Apr 20, 2013 / 5:00 am
The third week of April has been designated as Prevention of Violence Against Women Week in British Columbia. It is a week set aside to focus attention on the issue of family violence and on the abuse experienced by women and their children in our community. It is a week to encourage a community response that will serve to prevent violence and abuse.
Most often we are only aware of family violence and intimate partner abuse if it touches our lives in some direct way or when headlines draw our attention to incidents at the extreme end of the continuum of violence; incidents in which a woman or children are horrifically injured or killed, when charges are laid, when trials and convictions and sentences make the news. Sadly enough, incidents that make the headlines are only the tip of the iceberg, with statistics indicating that countless women and children experience violence and abuse that goes unreported and undocumented. The unfortunate reality is that women and children in our province and in our community are being abused and are experiencing violence within their families and within their relationships.
Because family violence occurs in families of all socio-economic classes, educational levels, races, cultures, religions, and age groups, there is a strong likelihood that at some point each of us will come into contact with a woman or child impacted by abuse. Whether we recognize it or not, it is there and it is happening, perhaps to the woman sitting at the desk in the next office, or the woman at the counter in the bank or at the next table in a restaurant, perhaps to the woman down the street with the lovely home, or to someone in your circle of friends.
This week is set aside to make each of us aware of the issue of family violence and intimate partner abuse, to recognize that women and children in our community experience violence and abuse and that there is a need to create an effective response to this issue. This week is meant to encourage each of us to do what we can to prevent violence directed at women and children. During this week, perhaps we will think about this unfortunate reality and feel concern that will gradually fade in the weeks to come ….unless, of course, we commit to bringing about change by carrying forward what we know and what we can do beyond this week– each of us, individually, and all of us together.
What if in every week we focused on creating safety for all in our community? What if every day of every week throughout the year, we each chose to do what we could to respond to and prevent violence and abuse and to encourage respect and safety. What might that look like and what difference would it make?
The first and most obvious step would be that we each commit to behaving respectfully and creating safety in our own lives and relationships. The second step would be that we each refuse to ignore or, by our silence, condone violent, abusive or disrespectful behaviours. Thirdly, we must be willing to be courageous and choose to speak up, stand up, intervene or call for help when we are witness to violent, abusive or disrespectful behaviour. Fourth, we must support victims of violence and abuse in tangible and meaningful ways that help them to move forward to safer and better futures. And fifth, we must recognize the need to provide services to perpetrators of violence and abuse who must not only be held accountable for their actions and behaviours, but be provided the opportunity and the skills to change as well.
We must coordinate our efforts and join together to support each other as we strive to create safety for all in our community – women, children, youth, seniors, and men. Let’s make this Prevention of Violence week bring change in our lives and in our community.
Abuse is never okay….asking for help is. If you need help or know of someone who does, please call the Kelowna Women’s Shelter @ 250 763-1040.
Dec 23, 2012 / 5:00 am
As Christmas approaches, the usual bustle at the Kelowna Women’s Shelter is multiplied by a flurry of holiday preparations. Like most households at this time of year, whatever else may be happening, a major focus is on planning and preparation: for holiday meals, parties, a tree, decorations, stockings and stuffers, perfect gifts to match the dreams of children, and the arrival of “guests”.
Family violence and intimate partner abuse impact families in our community every day of the year, and the holiday season is no exception. While valiant efforts may be made to “keep it together” over the holidays “so the children can have a happy Christmas” or “because the relatives are coming to visit”, in some families, things fall apart or blow up anyway.
It is unlikely that any woman’s dreams for the holidays include gathering up her children and spending Christmas in a Shelter or Transition house. However when it becomes clear that “home for the holidays” is not a safe place to be, leaving may be the only option. When a woman must make the difficult choice to leave, there is almost always sadness and apprehension, and this is especially true during the holiday season as the prospect of a “merry” Christmas seems to vanish. Upon arriving at the Shelter however, there is generally, profound relief and gratitude as well. Whatever the season, the Shelter is there to provide a safe, clean, supportive place to be, however at this time of year, the Shelter provides much more. Thanks to the generosity of our community and the efforts of staff, the house is decorated, food is plentiful, there are gifts for all, and, perhaps most importantly, there is relative peace… as much peace as one can find in a house full of excited children.
