Peer Support Services for Abused Women Exiting Prostitution

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17); Young adult (18-24); Adult (25-64); Seniors (65 and older)

Gender: Female only

Population served: Aboriginal/Indigenous; Sex workers; Visible minority/ethnic group

Topic: Family (domestic) violence/child maltreatment; Prostitution, sex trade and/or sexual exploitation

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting; Social services setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Peer Support Services for Abused Women Exiting Prostitution project is an initiative aimed at supporting women leaving prostitution and sex work by using a client directed perspective. This program, implemented by The Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society (formally known as the Calgary Association for Peer Support Services for Abused Women), uses a peer support model and community partnerships to help provide participants with the services and guidance necessary to leave their violent situations and sex work.

The program is centered on counselling and social work; service referrals; peer mentorship; and group workshops.


The main goals of the Peer Support Services for Abused Women Exiting Prostitution program are to:

  • Support women to make decisions to effectively deal with the domestic violence in their lives and help them exit prostitution;
  • Increase social connections; and
  • Increase engagement in the community & society.


The appropriate clientele for the Peer Support Services for Abused Women Exiting Prostitution program are women exiting prostitution who identify as having experienced domestic violence. This program is for women over the age of 14 from all ethno-cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

The process and mechanism for reaching individuals is done through the collaborating agencies working in prostitution-related fields in Calgary.

Core Components

The Peer Support Services project encompasses the following programs:

  • Peer Support Program: The Peer Support Program is a 20 week (50-60 hour) program that is divided into two sub-programs:
    • Finding our Voices: This six week, self-esteem based program helps group participants address the impacts of self-esteem, self-image, effective communication, shame, compassion and healthy relationships with other. The program is delivered once a week for three hours; and
    • Growth Circle: Designed as a follow-up to the Finding our Voices group, Growth Circle is a fourteen week program that focuses on the intersection of domestic violence and sex work. This program is delivered once a week for three hours, and covers topics such as cycles of violence, effects of abuse, guilt, anger, denial, and the impact of trauma.
  • Partnership Development: The program engages in partnership development from a community development perspective, working with each community/organization to help create a structure that will most effectively meet the needs expressed by the participants; and
  • Volunteer management: All programs are delivered from a peer model, with women who have exited sex work being trained to deliver programs for those trying to access them. This program helps recruit, screen, train, and supervise volunteers that will help participants and guide them to better life paths. 

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: An organization seeking to implement this program must have the partnerships, experience, and knowledge to appropriately meet the complex and changing needs of program participants. It is also important for the organization to have trained social workers in order to provide the training and guidance to the peer mentors.
  • Partnerships: Important partnerships to consider for the successful implementation of the program include family services, counselling centres as well as other community organizations/agencies that can help the participants deal with their various issues (such as addiction centres, mental health and healthcare agencies, law enforcement, etc.).
  • Training and technical assistance: All staff participating in the peer mentoring should receive the proper training, support, and supervision to deliver the programs within the project. It is also recommended to have adequate administrative support to run and track all programs.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to The Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society to implement the Peer Support Services for Abused Women Exiting Prostitution program from 2017-2022 in Calgary, Alberta.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation study of the Peer Support Services for Abused Women Exiting Prostitution (BElieve in YOU) project was completed between 2017 and 2022 by Milaney Consulting Services. The evaluation methodology utilized a mixed methods design, using both quantitative (e.g., surveys, including pre/post) and qualitative (e.g., focus groups, interviews) methods. Small sample sizes of follow-ups meant findings are reported qualitatively rather than with statistics.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • A total of 304 women participated, with participants attending 16.4 (82%) sessions on average by Year 5.
  • Outcomes include exiting sex work (100% exited), improved wellbeing for the women and improved empowerment for their own safety (self-efficacy target of 75% at post-test, increased each year to 82%; wellbeing score improved from 24 to 30 in Year 5), but women still felt unsafe from past abusers.
  • This opportunity was a positive experience for Facilitators. Volunteers capacity building/training was important for program success.

Cost Information

No information available.


Milaney Consulting Services. (2022). Year five process and impact evaluation report Believe in You Peer Support Program: Women at the intersection of domestic violence and sex work [Unpublished final evaluation report]. Submitted to Public Safety Canada.

For more information on this program, contact:

Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society
240, 1509 Centre Street SW.
Calgary, Alberta T2S 0C7
Telephone: (403) 234-7337

Record Entry Date - 2018-03-05
Record Updated On - 2023-01-09
Date modified: