Registration Now Open: Violence Prevention & Intervention Training Fall 2022

“Volunteering with BWSS is life changing. You learn so much and it’s very empowering and healing to support other women.” -BWSS Volunteer

Take action! Register now for BWSS “life changing” world renowned training. We are now taking applications for our Fall 2022 training cohort.

Learn from leaders in the field.

BWSS, one of kind Violence Prevention Intervention Training has been offered for over 40 years. We have trained thousands of people to answer the BWSS crisis line and support survivors of gender-based violence.

This free training, mostly virtual, provides skills-based knowledge grounded in a strong theoretical framework for understanding gender-based violence and systemic oppression.

Through this inclusive, intensive training, participants will acquire knowledge and skills related to:

  • Theoretical framework of violence against girls, women, femmes and 2SLGBTQI+ survivors of gender-based violence
  • Trauma informed crisis intervention
  • Safety assessment, lethality assessment and safety planning
  • Group facilitation
  • Introduction to criminal, family, and immigration law
  • Feminist, intersectional, and decolonizing practices
  • Impacts of colonization, assimilation, and residential schools
  • Understanding the spectrum of gender-based violence

“I am a true believer in the power of one… If one volunteer picks up the crisis line and speaks to a [survivor]…, that phone call helped them. At BWSS I feel I have made a difference…At BWSS I feel I have made a difference in saving lives …” -Pavan 

Training takes place every Friday, between Sept 9 to Dec 2, 2022, from 10AM – 4PM

Registration is ongoing. For more information or to apply: Call 604.687.1868 Or email [email protected]

BC REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE MANIFESTO

WE STILL HAVE WORK TO DO IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AND CANADA

Re-blogged from Reproductive Justice

Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) advocates in BC and across Canada have joined their voices together to demand reproductive justice. Advocates are calling on the federal and provincial governments to do more than make statements or release small amounts of funding – they must take real action to improve people’s access to SRH in Canada.

In the recent ruling of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has upheld a Mississippi law that outlaws nearly all abortions at and after 15 weeks gestation. The majority’s decision overturns the 1973 ruling in Roe v Wade that protects a pregnant person’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states have existing laws that will definitely or likely ban abortion access for people who can become pregnant, creating “abortion deserts” in large swaths of the country and forcing many to travel long distances to a safe state.

While Canada’s system of justice is different, we still have work to do to ensure access to abortion and to break down lingering stigma around abortion. As sexual and reproductive health advocates, we call on governments to take action on a range of issues that people living in Canada continue to face. We also encourage everyone to reach out to their MLA and MP to ensure that SRH is an issue they are prepared to address and fund.

THE BC GOVERNMENT MUST:

  • Make contraception free and universally accessible in BC and across Canada.

  • Ensure that comprehensive sex education is taught to the standards set by the Ministry of Education in BC.

  • Strengthen abortion access in rural and remote areas.

  • Do not give Crisis Pregnancy Centres any government funds or tax credits, and require them to clearly disclose their anti-abortion agenda to clients.

  • Make abortion accessible within the City of Vancouver’s Access without Fear/Sanctuary City policy framework, which allows undocumented people to access free care.

  • Implement $10/day childcare.

  • Make sexual and reproductive health care more trans- and gender-inclusive, including training healthcare providers on appropriate practices and language, and other initiatives led by the trans community to reduce stigma.

  • Provide meaningful additional funding directly to provincial health systems, earmarked for abortion access, rather than directing funding through non-government bodies.

 

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT MUST:

  • Enforce the Canada Health Act against provinces that fail to provide accessible or fully funded SRH care or abortion (such as New Brunswick and Ontario).

  • Increase the federal health transfer to provinces to enable them to expand SRH services, including funds earmarked for abortion care.

  • Require compliance by all provinces with the Canada Health Act provisions on abortion access.

  • Quickly implement the promised Health Canada web portal that will feature accurate, unbiased information on SRH and rights, including correction of abortion myths.

