Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
That’s the overwhelming truth about domestic violence in this country. So it makes sense that the community-at-large should understand the signs of abuse and how to respond to a woman’s disclosure - awareness of local resources and related services is also key.
Now there’s a valuable handbook available to all, including workplaces, agencies, organizations and community groups, called “What to do When…Responding to Domestic Abuse.”
The resource came together with funding from the Ministry of Justice and collaboration of the VAWIR Committee (Interagency Violence Against Women in Relationships). Focused on the region from Rossland to Beaver Valley, VAWIR encourages communities to become better informed about the issue of violence against women, more knowledgeable about available services, and supportive of prevention and local educational activities.
The 24-page handbook includes an easy-to-follow map legend that lists a variety of Lower Columbia connections - from doctors’ offices to pharmacies, and food banks to libraries and seniors’ centres. Other critical information includes direct contacts for crisis services such as WINS Transition House, victim services, police and hospital as well as longer term support networks such as children and family counselling services, second stage housing, and the 24/7 Interior Crisis Line for the West Kootenay Boundary region.
“The binder has as an introduction into what is abuse,”explains Ann Godderis from the Trail FAIR Society. “It gives some of the key elements of what to watch for, and what the indicators are.”
The guidebook lays out, in simple terms, what psychological and physical impacts to look for in women and children. Those include but are not limited to, bodily harm (bruising, broken wrists, marks on neck) anxiety, withdrawal and substance use, or in youngsters, low self-esteem, impaired development and sometimes, hostility.
“We put together what to say and do if you are suspecting abuse and don’t know what to ask,” said Godderis. “And there are tips on how to work with somebody. We don’t expect you to be experts, just learn the basics about how to talk to someone … a person doesn’t have to leave to get help from these services. Even if they are still in the relationship, they may want to know what to do, or just talk about it.”
While the handbook provides immediate advice in responding to disclosure, the reader is not meant to take on the role of support worker. ‘What to do’ is really a directory - a resource that includes contacts for professionals who can provide assistance when the victim is ready to ask for help.
Various agencies were recently introduced to the resource during a half day session that involved an eye opening exercise of participants ‘walking in her shoes.’
“Some of us who work the front lines hear these stories all the time, so we know,” said Godderis. “But once removed even agency staff may not have a clue what to do unless they’ve been through it themselves. So we thought that with immersion at the beginning of the workshop, they would be more open to information and certainly the feedback was really good.”
The handbook is a VAWIR first, and group participation is integral to ensuring it’s used when and if the time comes.
“We are quite excited to run another workshop in the spring,” said Godderis. “The handbooks are going out to different organizations, but we are encouraging them to be part of a workshop before they get one,” she shared. “So it won’t sit and gather dust on the shelf - you may need to use it only once or maybe not at all, but you just never know.”
For more information or to order copies of ‘What to do…Responding to Domestic Abuse,’ call Trail FAIR Society at 250.364.2326.