In Search of a Safe Place: Abused Women and Culturally Sensitive Services


305 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4278-3
DDC 362.82'92'08900971





Reviewed by Andrea Levan

Andrea Levan is an associate professor and co-ordinator of the Women’s
Studies Program at Thorneloe College, Laurentian University.


This is the first major book-length examination of the services
available to abused women from racial and ethnic minorities in Canada
and of various issues relevant to their experiences in Canada.
Meticulously researched and documented, the book provides an excellent
summary of the Canadian literature on wife abuse, on immigrant and
racialized minority women in Canada, and of contemporary debates about
violence against women. Agnew’s particular interest is the effect of
the interaction between feminism, community organizations, and the state
on the provision of culturally sensitive services.

Her study is based on interviews with counselors, other staff, and
volunteers from ethno-specific and immigrant women’s groups that
provide services to victims of wife abuse, as well as on her own
observations as a member of several boards. These rich sources of data
enables Agnew to detail important needs identified by these agencies,
such as resolving difficulties with a victim’s immigrant status,
language services, appropriate police intervention and support, and ways
to deal with sexism, racism, and alienating bureaucratic practices
within the agencies themselves.

Particularly interesting is Agnew’s examination of the relationship
between counselors and the women they serve. She argues that even in
agencies that are designed to be culturally specific, counselors often
do not recognize power differences caused by race and class, nor are
they encouraged to examine the asymmetry of their relationship to their
clients. A dependence on the state for funding has discouraged political
activism and over time has meant that feminist idealism has been
replaced by pragmatism. Although her primary focus is on immigrant
women, Agnew also examines how shelters operate and points out the
problems they face in the contemporary political terrain.


Agnew, Vijay., “In Search of a Safe Place: Abused Women and Culturally Sensitive Services,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,