International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Women from November 25, 2014 , continues through December 6th to on December 10th. Our ED Angela Marie MacDougall joined Sonia Sunger on Global TV to talk about the International Day to End Violence Against Women.


Download and listen the postcast here. The following is a rush transcription of the interview:

Sonia Sunger: We are going to be turning to other news now. We have a guest here to talk about the International Day to end Violence against Women, Angela Marie MacDougall. You’ve actually just been listening to this press conference that has been going on, and obviously we talked to you about, today obviously is a very big day for the elimination of violence against women. First, I want to get your thoughts on that press conference that just happened. I know you know it’s an emotional day obviously for a lot of people and you have been taken aback by some of the comments that were made

Angela Marie MacDougall: Yes, thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning. I think, I found the press conference riveting and pointed. You know, I think that the lawyers and certainly reverend Al Sharpton did an extraordinary job through their comments to speak to the ways in which these proceedings that happened in Ferguson did not follow proper procedure. They asked very important questions about how these proceedings was undertaken and indicted the proceedings in terms of how it was done. And I think anyone who has been watching this and paying attention to the United States and the ways in which African American people in the United States historically from the very beginning of the creation of the US as a country in terms of stealing Africans from Africa in order to do slave labour until the present day. We have seen these kinds of things go on for generations, and so this is an example of what has happened historically and it’s happening again. And I think the that was very pointed for me was hearing Al Sharpton say that “Our hearts are broken, but our backs are not broken” and I think that’s the message I am taking away is that this work continues to address systemic racism and discrimination. And we have to understand that African American boys and men and girls and women are murdered every 28 hours by a police or a police type individual. This is astonishing and we have to in order to really understand the level of threat that people are facing.

SS: Are you surprised? I guess you are not obviously surprised by the reaction that we have seen in the US I mean that this has sparked a whole new civil rights movement and Al Sharpton is saying they are going to hold an emergency meeting in Washington coming next week, saying they are going to form a plan for ongoing demonstration and saying this is far form over and it’s really just the beginning.

AMM: If there is anything to take from this it is that people have become galvanized behind from the death of Michael Brown. And since Michael Brown there have been several young men and women that have been murdered, shot unarmed by law enforcement officers in the US since then several. And so, people are fed up. And this is understandable and people are really mobilizing around these and things have to change. One of the problems we bump up against is whether the system is actually broken or if it is working exactly as its intended, and it’s a tricky question that has yet to be answered truly.

SS: Exactly and that’s the question that they were raising today and that’s about the process itself was this process they used, the problem itself, and you heard the reverend and the lawyer saying that in this case, it was prosecutor only, and there was no cross examination, there was no ability to take a second look at the evidence that was presented, so I mean I think that’s where the anger and resentment is coming from. Was this process completely fair?

AMM: That’s it. Those are the questions and they are good questions for those of us who went there and weren’t able to be a part of that proceeding to see how it went down. These are important critical questions that have to be asked. And you know the question is really is how will that system be held accountable. I  know that they want to  push for legislation that has a law enforcement wearing body cameras and hope that would bring some transparency because and not being able to trust the proceedings that are in place. I think also and have the government step in. What historically has happened within the United States where local communities have a long history of systemic racism and police violence that people can’t trust, that local communities can address these very serious issues, and so seeking outside people such as the federal government to participate. And that’s a really good question about why the federal government was not involved in this?  I think that the issue is accountability at the end of the day here and transparency, and what’s been raised here is very serious as there has not been a level accountability, or transparency.

SS: And I think that will be the next step to see how the federal government in the US handles this whether they do step in and the next steps there. I wanna talk to you also about today being the day of the International Day to End Violence against Women and this day falls with, you know, two recent cases of violence in Surrey’s South Asian community in the past few months including one this weekend where a woman in her 60s was found dead and her husband is being charged with second degree murder.

