Help starts with awareness

Women in abusive relationships

Most people at some time know a woman who is being abused in a relationship. It can be hard to know what to say or how to offer help.

The Violence Against Women in Relationships Committee has made a start on the issue with the When a Woman is Being Abused in a Relationship booklet which covers recognizing signs of abuse, risk, effects on children, safety planning and where to get help in the community. The hope is to provide awareness and information for community members, workplaces, health care professionals, schools, churches and any other organizations which might be in contact with women who are being abused.

“When women finally start talking about abuse, other people don’t know what to say and  so women might feel that they are doing something wrong and not reach out for help,” said Susan Guttridge, women’s counselor at the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society.

“We are getting a very good response to the booklet. I took one to RONA and the manager offered to donate some building supplies to Transition House. We want to have copies around the community so that it is available to everyone who needs the information.”

Wynn Hartfelder, women’s outreach worker at the Vernon Women’s Transition House Society, has been asked to do presentations for businesses to educate staff on abuse as a health issue.

“We would like to see workplaces have a copy of the booklet on their staff bulletin boards. Abuse is not always just physical, it can be threats, forced isolation, emotional, economic or psychological abuse, or involving children, or using ‘male privilege,’” she said.

While women are often made to feel that abuse is somehow their own fault, it is never acceptable for a man to hurt a woman and there is help available for women in abusive relationships and those who care about them.

“We often get calls from mothers of teens or young women who are in abusive relationships. The booklet is targeted at people who know someone who is being abused so they can offer information. The community needs to be aware of the effects of violence against women and children. Senior women in abusive situations can find it very difficult to make a change,” said Debby Hamilton, executive director, Vernon Women’s Transition House Society.

The booklet covers making safety planning, barriers to safety (why women stay) and where to get help, whether a woman wants to stay in the relationship or leave.

“Safety planning is a key part of what we do, we cover all aspects of safety and that in itself is empowering for women as they plan their futures and heal,” said Guttridge.

When a Woman is Being Abused focuses on women because statistics show that violence against women by men is a significant social problem with men committing 86 to 97 per cent of all criminal assaults against women. The committee that compiled the booklet recognizes that abuse by women against men in relationships occurs and that many of the same resources are also available to men who need them.

For more information about the booklet, the Violence Against Women in Relationships Committee or to get copies, call 250-558-3850 (ext. 204).