This week’s blog post features an interview with YW’s Crisis Shelter and Outreach Manager, Allison Mclauchlan. YW offers a safe place for women and children fleeing violence as they heal, and continued support as they plan for the next stage in their lives.
Q: What misconceptions do people have about women and abuse?
A: Foremost is the idea that the women are weak, from poor neighbourhoods – or both. That they did something to make their partner angry, or that he was just stressed or had ‘one too many.
Q: What is the reality?
A: Our clients come from all walks of life, including our most affluent communities. They work hard and almost without exception are strong, extraordinary parents who protect their children at all costs – including their own safety. The abuse they’ve endured is not about anger, it’s about control.
Abusers are very skilled at gaining control over time, in tiny increments that no one can see coming. Abuse doesn’t happen overnight.
Q: Are there also misconceptions about the shelter?
A: Yes! People assume it’s gloomy, depressing and undignified. Nothing is further from the truth. Most clients notice immediately how relaxed and upbeat they are. We laugh a lot. Moms and their children often enjoy the first genuine warmth and friendship they’ve had in months, sometimes years. There’s no tip-toeing around to keep the peace. They feel safe and free to be themselves. There’s no judgment. They have the control.
Q: What help do you offer?
A: Safety, 24/7 is our first priority. Provincial guidelines offer 21 days in a shelter, so after taking a bit of time to settle in, the work begins: Are there custody, visitation or other legal issues? What about school, daycare and work? Where will they live and how will she pay the bills? A big part of our work deals with overcoming the financial abuse.
Q: What is financial abuse?
A: It’s also about control. Clients may arrive without a dime – not because they’re poor, but they don’t have access to accounts or credit cards. Moms who’ve been “allowed” to work might lose or have to abandon their jobs to look for childcare in a new neighbourhood, attend court appointments, or to take time to find housing. If they do have assets: an old car, or any savings, they typically won’t qualify for assistance – until they have nothing.One woman had to give her abuser her own car in order to get help.
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting help?
A: We can provide tools and knowledge around ways you can help keep yourself and your children safer.You won’t be judged. You’ll be free to make your own decisions, and we will support you, no matter what. We won’t give up. And life will be better.
In 2016, YW provided support to more than 450 women and children at YW Sheriff King Home crisis shelter and through our outreach program, we offer support to women looking for solutions outside the shelter. If you need to speak to someone about options and support related to domestic abuse, we’re here to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you’re in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.