AMM: Well Sonia…Violence against women is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. Woman are being murdered every day by their male partners all across the lands. And you know, we’ve seen horrific murders of women in Surrey. We continue to seek the amount of public awareness, but we really need a behavior change at this point, we need to see real change that’s going to address levels of unsafety, violence, and oppression in women are experience in their homes. In their homes understand that this is happening in women homes where it’s supposed to be safe.

SS: I understand that the BWSS is celebrating an important milestone. I don’t know if you want to say celebrating, but marking looking at the past 35 years of progress that the organization has made. So when you think of that, 35 years of history how far have you come?

AMM: Well so, murders of women have not stopped. So we need to start right there. When Battered Women’s Support Services was created in 1979, we had a situation where we could not talk about violence against women it was simply deemed to not exist. If we think about 1882 when Margaret Mitchell who was an MP for Vancouver East spoke at the House of Commons and she spoke about the prevalence of which she called then wife battering and the male MPS in the House of Commons laughed at her. So that was the context of when BWSS started and our very name Battered Women’s Support Services and that name was selected to make visible that which was rendered invisible. And so, when we fast forward to present day we have a situation now to where things have shifted, we have way more public awareness media reports are much better in terms of accuracy and there is a significant backlash whenever victims are blamed. We really appreciate the role of social medial and how communities and communities of women and others are mobilizing around social media in order to bring a level of awareness and to push back around victim blaming. So those are some things that have happened. One of the things I think is really important to note is that no more than ever woman are leaving abusive relationships. More than my mothers time, more than my grandmothers time. And this is really important torn recognize that woman are leaving and seeing that there are options other than living with violence.

SS: Yeah, and the other part of this is also sexual violence and allegations of that you know just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi, and cases like that making a lot of people think about that sort of violence against women and a lot of people coming out and more people are willing to speak about it. Do you think that is elevating the conversation?

AMM: Yes most definitely, it is positioning women’s voice at the center of this conversation, women had have experience sexual violence at the center. And that’s where we need to be, really hearing women, hearing women share their stores of sexual violence, talking about ways in which the power dynamics played out that contributed, talk about the way in which power dynamic contributed to the silencing and to the disbelief when women went public, weather that was from co-workers or law enforcement, friend and family this is extraordinarily important because it is the victim blaming and the silencing, and the undermining of women’s voices over the years that has allowed those who would do sexual violence and domestic violence against women to continue and that’s shifting and this is a critical important part of this shift within our culture.

SS: Alright well let’s hope this shift and conversation continues. Angela Marie MacDougall from Battered Women’s Support Services joining us today.

AAM: Thank you, Sonia.


If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


My Volunteering Experience at My Sister’s Closet

Violence Against Women does not only impact the woman. It impacts all who surround her. If she is a mother, violence against her will affect her child(ren) and her relationship with them. In Canada there are estimated 3,000 women with their 2,900 children who flee their homes from violence and stay at transition houses each year.

At BWSS, we recognize that women are often at the centre of the family, the community. What is done to her will ripple out to who she is connected to. Thus, in our work with women who are mothers, we explore the impact of violence on her, her children, and on her relationship as a parent. This exploration often provides insight, information, resources, and tools that empower who she is as a woman, as a mother. The transformation from disempowerment to empowerment gets modelled and seeps into her connection and parenting with her child(ren), feeding their sense of self and ways of being, feeling, and acting.

We are grateful for Mia’s sharing because it not only illustrates how by empowering women we strengthen our community. It also shows us that experiencing and/or witnessing violence does not mean “forever damaged”, a view held by some. Violence against women is a horrid experience done by another often a loved one that negatively impacts the whole being, true. However, it does not have to define and dictate who and how you are, there are ways to overcome the impact and reclaim the power to be your own person and to be the one in control of your life. Mia’s story shows us just that. Thank you Mia.