  • Revoke charitable status for anti-choice groups.

  • Continue to fund SRH and reproductive justice around the world, including safe abortion in the global South.

  • Relax the regulation of abortion medication by allowing Mifegymiso to be obtained over-the-counter and through advance provision, so that (much like with Plan B) people have immediate access to the medication they need, when they need it.

  • Guarantee asylum and immunity to abortion providers and advocates fleeing violence, criminal prosecution, or civil lawsuits for their reproductive justice work.

Read the full Manifesto 

BWSS Recommendations to BC Budget 2023 Consultation

Anyone living in the province can share their ideas and priorities for the next provincial budget in 2023. Every year, the provincial Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services holds a public consultation on the next provincial budget, and then reviews all input received and makes recommendations to the Legislative Assembly for the next provincial budget.

We invite you to fill out the survey and make your own submission through the BC government consultation portal. The deadline is Friday June 24, 2022 at 3 pm.

Budgets are moral documents, reflecting our social priorities and values. Make your voice heard! For far too long, anti violence services supporting survivors have been under-resourced, and survivors of gender-based violence who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant/refugee, disabled, trans and/or nonbinary, LGBTQI2S+, living in rural and remote areas, and poor/low-income face tremendous barriers to accessing safety and justice.

Below are BWSS’s top three priorities and recommendations for the provincial government. As a decolonial, anti-racist, and intersectional feminist organization, our recommendations to the provincial government support the wellbeing of survivors and their children to access meaningful safety and justice; the full funding and delivery of timely and reliable intersectional anti-violence services with full wrap-around supports; and the elimination of gender-based violence through robust preventive measures and funding for universal public services and community supports.

1. BWSS recommends that the provincial budget prioritize full, wrap-around, timely, reliable, and inclusive supports for survivors of gender-based violence, especially in the form of core funding for anti-violence services. Ideally, a universal, coordinated, and integrated system of support services must be adequately funded by the province.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified and become a shadow pandemic. Crisis lines, including BWSS’s crisis line, and violence against women shelters in B.C and Canada are reporting increases of 20 to 50 percent, while national rates of reported fatal femicide are also increasing. In particular, survivors of gender-based violence who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant/refugee, disabled, trans and/or nonbinary, LGBTQI2S+, living in rural and remote areas, and/or poor or low-income continue to face the highest rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and femicide.

Yet, anti-violence services face growing wait lists, with survivors waiting months, if not years, to access essential services such as crisis support counseling and safety measures. Survivors of gender-based violence require urgent access to full, wrap-around, timely, reliable, and inclusive anti-violence support services that meet their needs based on their lived experiences. The province must drastically increase core (not solely program) funding for emergency shelters, crisis lines, second stage housing, and wrap-around services.

Survivors experiencing multiple forms of oppression require access to fully funded anti-violence services committed to intersectional service delivery that considers how violence is experienced differently by different survivors. For example, in order to end violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two spirit people, the provincial government must fund services and safety planning led by Indigenous women who are creating and implementing their own culturally-safe, decolonial solutions.

In addition to fully funding anti-violence services, B.C must fund evidence-based, upstream, preventive measures that eliminate conditions of vulnerability maintaining gender-based violence. This includes robust funding for universal & accessible healthcare, childcare, social assistance, income security, decent work, transportation, and housing.

2. BWSS recommends that province prioritize funding for and expanding programs for children and youth experiencing violence in B.C (children and youth that have been exposed to and/or witnessed domestic violence or abuse). Currently, the PEACE (Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment) programs across B.C are grossly under-funded.

PEACE (Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment) programs (formerly Children Who Witness Abuse programs) in B.C provide crucial group and individual counselling for children and youth aged 3 – 18 who have witnessed domestic abuse, threats, or violence in the home. Individual and group counselling and, where adequately funded, seasonal camps help children and youth recognize abusive behaviour, learn the tools to cope with their experiences and emotions, and consider alternatives to violence in their own behaviour. PEACE programs also offer support to the parents and caregivers of the children and youth.

