Profile: The Women’s Centre
In an ideal world, violence would not exist. The unfortunate reality, however, is that violence is common. In cases of domestic violence the abuse often stops only when victims remove themselves from the situation. In most abusive relationships the victim is female and escaping the violence requires her to leave secretly, quickly, and without many of the necessities of life. Some women turn to friends and family for shelter. For those without a local support system, there are organizations like The Women’s Centre Grey & Bruce which provides emergency shelter services, and an interim home for women and their children.
Abusers often socially isolate their partners, convincing them that they are responsible for and deserve the violence they experience. Women in particular are more likely to provide primary child care and be without an income of their own. This leaves them without the financial independence of a personal income which can increase their isolation. Over time this makes women more dependent on their partners for financial stability and emotional support, creating additional barriers to leaving if the relationship is unsafe. To women in this type of scenario, an abusive home might seem better than homelessness. Having a safe space to go makes it easier to leave abusive relationships and to begin the process of rebuilding a healthier, and happier life.
Since its inception in 1982, The Women’s Centre has offered emergency shelter services to women and children who are fleeing abusive relationships. The current shelter has a capacity of 20 beds and is staffed by professionally trained and supportive individuals. They provide shelter, counselling, and referrals to other agencies to create the kind of wrap around support system that women need. Leaving a partner and going to a shelter is not an easy decision. For women who are not yet ready to take that step, The Women’s Centre offers a crisis line service with staff who listen, provide options, and offer emotional support.
The Women’s Centre also operates second stage or transitional housing that gives women and their children stable housing for up to one year. While staying in second stage housing, women and their children can access counselling and structured programs to prepare them to re-integrate into the job and housing market. The women live independently and counselors support them to achieve their goals. The Women’s Centre knows that their programming works because of the feedback they receive from clients.
“With the support of the agency’s staff, I was able to achieve my goals: Apply for school, receive social support, and find safe housing” said one former resident who asked to remain anonymous. “The staff were always willing to listen to me, and helped me to work through my struggles,” she added.
The Women’s Centre cannot prevent violence but they can work to empower women and offer options for them to regain control of their lives. It starts with educating women about the available resources, opportunities, and supports and by providing a safe place to stay, as no one should have to stay in a dangerous or abusive relationship.
If you or someone you know needs to leave a dangerous relationship, visit The Women’s Centre website at: http://www.thewomenscentre.org/ or call their Crisis Line at 519-371-1600 or 1-800-265-3722.
By Paula Carnakie,
The Women’s Centre Grey & Bruce Inc.
And Jon Farmer
Violence Prevention Grey Bruce