My Volunteering Experience at My Sister’s Closet

by Mia K., My Sister’s Closet Volunteer

mia_volunteeringExpMSC_1My memories of My Sister’s Closet and BWSS reach back into my childhood. As a kid growing up with a single mom, we always found great prices at My Sister’s Closet. I was so happy to get books and toys that we would not have been able to afford brand new. I distinctly remember when my mom went to a BWSS parenting workshop and I played and ate noodles while I waited for her. After that workshop, my mom changed the way we did things at home and thanks to that parenting workshop, I grew up with the mentality that if we live together we must help each other out and not just force one person to do all the work. I also began to develop independent life skills that are preparing me for life as an adult.

My mom has a sheet of paper that she got from BWSS that says “model of a healthy relationship”. She taped it to our storage room wall and I remember as a child reading it curiously, not knowing where it came from, but still storing what I read in my mind. Every time I walked into the storage room I saw that paper, and eventually it became ingrained in me. Today, having realized how I and those around me deserve to be treated, I make sure all my relationships abide by that model.

equality wheelDomestic Abuse Intervention Programs

I started volunteering at My Sister’s Closet this past April 2013. I decided to come to My Sister’s Closet because I knew what it stands for and supports, having shopped there before, and wanted to give back to community the best way I could. It has been wonderful experience. I do not only work with great clothes, but also work with many wonderful people with different skills and personalities. In the past, I had trouble fitting in, particularly in high school, but My Sister’s Closet feels just like a community. Everyone has something different to bring to the table; everyone has a different way to solve a problem. The volunteers at My Sister’s Closet are a diverse group and it is a joy every time I meet a different volunteer.


 At My Sister’s Closet I learn to be accommodating because everyone has a different opinion. I develop my skills as a team player rather than an individual worker as I would usually do. We each play our strengths and cover for each other’s weaknesses and this is what makes a team work well. Coming to volunteer at the store feels like a breath of fresh air amidst the constant flood of schoolwork. I always feel like I am doing something useful when I am able to come in and leave my frustrations behind to be surrounded by everyone’s good energy, whether that be on shift, just coming into shop, or at a volunteer network meeting. Thanks to My Sister’s Closet, I feel such emotional fulfillment that material things could not give me; the fact that.

Learn more about My Sister’s Closet, social enterprise of BWSS here.

My Sister's Closet on Instagram


Last year, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.


Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves

Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves: Supporting self-determined, embodied, and sex-positive healing for survivors of trauma

By Emma Ellison & Lauren Shay, BWSS Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves Support Group Facilitators

This Fall 2013, women gathered together in Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves to explore the ways that we, as women, have experienced the impacts of sexualized oppression and trauma. Participants engaged in the brave work of exploring two often silenced and disconnected subjects: women’s sexuality and healing from violence/abuse.

In this group, women shared a safe space to identify the impacts of violence/abuse on their sexual selves, explore practices for embodied healing, and discover their own unique approach to sexuality.  Much of our work involved self-reflection and discussion of deeply rooted beliefs about sex and sexuality.

For survivors of sexualized violence, sex and sexuality were targeted for abuse.  Sexualized violence teaches many damaging and dehumanizing beliefs about sex and self, including that sex is secretive, hurtful, and uncontrollable.  For survivors of physical, emotional, and/or sexualized abuse, our sense of trust and safety in ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, and the world is profoundly undermined.

 Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves

Survivors come up against blame, silence, and shame placed on them by not only abusers, but often their surrounding communities and culture at large.  For many women, messages that their bodies are not their own, that their bodies are vulnerable and problematic, and that they are responsible for protecting their bodies from abuse has meant a disconnection from their bodies as a site of safety, intimacy, pleasure, and wisdom.

Throughout Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves, women shared their varied and diverse experiences of oppression, trauma, survival, resistance, desire, self-acceptance, and resiliency.  Healing from abuse and reclaiming sex and sexuality is a uniquely individual experience for all survivors, shaped by our unique identities and lived realities.  It can be uncomfortable work, unsettling deeply ingrained patterns of behaviour and thought, but the potential for sexual healing to be a site for a holistic healing of the self has made this process deeply rewarding for women in this group.  Reclaiming sex and sexuality for ourselves can also be a meaningful form of resistance against sexualized oppression and the devaluing of women’s bodies through other forms of oppression.

