In the 1970s, Battered Women’s Support Services joined other women’s groups in the creation of women’s support services, sexual assault centres, women’s centres, transition houses, counselling programs and victim services programs in BC to respond to violence against women. In response to the Montreal Massacre, the BC provincial government started funding Stopping the Violence Counselling Programs in 1990’s.
On Thursday, June 9, 2016 B.C. Premier Christy Clark shared her support for the Green Party Bill on Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act and UBC’s draft sexual assault policy. On Friday, June 10, 2016 Premier Clark responded to women advocates on CBC Almanac with Gloria Macarenko regarding policies and funding in respect to violence against women in the province of BC.
Despite society and government becoming more educated about violence against women and important policy and legislation improvements, in recent years there have been significant cuts to many women’s services, as well as to income assistance, housing and other essential parts of the social safety net. At BWSS we are finding that the women we work with are facing more serious and complex challenges to surviving, including extreme poverty, lack of affordable housing, absence of legal aid, mental wellness concerns and substance use issues. Despite the enormous challenges facing the work to end violence against women, women’s organizations like BWSS, remain one of the primary resources for women facing violence and this has resulted in our waitlist for counselling services growing to over 350 women.
For the last decade, BWSS has adopted innovations in counselling and advocacy techniques, in violence prevention strategies, in training and support for front-line workers, in social enterprise and resource development and in our public education and awareness. Drawing on feminist research and writing, grounded in decolonizing and feminist peer counselling underpinnings, BWSS has been engaged in an ongoing process of integrating clinical skills with decolonizing and feminist approaches. Our direct service provision has developed to specifically address the intersections of gender violence, mental wellness and substance use.
Rosa Elena Arteaga has worked at BWSS since 2003 and since 2012 she has been BWSS Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice. She received a Masters degree in Narrative Therapy and Community Work, and Rosa Elena brings strong vision and leadership to BWSS direct services and programs. Rosa Elena is relational and a committed, fierce advocate for women facing injustice.
In her role at BWSS, Rosa Elena works with our counsellors, individually, to enhance their self-knowledge and their professional skills. As an experienced supervisor Rosa Elena also acts as a mentor. Rosa Elena also uses group supervision where our counsellors confer on each other’s work supporting each other in their growth and awareness. Supervision exists to help protect women who access our counselling services by involving a third party in the work of the counsellor and helping to reduce the risk of serious oversight, as well as, helping counsellors reflect on their own feelings, thoughts, behaviours and general approach to their counselling with women.
Without increases to provincial funding, staring down a waitlist of 350 women, we have had to get creative and engage the larger community to help fund our counselling services. Due to the generosity of our donors, this year, BWSS has hired two new counsellors. Further, and consistent with our commitment to teaching and sharing knowledge, we have invited four Masters level practicum students to join our counselling team. With the addition of six more counsellors, we are able to bring women off our counselling waitlist and provide confidential and high quality counselling services free of charge.
“The counselling program is women centred by design and established to meet the needs of women who otherwise would not be able to afford counselling.” Rosa Elena Arteaga