This program is a vital resource and early intervention program to support children and youth who witness or experience violence in the home and helps stop the inter-generational cycle of gender-based violence and domestic abuse. However, PEACE programs across the province are hugely underfunded. In some cases, PEACE programs only involve one counsellor who is working part-time hours, and with no wrap around services able to be offered as part of the program.  PEACE programs working with children and youth who face additional barriers in society based on racism, colonialism, gender, class, sexuality, ability, citizenship status etc., need to offer children and youth appropriate, comprehensive support, but often cannot offer these crucial supports and services because PEACE programs are under-resourced and unable to meet unique needs.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that the provincial government drastically increase funding for the existing 90+ PEACE programs across B.C to ensure these programs can fully and appropriately provide high-quality, long-term, accessible, timely, culturally-safe, intersectional services and wrap around supports for children and youth who have witnessed violence in the home. Further, we recommend that the provincial government immediately expand the PEACE program to meet the growing need for PEACE programs across communities in B.C.

3. BWSS recommends the province prioritize new, ongoing annual funding for legal aid services for family law & child protection matters. Fur survivors of gender-based violence, especially low-income racialized mothers, ongoing gaps in legal aid service delivery for family law & child protection matters creates serious barriers to accessing justice.

For survivors of gender-based violence, especially low-income racialized mothers, ongoing gaps in legal aid service delivery for family law & child protection matters creates serious barriers to accessing justice. While the province has increased legal aid funding over the past few years, it is still not enough and far too many are falling through the cracks of a broken system.

We strongly recommend the province urgently prioritize fully funding legal aid representative services for family law and child protection issues so that no survivor in B.C must sacrifice their safety, the best interests of their child(ren), or their financial security in order to flee and separate from an abusive partner. When fleeing domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and/or sexual abuse, the complexities and stresses of navigating a legal system without legal counsel is an intimidating and traumatic burden and becomes a significant barrier to both seeking safety and to accessing justice. Further, access to fully funded legal aid representation must be timely; the longer family law matters go on without resolution, the greater the risk of serious family violence.

Finally, the complex, overlapping legal needs of survivors dealing with family law and child protection matters who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, immigrant/refugee, disabled, trans and/or nonbinary, LGBTQI2S+, living in rural and remote areas, and poor must be considered. For example, a legal study in B.C has found that most child protection decisions to remove children permanently from their parents overwhelmingly involved Indigenous single mothers who experienced extreme domestic violence, mental health challenges, addictions, and poverty. Access to fully funded, timely, accessible, culturally-safe legal aid services would mitigate against the injustice of the colonial child welfare system, which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) explains “continues the assimilation that the residential school system started.”

Elder Abuse and Femicide of Older Women

World Elder Abuse Day
World Elder Abuse Day

Abuse and Femicide of the Older Woman

Violence against women happens in the context of relationships.

This is what makes abuse so very painful and so very dangerous. Through our work and through research we know that abuse consists of behaviours or actions taken with the intent to harm and impact a woman’s sense of safety at home and in the larger community.

Senior women can experience much of the same tactics of power and control along with physical and sexual abuse that we see in all abusive relationships.

Women may experience violence for the first time in as seniors, or have been navigating an abusive relationship for decades.

Because every woman’s situation is unique to her we seek not to generalize.

Senior women who experience abuse are less likely to seek help.

  • Older women are more economically vulnerable than younger women, and they may fear poverty, homelessness, or loss of health care benefits if they report abusive behavior by a spouse or family member.
  • If an older woman is frail or dependent on others to provide physical care, she may fear being placed in a nursing home.
  • Even more than younger women, older women have been socialized to minimize their own identity, needs, and desires.
  • Older women are less likely to seek social or psychological services because many of them were brought up to believe that such help is a sign of weakness and failure.
  • Women abused by a spouse may not be willing to view separation or divorce as options because of stigma or an inability to envision life without a long-term spouse. They may believe that battering is an acceptable part of a relationship.