I know this sounds cliché by now, but never give up. Seek out help and don’t give in to the little voice that says you can go it alone. Healing treatments have improved over the years. Dedicate some time for healing. It does get easier and you will be glad you started the healing journey.” A.H. – group participant

Women shared that healing sex may or may not involve an intimate partner and that a “healing vacation from sex” and/or reclaiming a sexual relationship with themselves is a central part of their healing process.  Women valued the opportunity to define sexuality for themselves – finding and building their own sense of what they want, based in their own needs, feelings, values, and desires.

It is our hope to not only continue to offer Reclaiming Our Sexual Selves support groups at BWSS, but to cultivate awareness and competencies within the broader anti-violence movement to support self-determined, embodied, and sex-positive healing for survivors of trauma.


Last year, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.


The New Family Law Act

The New Family Law Act – Implications for Battered Women and Our Legal Advocacy Work

by Rosa Elena Arteaga, Manager, Direct Services and Clinical Practice

In March 2013, the new Family Law Act (FLA) replaced the Family Relations Act.  We started taking action immediately in order to ensure we were prepared to best support women to navigate the new law in the pursuit of justice.  Through our Legal Services and Advocacy Program funded by the Law Foundation of BC, we have been offering legal support and information to battered women who are dealing with the Canadian legal system for over twenty years. As part of our commitment to eradicate violence against girls and women we are continually working on law reform and supporting women in our community legal education through our publications and through training. It is impossible to only talk about Family Law in isolation from the other laws as the majority of women who access our services are interfacing with several areas of the law concurrently.


Our work related to the new FLA :

