experienced violence.
Tel: 416-323-9149

Scarborough Women’s Centre: A women’s resource centre which provides information, education and support services to assist survivors of abuse.
Tel: 416-439-7111

YWCA Toronto: Provides an array of programs for women who are being abused, including a loan program, group programs, housing support and community events
Tel: 416-961-8100

Victim Services Program of Toronto: This agency provides crisis intervention, safety planning, and support immediately after an incident
Tel: 416-808-7066

Other on-line resources

Please use discretion when going to these sites; for your safety, make a plan to empty your browser.

Amnesty International: Activism revolving around putting a stop to violence against women around the world.

Canadian Domestic Violence and Abuse Agencies List: Global inventory of hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centres and women’s organizations

Dawn Ontario: Disabled Women’s Network Ontario

Health Canada: Violence Against Women: Information provided by Health Canada regarding Violence Against Women

Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women: Local community agency providing legal/safety information

Springtide Resources

The Canadian Women’s Foundation

White Ribbon Campaign: Men working to end men’s violence against women.

Woman Abuse Council of Toronto

Programs and Services

Programmes en Français
Appointments and Frequently Asked Questions
Campaign 2000
Caring for Caregivers
Families in Transition
Growing Up Healthy Downtown
Healthy Families. Healthy Communities
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
Partner Assault Response
Partner Contact
Pat’s Place
Person Directed Planning
Seniors and Caregivers
Seniors Community Connections
Social Action
Violence Against Women
Walk-In Counselling