Contributed by by Laura Banman
“I just can’t live like this anymore and I can’t let my kids go through it either.” The woman’s voice reflects a mixture of desperation and determination. “I know I have to do something but I need help.”
When a woman impacted by family violence and abuse reaches out for help, it’s essential that the services she needs are readily available. The Kelowna Women’s Shelter is one of the few services in Kelowna that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for women and children impacted by family violence and abuse or other significant crisis. Crisis and residential services can be accessed by a phone call, no referral necessary, any time of the day or night, any day of the week.
The Shelter is committed to providing a range of services that have been developed over time to effectively meet the needs of women and children impacted by family violence and abuse. To understand the value and the benefits of those services, it may help to think about the harsh realities and the challenges that arise when abuse is present in a relationship. Forms and degrees of abuse vary; as do the resources a woman may have at her disposal however the need for some form of support is almost universal.
Imagine that your partner has just slammed out of the house after shouting, raging, calling you names, blaming you for everything wrong in his life, telling you that you’re useless and a terrible wife and mother. No matter how hard you try to have things perfect for him it’s never good enough; you can’t avert his verbal attacks and the cruel words ring over and over in your head. You know you can’t accept the way he treats you any longer. It’s destroying you and it’s not what you want your children to believe is okay.
Imagine that you have just gotten a call from your partner saying he’s on his way home and “you are going to get what you deserve”. Last time he said that, he beat you so viciously you thought you might die while your children cowered in the next room.
Imagine knowing that you are not safe in your own home and that you must leave with your children, perhaps within a matter of minutes. Your children are there looking to you for protection – but you have no way to leave and nowhere to go and no money to pay for anything. Imagine the desperation and panic you would feel. What would you do? Who would you call?
For a woman fleeing abuse, a first phone call is often to the Kelowna Women’s Shelter. Immediately, she will receive validation, support, information and if necessary, practical assistance. She may simply want to talk- sometimes for the first time – about what has been happening in the relationship. A woman’s greatest challenge may initially be simply acknowledging that she is being treated abusively. Often she has done her best to keep the abuse hidden from family and friends who would have a difficult time reconciling the “great guy” they perceive with the abuse he has inflicted on her.
Out of an initial conversation, a woman may choose to think further about her situation and her options, feeling better just having talked to someone; she may begin working on a plan of action, using information and referrals she has been given; she may arrange a counseling appointment or decide to attend a support group at the Shelter; or she may be at the point of leaving the relationship either because of immediate crisis or because she has made a well thought out decision. The Shelter is available to provide on-going support and resources or to respond with immediate assistance.
When a woman and her children must leave their home, the Shelter can quickly arrange emergency transportation if necessary. The Shelter’s primary service is a temporary residence providing safe accommodation, which means that when a woman arrives at the door, there will be a welcoming and supportive staff person, a pleasant communal living area, a well-stocked fridge, and a bedroom with comfortable beds and clean bedding. Food, toiletries, diapers, as well as pajamas and emergency clothing are kept on hand. For the children there is a well-equipped playroom and skilled childcare staff.
During a stay at the Shelter, women and children benefit from the gift of time to simply breathe and think and feel safe and to receive the support of knowledgeable staff. Women are given an opportunity to talk and be heard and respected. They can access information, help with goal setting and planning, referrals to other relevant community resources, transportation, childcare, advocacy and accompaniment to appointments or to court when necessary.
As a woman prepares to leave the Shelter and move forward with her life, Outreach and Follow-up services are available to provide on-going support and practical assistance as well as helping to create community connections.
Shelter services such as support groups and individual counseling for both women and children are available independently from a residential stay. A woman or her children may access these support services prior to, or following, a stay at the Shelter or when they don’t need to use the Shelter’s residential services.
The Kelowna Women’s Shelter strives to create an effective response to the issue of family violence and abuse in our community. Abuse is never okay…asking for help is and when someone asks for help the Shelter is here to respond, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 250 763-1040.