  1. In 2010, we submitted our recommendations for the White Paper Battered Women Support Services Response to White Paper on Family Relations Act: Reform Proposals for a New (FLA).
  2. Ever since, we have continued our work on this important matter. As part of our innovative work, we co-hosted a forum with West Coast LEAF and UBC law professor Susan Boyd Susan Boyd’s presentation: Women Violence BC New Family Law: Applying a Feminist Lens March 9, 2012. In addition, we hosted and attended a number of meetings with our networks to address the legal needs of battered women.
  3. Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director, co-hosted a series of radio talks with W2 Morning Radio Project broadcasts on Co-op Radio 102.7 FM Women, Violence and the Law – W2 Morning Project on Co-op Radio, in March 2012.
  4. On October 2012, we joined other groups and anti-violence organizations and submittedrecommendations for government ministries and professional bodies who are creating regulation, policy, or professional training pursuant to the (FLA) Recommendations on Regulation, Policy and Training Developed Pursuant to the British Columbia Family Law Act. When developing these recommendations the goal was to ensure that the application of the (FLA) through regulations, policies, and professional training requirements is informed by the lived conditions of women who have experienced violence.
  5. Together with Atira Women’s Resource Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, Women Against Violence Against Women, and the YWCA of Metro Vancouver, we came together to endorse the recommendations in the Imagining Courts that Work for Women. This report was developed through the collaborative efforts of the Jane Doe Advocates’ Group.
  6. This report began in 2009 with an informal conversation among anti-violence workers and on October 6th, 2010 Angela Marie MacDougall participated in a panel were we were joined by the Representative for Children and Youth British Columbia, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, public forum, exploring the benefits and pitfalls of domestic violence courts. This report offers recommendations for achievable reforms and effective program development, grounded in the perspectives of women who have been through the justice system as survivors of violence and the agencies that work with women every day.
  7. We remain vigilant on the issue of women arrest while we continue supporting battered women who are faced with their own arrest and have to navigate the Criminal Justice System When Battered Women are Arrested/ A Growing Problem: Rosa Arteaga, Battered Women’s Support Services and Battered Women Arrests and Police Complaints – We Must Remain Vigilant by Angela Marie MacDougall. For the last three years, we have developed printed resources for front-line workers and battered women who are dealing with the issue of women arrest When Battered Women are Arrested: A Growing Problem.
  8. We cannot talk about Family Law without talking of other laws and specifically about Immigration Law, the current changes and its impacts. On May, 2012, we issued a media release to expose the impacts of Bill C-31, “The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act,” and the implementation of new changes to immigration policy and procedure that are going to severely impact refugees escaping from violence and persecution, particularly women, queer and trans-identified individuals, and their families.
  9. April 2011, Lobat Sadrehashemi, Immigration Law Lawyer wrote an article for Battered Women’s Support Services on Gender Persecution and Refugee Law Reform in Canada. This article was updated in 2012 due to the fact that in June 2012 Bill C-11 was replaced by Bill C-31.
  10. In 2012, through Idle No More, Indigenous People across Canada draw our attention to the treaties and the Canadian law as it relates to Indigenous people and Canada. When we talk about violence against Indigenous women there is more legal analysis required in understanding the relationship between Indigenous Law, the Indian Act, the Canadian Law and the BC New Family Act. The Idle No More movement has commanded us to be on the right side of history.
  11. Annie Zhang, former BWSS Legal Advocate wrote (FLA) Guide-The New (FLA) and its Implication for Battered WomenWe recognized that there are already many excellent informational resources about the FLA that provide plain-language overviews of the changes in our legislation. As such, this guide is not intended to replace the wonderful work already completed by legal professionals, or to provide a comprehensive summary of legislative changes. Rather, this guide intends to focus specifically on sections of the FLA that we believe will have the most significant impact on our work at Battered Women’s Support Services, where we provide legal information, support and advocacy with an anti-oppressive analysis and understanding of the unique issues, concerns, and barriers experienced by battered women in the legal system. As part of our commitment to eradicate violence against girls and women we are continually working on law reform and supporting women in our community through our publications.
  12. We were also part of the consultation for ‘(FLA) Plain Language Guide’ that provides basic information on the new (FLA) for women who are leaving or thinking about leaving an abusive relationship. It has information on what the law considers “family violence” and what impact it may have on family law issues; court orders to help protect you and your children from violence; what will happen with your children after separation (including guardianship, responsibilities for children, time with children, and moving with children); what dispute resolution is and what different types of dispute resolution professionals do; and where you can get more help, information, and legal advice. Please find our announcement and resources on (FLA) here.
  13. In January 2013, Taruna Arora joined Battered Women’s Support Services as Legal Advocate and began supporting women during the implementation of the new act.  Taruna has worked hard to support women navigate through the numerous forms and requirements as women continue to not have access to Legal Aid due to funding cuts.  Taruna has delivered training workshops supporting advocates from across BC better respond to the new (FLA) including delivering a workshop during BC Society of Transition Houses Annual Forum.
  14. In October 2013, Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director joined the faculty at Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia (CLEBC) in the delivery of Family Violence Screening Training for Litigators and Dispute Resolution Professionals focusing her presentation on Gender Violence, power and control in relationships and implications for women navigating the legal systems.  Our involvement in this training is significant because the new (FLA) emphasizes out-of-court dispute resolution, and creates new duties for “family dispute resolution professionals” which are defined by the FLA as mediators, arbitrators, and parenting coordinators. BWSS has been critical of the application of dispute resolution when abuse and/or violence is present in relationships.  The new FLA has regulated a set minimum training and practice standards for family dispute resolution professionals that emphasizes screening for power imbalances, helping women determine which dispute resolution processes might best keep them and their children safe and empower them to negotiate effectively.   Family dispute resolution professionals (mediators, arbitrators, and parenting coordinators) have until January 1, 2014 to meet the training and practice requirements. While all family lawyers are not at this time required to attend family violence screening training, the FLA does require that all family lawyers certify that they have screened for family violence with every client. 