The Kelowna Women’s Shelter would like to thank our generous community for all the many ways that you provide support to the Shelter, its services and the women and children in our community who are impacted by family violence and abuse. It is this generosity and support that make it possible to ensure a safe place, food, transportation and childcare, as well as counselling and support services – and Christmas with all the trimmings!
Oct 19, 2012 / 5:00 am
A door opens at the Kelowna Women’s Shelter and women stream from a sun lit room, resource materials in hand. They are laughing and chatting with each other. Some pause to exchange phone numbers. Many are carrying donated toiletry or clothing items. Some move toward the Childcare area to collect children, some crowd into the pantry to receive containers of tasty and nutritious soup to take home to their families, some pause to schedule individual counselling appointments or to arrange for a worker to attend court or an appointment with them.
This is the scene as one of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter’s weekly, drop-in, support groups ends. Groups are one component of the Shelter’s Outreach/Follow-up program, and may be attended by Shelter residents as well as by women living in the community, who have been impacted by family violence and abuse but who do not presently require the residential or “shelter” aspect of Kelowna Women’s Shelter services.
Led by a skilled facilitator with a clear knowledge of the dynamics of abusive relationships and of the effects abuse may have on women and children, the group offers women in attendance the opportunity to talk about their experiences and receive support and validation from other women; women who understand because they either have been, or perhaps still are, in abusive relationships. The group provides an opportunity to listen to other women’s experiences, discuss typical characteristics and dynamics of abusive relationships and reflect on what is happening in their own relationships. They hear that no one deserves to be treated abusively and that abuse is always the responsibility of the person who is behaving abusively. They leave, knowing that they are not alone and that help is available. For some, it is a first glimpse of a life without abuse.
A woman who has attended group for the first time, steps into the counselling office to say, "Thanks for encouraging me to go to group. It was amazing. I was listening to this beautiful, smart, articulate woman saying how her husband tells her she is ugly and crazy and a useless waste of skin. I was thinking that those things weren't true about her and that she didn’t deserve to be treated that way, and then it suddenly hit me that my husband said the same sort of things to me - and I believed him - but maybe they aren't true about me either. For the first time, I realized that I don’t deserve to be treated that way either."
Groups are only one component of the Shelter's Outreach/Follow-up program. The program also offers individual appointments either at the Shelter or at another safe location within the community, and provides information, referrals, assistance with planning, as well as support, advocacy or help with practical issues. This means that the Shelter’s Outreach worker is available to not only listen, affirm and provide information, but to provide practical assistance or accompaniment to appointments or to court when necessary.
A woman may choose to access Outreach/Follow-up services when she begins to recognize that she is experiencing abuse within a present relationship and is struggling to make decisions and plans, or after she has left a damaging relationship and is striving to heal and create a more positive future for herself and her children. Having someone to talk to who is knowledgeable, non-judgemental and supportive is invaluable at whatever stage a woman accesses services.
The objective of the Shelter and its staff is to ensure that the varying needs of women and children impacted by family violence and abuse are met effectively. The Kelowna Women’s Shelter is staffed and “open” to provide service, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This means that a woman impacted by violence or abuse can call the Shelter, any time of the day or night, any day of the year. She is immediately able to talk to a counsellor, and receive information, referrals, validation, support and when necessary, practical assistance. All services are confidential and free of charge.
The Shelter’s Outreach/Follow-up program is an important part of the continuum of services available. If you need help or know of someone who does, call 250 763-1040. Abuse is never okay…asking for help is. Help is available.
Jun 17, 2012 / 5:00 am
Recent stats confirm that family violence is an issue of concern, even here in our lovely valley. Given this fact, there is the very real likelihood that it may impact each of us; if not personally, then by affecting someone we care about or with whom we come in contact.
The questions arise, “How do you respond to the issue of family violence?” and “What do you do when someone is being treated abusively?” The following suggestions may be helpful in responding effectively.
If you witness or hear what appears to be a physical assault in progress, call the police immediately. They have the right and the power to intervene in what is a criminal matter.