 

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, BWSS is here 24/7.

We can help with:

  • safety planning
  • legal information and advocacy
  • transitional housing or housing advocacy
  • emotional support and support groups
  • accompaniment to hospital and/or police

Call us 24/7 to make an appointment to speak to a support worker 1-855-687-1868

Or email us at [email protected]

Keep BWSS on the Front Line

Your gift makes it possible for us to stay on the frontline 24/7 to provide crisis support, counselling, support groups, legal advocacy, employment counselling, housing support and outreach.

More Resources

Not the ‘golden years’: Femicide of older women in Canada
by Myrna Dawson, PhD

Elder Abuse: It’s Time to Face the Reality
Public Health Agency of Canada

FEMICIDE Volume VIII: Abuse and Femicide of the Older Woman
Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Liaison Office

Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence During Pregnancy

Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence During Pregnancy

Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence During Pregnancy

It’s more common than you think

While pregnancy can bring out a new or renewed tenderness in many relationships, domestic violence is more common than any other health problem among women during pregnancy.

Domestic violence — also known as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence — can happen to anybody. It doesn’t matter your gender or age, where you live, your race or ethnicity, how much money you earn, how old you are or your sexual orientation. And it’s more common than you might think among pregnant women.

Domestic violence increases as the pregnancy develops as well as in the postpartum period. A history of violence and being single/living apart are the strongest risk factors for domestic violence during pregnancy as well as postpartum.

 

Birth Control Sabotage and Reproductive Coercion

Domestic violence can increase a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant and the number of children she has, both because the woman may be coerced into sex and because she may be prevented from using birth control.  A correlation has been shown between large families and domestic violence.  Whereas previously it was thought that having many children and the resultant stress of large families increased likelihood domestic violence, it has been shown that the violence commonly predates the births.

Pregnancy itself can be used a form of coercion and the phenomenon of preventing an intimate partner’s reproductive choice is referred to as reproductive coercion. Studies on birth control sabotage performed by men against women partners have indicated a strong correlation between domestic violence and birth control sabotage.

Birth control sabotage, or reproductive coercion, is a form of coercion where someone manipulates another person’s use of birth control – weakening efforts to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Replacing birth control pills with fakes, puncturing condoms, and threats and violence are examples of prevention of an individual’s attempt to avoid pregnancy. Pregnancy-promoting behavior of abusive male partners is one method of domestic violence and is associated with unwanted pregnancy, particularly in adolescents.  Reproductive coercion itself is a form of domestic violence because it results from unwanted sexual activity and hinders a woman’s ability to control her body. Forced pregnancy can also be a form of financial abuse when a woman becomes trapped in a relationship because the pregnancy has led to economic dependence for new mothers.

Pregnancy can also lead to a hiatus of domestic violence when the abusive partner does not want to harm the pregnancy and the potential birth. The risk of domestic violence for pregnant women is greatest immediately after childbirth.

Although pregnancy can be a protective period for some women, either in terms of a hiatus of pre-existing violence, for others it is a risk period during which abuse may begin or escalate. Women with violent partners have a hard time protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexual violence can directly lead to pregnancy.  Studies consistently indicate that domestic violence is more common in large families. However, international studies show that 25% of women are abused for the first-time during pregnancy.

 

Reasons for Intimate Partner Violence during Pregnancy

When women are asked to speculate on why they thought they were abused during their pregnancies. The answers were categorized into four categories.

  • Jealousy towards the unborn child
  • Anger towards the unborn child
  • Pregnancy specific violence not directed toward the child
  • “Business as usual.”

 

What can trigger domestic violence and abuse during pregnancy?