After eight months since the new act has been in effect, BC has not be able to determine if new domestic violence protection orders are being provided, how many have been properly enforced, violated or prosecuted in court.  The new protective orders came into effect in March 2013, as part of changes to the new (FLA). The move was intended to protect mainly children and women from harassment or violence by replacing old restraining orders with new protection orders. Violation of a protection order is a criminal offence.  Historically, we have noted that police frequently fail to enforce protection orders.  Boosting protection orders was a key recommendation in two-high profile tragedies — the murder of six-year-old Christian Lee by his father in Oak Bay in 2007, and the 2008 deaths of three children in Merritt by their mentally ill father, Allan Schoenborn.

We remain vigilant.  Since our inception until present day we remain steadfast in our commitment to legal advocacy through supporting individual women navigate the matrix of laws and the legal system, through law reform, legal research, writing publications with legal information, public awareness campaigns and education and training workshops for professionals.


Last year, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.


Please Don’t Give Up…I Didn’t

by Rhonda Lee Vermette

About a year ago now, I was phoning around trying to find domestic violence counselling services for myself. I had phoned a few places and as I tried to explain the situation that I had been court ordered to take domestic violence counselling, most places would not listen to me after they heard that. I had made the attempt to explain that it was not because I was an abuser, but that I was the abused and how I even got myself into the criminal activity was that I was bullied into it by my abuser, thus resulting in the domestic violence counselling sentence. I finally contacted Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) and they listened to what I had to say and I was in for my first session within days.

I am originally from a small Saskatchewan city and spent 15 years in an extremely abusive relationship (in every aspect) with my abuser passing away 6 months prior to starting counselling here in Vancouver. During the last 4 years of the relationship we were under investigation for drug trafficking which resulted in my sentence and during that investigation, police listened live to me being beaten and/or raped on more than one occasion but never intervened in order to protect their drug intervention. I wasn’t able to deal with the many different ways I was affected, until I had started the counselling at BWSS.


I was really lost, limiting my contact with the outside world by never leaving my house other than for appointments with physicians, lawyers or counselling sessions. I had become quite anti-social which is not normal for me. My counselling sessions have brought me to talk about the devastating things that have happened to me and the survival skills and techniques I developed over time. The abuse I had experienced over the years had changed me in so many ways that I had never even realized it. I believe my biggest issues were fear and trust. I say this because of the extreme levels of abuse I suffered and how I interacted with other people. One thing I remember is during these assaults I would wish for someone to walk in and stop them. To later find out the police were there and listening, turning blind eyes to what was happening to me, almost absolutely destroyed me.

Now that I have been in counselling for a year, I have come to terms with what happened to me was wrong and something that I can never turn the clock back on. But, I can start making changes for the future not only for myself, but for other victims of domestic violence by telling my story and how I managed to survive. BWSS has given me back my courage and strength as a woman to deal with my pain and anger. They have also made me aware that I am not alone in my suffering. They play a huge role in my path of healing and if not for them I do not know where I would be today. PRAISE to you, the staff and volunteers at BWSS, for giving me back to me, my family and the rest of the world.



Last year, Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.




Transition Houses

by Amrit Atwal, Manager of Women’s Safety & Outreach Program

Transition Houses are an essential service in helping women and their children escape violence.  The web of supports that women receive when staying in a Transition House allow women to break free of isolation and create an empowering community.  Transition Houses and the services they offer allow women the opportunity to resist violence and engage in discussions of their shared experiences.

As research from Statistics Canada indicates, over 1100 women and children residents of British Columbia stayed in Transition Houses in 2011.  Further analysis shows that 39% of women accessing Transition Houses had stayed in one before and 84% of these women had stayed within the last year.  On average seven out of ten women approximately 71% indicated they were leaving an abusive relationship.


These statistics indicate what many women’s groups already know, that Transition Houses are an essential resource needed by women fleeing violence.

