Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region operates two emergency shelters for abused women and their children: Anselma House in Kitchener and Haven House in Cambridge (for a total of 75 beds) plus a regional Outreach program. We are the only agency of its kind in Waterloo Region.
Annually, Women’s Crisis Services provides assistance (shelter and outreach services combined) to about 2,600 women and their children; approximately one third of this number is children. According to Stats Canada, less than one quarter of victims of domestic violence report the incident to police. In Waterloo Region, with a population of approximately 550,000 residents, police respond to about 6,100 domestic violence calls per year. If this number reflects one quarter as suggested by Stats Canada, then 24,400 women in our community are being abused. Even for those of us who do not excel in math, one is easily able to decipher that these numbers are quite bizarre; especially when considering the number of abused women and their children that Women’s Crisis Services is assisting per year. Undoubtedly, we have much work to do in ending violence against women here in Waterloo Region.
Did you know that every six days, another woman in Canada is murdered by her current or former partner? And, every night in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) stay in an emergency shelter because it’s not safe for them at home. This is beyond deplorable! Why is it that in 2013, after centuries of male domination that we are still tolerating abuse against women and children in our society and moreover in our community? Further, why doesn’t our government create a system whereby the women and children remain in the family home and the abusers are removed?
2013 marks the 35th anniversary of Women’s Crisis Services; having provided shelter and outreach services to our community since 1978. A few trends have been evidenced over the past decade. Our agency has experienced a steady decline in crisis phone calls and simultaneously a significant increase in shelter stays; to the point whereby in 2011 Anselma House opened its new 45 bed facility, replacing the previous 20 bed building. We are now planning to rebuild Haven House also, in order to continue meeting the needs of abused women and their children in Waterloo Region. Instead of building bigger shelters, we need to turn our minds to how we collaboratively eradicate violence against women.
One of our agency’s primary objectives is our commitment to continuous improvement; more so now than ever, in order to meet the needs of the younger generation whose methods of communication style are through social media. Abuse takes on many faces in addition to physical assaults. Stalking has and continues to be a serious misuse of power and control in relationships. This is exacerbated through the use of texting by abusers. Many of our young women do not view obsessive texting as abusive; but rather as a display of affection. This is just one example of how our awareness and education needs to shift in order to reach this and future generations.
With our 35 year history, comes the stark reality that we are now serving the third generation of abused women in the same families. Breaking the intergenerational cycle of abuse is critical to the eradication of violence against women. Doing so requires the input and assistance of our community…and that means each of us. Violence against women is a societal issue and therefore requires a community response. We need to be diligent and active. Each of us needs to make a pledge that abuse is unacceptable and we will not tolerate it…ever. And then we need to turn our commitment into action and when we become aware of an abusive situation, we need to intervene rather than view the matter as a private one and look the other way. It is only by working together in partnership that violence and abuse against women in our community will be reduced and eventually eradicated.