Since verbal and emotional abuse almost always precede or accompany physical assaults it is much more likely that you will witness incidents of verbal or emotional abuse than of physical violence. Verbal/emotional abuse might include yelling, swearing at, belittling, intimidating, name-calling, put-downs, blaming, making disparaging remarks or threats.
If you witness or hear incidents of verbal or emotional abuse, don’t behave in a manner that suggests you support or condone violent or abusive behaviours. It may be appropriate to speak up to intervene, but only if you can do so without putting yourself or the person experiencing the abuse, at risk. If, what you are hearing or seeing indicates that there is imminent risk to someone, it may be appropriate to call police for assistance.
If you can do so safely, let someone who is behaving abusively know that you see or hear what is happening and you don’t like it or think that it is funny – or okay. If you have a safe opportunity to speak to the person who was behaving abusively, confront them in a respectful manner, pointing out that their behaviour is unacceptable, that it is likely to damage or destroy their relationship and that there is help available if they are having a difficult time behaving respectfully within their relationship. Provide information about resources in the community that could help. Encourage them to be the best person they can be in the relationship.
If you have an opportunity to speak to the person who experienced the abuse, let them know that you recognize what was happening as being abusive, that they don’t deserve to be treated abusively and that there is help available.
Similarly, if you suspect that someone is being abused, try to find a safe opportunity to bring up the issue directly. Even though it may be difficult, let them know that you are concerned and that if they are experiencing abuse it is okay to talk with you about it or to reach out for other help.
When speaking to a woman who discloses that she is being abused, believe her. Listen as non-judgementally and supportively as possible – don’t minimize, justify, blame or give unsolicited advice. Talking about abuse is difficult and it has probably taken courage for her to share information. While this information may be upsetting to you, it is important to respond as calmly and objectively as possible. If your emotional response is excessive, she may feel less comfortable in sharing. Being subjected to abuse and violence can be very damaging to self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. Be affirming of her worth as a person, her competency, and her ability to make good decisions. Let her know that she does not deserve to be treated abusively, that the abuse is not her fault, that there is nothing she can do to control her partners’ abusive behaviours– only he can do that. You can let her know that without intervention the abuse almost always gets worse even though he may make excuses or express remorse and promise it won’t happen again. Let her know that her first responsibility must be to ensure her and her children’s safety and that she is not responsible for the abusive partner or his choices. Let her know that there is help available. Offer information about community resources or suggest that she call a transition house or women’s shelter for support or information, and that she can seek support without having to leave the relationship.
Don’t Suggest or Imply:
- That it’s her fault
- That there is something she can do to control or change her partner’s behaviours
- That she should stay – because of the children, because she married him, because of the expectations of her family, friends or religion …..
- That she should leave – if she is not ready to do so.
It is important to remember that you cannot “save” or “rescue” someone from an abusive relationship and that she has a right to make her own decisions – the decision to do nothing is still a decision. You can be available to provide emotional and practical support as she processes her feelings and thoughts, gathers information, makes decisions, accesses resources, plans for her own and her children’s safety, and moves forward with her life.
If there are children involved, even if the abuse is not directed at them, they can be deeply impacted by seeing or hearing incidents of verbal, emotional or physical abuse directed at a parent or sibling. If you know that children are being exposed to incidents of violence or abuse, talk with the non-abusive parent about how this might affect the children now and in the future. Witnessing violence and abuse is recognized as putting children at risk and it is appropriate for you or the non-abusive parent to call a social worker at the Ministry of Child and Family Development for assistance or direction. While a common fear is that a social worker will come and take the children, this is never their first choice. Their responsibility is to assess situations and ensure that children are safe. Most often they will offer support and will try to encourage choices that will ensure the children’s safety while remaining in the care of a non-abusive parent.
Each of us can make a difference, perhaps for one woman, one child, one family, if we choose to do what we can to respond to the issue of family violence and abuse. Abuse is never okay….asking for help is. Call 250 763-1040 if you need help or know of someone who does.
Read more Shelter Awareness articles
- Warning signs Apr 8
- Fleeing abuse Feb 11
- Anticipating a 'real' Christmas Dec 15
- Things can be different Nov 19
- Do I stay or leave? Oct 20
- Family violence and abuse Sep 15
- Abuse is never okay Jul 8
- Bullies have many faces Jun 5
- Children impacted by family violence May 6
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