What is a Transition House?

Transition Houses provide both long term and short term housing for women and children fleeing abusive relationships or at the risk of experiencing violence.

Transition Houses break the isolation that many women experience when they are in abusive relationships.  Transition Houses build a safe community environment where women are encouraged to share their experiences and empower one another.

Why are Transition Houses needed?

As research and statistics indicate, one of the main reasons that women stay in abusive relationships is because of financial limitations.  Transition Houses take away the stress of financial burdens by providing free shelter, meals and other resources so women can concentrate on building their independence.  When women are no longer worried about how they will feed and shelter themselves and their children they are able to concentrate on how to move forward with their lives.

What types of services can I expect to receive if I stay in a Transition House?

Transition House workers support women fleeing abusive relationships by providing emotional support and empathy.  Workers in some Transition Houses are able to assist women with applying for and securing income assistance as well as helping women navigate through legal systems in terms of child custody and divorce.  Women who stay in Transition Houses in British Columbia where Battered Women’s Support Services operates can also apply for BC Housing which is the provincial agency that manages and administers a wide range of subsidized housing options. Women staying in Transition Houses in BC can apply through BC Housing to receive priority placement; however, this does not guarantee women will receive housing within the 30 days of her stay. Housing providers have waitlists for applicants and the role of priority placement is to give women fleeing violence priority in this waitlist.  Housing providers differ from province to province so it is best to contact the Transition Houses directly in order to access this information.  Transition House workers as well as other advocates such as social workers or members of community groups can advocate for women and write letters of support to housing providers in attempts to speed up the housing process which also differs provincially.

Other services that can be offered at Transition Houses include and are not limited to: safety planning for both women and children, crisis intervention and support, access to emergency clothing, advocacy and referral services, accompaniment to appointments, community education, information about violence in relationships and counselling.

Who is eligible to stay in a Transition House?

Any woman fleeing violence is eligible to stay in a Transition House; however, they do differ on intake procedures and it is best to contact them directly in terms of eligibility.  Women of all cultural backgrounds, ages, and economic status are welcome in a Transition House. Women fleeing same-sex relationships should call Transition Houses directly in order to correctly determine eligibility as Transitions Houses differ on criteria. Due to the high number of women needing shelter in Transition Houses, they are unable to hold space for women so it is best to call when you are ready and prepared to leave.  If a transition house is fully occupied, workers will try to locate space for women in the nearest alternative transition house.

How long can I stay at a Transition House?

Women leaving an abusive situation can stay up to 30 days. During this time staff is available to assist and support women in exploring and making decisions by offering information and support.

What options are available to me after 30 days are over?

There are second and third stage housing options for women that are safe and affordable.  These housing options can provide longer term housing options for women and can accommodate stays to anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.  Transition House workers can assist women in seeking out these housing options during their stay.

What does a Transition House look like?

Transition Houses are regular houses maintained to Provincial Housing standards.  You can typically expect for Transition Houses to have a communal shared living area and kitchen and some provide access to laundry.  Women may have to share a bedroom or may have their own room depending on if they have children with them.  Transition Houses are not listed in address directories due to safety issues and to maintain their privacy.

I am ready to leave what should I take with me to the Transition House?

Women are encouraged to bring all legal documents such as identification (licence, social insurance card, care cards), passports (including those of children), birth certificates, any bank statements, credit and debit cards, lease/rental agreements and house deeds, marriage license, separation/divorce papers, immigration papers and peace bonds/restraining orders if applicable. Women can also bring clothes and other necessities for themselves and their children; however, not too much due to the limitation of space in Transition Houses.

If you and/or you know of any woman experiencing violence in her life, please refer to the following resource of our list of Transition Houses in Canada:

Helpful Links:


Battered Women’s Support Services responded to over 10,000 crisis calls from women and girls to get help and end violence in 2012. We could not provide this essential support without your contribution.