Intimate partner violence may begin or intensify during pregnancy, when having a baby triggers unexpectedly negative emotions in a woman’s partner.

A partner might feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a baby, especially if the pregnancy was unplanned. He or she might also be experiencing intense stress over money and the long-term financial responsibilities of raising a child.

Sometimes partners even become angry or jealous if a mom-to-be is focusing less on their relationship and more on the baby.

In some cases, unfortunately, those emotions play out against the mother and her unborn child but remember, even if a partner is unhappy, domestic violence or abuse is never the victim (or the baby’s) fault.

 

Intimate Partner Violence can include:
  • physical violence: Slapping, punching, kicking, burning, biting, the use of weapons including knives or guns, or striking your belly in an effort to harm or end the pregnancy
  • Physical abuse: Forcing you to smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs
  • Withholding medical care: Keeping you from going to prenatal appointments or leaving you without pregnancy-related medical care (including withholding medication or prenatal vitamins)
  • Sexual violence: Forcing you to have sex or engage in a sexual act you don’t want to participate in
  • Psychological abuse: Trying to control what you can or cannot do, stalking, threats, making you feel diminished or embarrassed, forced isolation from family and friends, blocking your access to a safe person with whom you can discuss abusive behaviour (insisting on attending prenatal checkups and concealing abuse by answering questions for you, or threatening you if you disclose details of your abusive situation, for example), forbidding you from attending celebrations related to the pregnancy like baby showers
  • Emotional abuse: Putting you down, humiliation, name-calling (e.g., calling you fat because of your changing body), continual criticism (like saying you won’t be a good parent)
  • Reproductive coercion: Threats or violence related to a decision to continue or end a pregnancy, or forcing you to have an abortion
  • Financial abuse: Withholding money for basic needs, not letting you spend money on baby essentials, keeping you from attending work, closely monitoring your spending, or stealing money from you

 

How is domestic violence during pregnancy different from normal arguments?

There’s a big difference — though if you’ve been suffering from abuse for a long time, it can be hard to tell. It’s normal for couples to fight sometimes and even for the arguments to get intense or heated.

What’s not normal or okay is when your partner starts exhibiting violent or abusive behavior or making threats to hurt you. Hitting, kicking, throwing objects, or forcing you to engage in sexual acts all count as abuse — even if the abuser apologizes afterwards and promises not to do it again.

Putting you down, trying to keep you from contacting your friends or family, or telling you that the abuse is your fault isn’t normal arguing either.

 

How does abuse affect your pregnancy?

In what should be a joyful time in your life, domestic violence can have serious effects, causing both physical injuries and psychological harm and can contribute to gynecologic disorders and sexually transmitted illnesses including HIV.

Abuse can affect your unborn baby too. Potential pregnancy complications include preterm delivery, low birth weight, placental abruption, uterine rupture, hemorrhaging, fetal injuries, and, in the very worst instances, miscarriage, stillbirth or death of the mother.

An abused mom-to-be may be less likely to take care of herself during pregnancy by eating poorly, not seeking out prenatal care or misusing licit or illicit substances or alcohol.

In many cases, an abusive partner may not stop being abusive to a pregnant partner or the baby once the child is born. Children who are exposed to domestic violence are at a greater risk of being neglected and abused themselves, and are more likely to develop health, behavioral and psychological disorders as they get older.

 

How to get help

Some abused women fear that no one will believe them or take them seriously. Some feel as though they’re the only ones going through this or that they themselves are the cause of the problems.

It’s important to know that calling for help in the face of violence or abuse isn’t overreacting. It’s simply protecting yourself and your pregnancy. Advocates are on your side and can help get you through a terrible time.

Here’s how you can get the help you need.

 

Reach out to someone you trust.

Seek help from a trusted friend, family member, community member who has your best interests in mind (not someone who’s close with your abusive partner) or a medical provider.

At BWSS, we are here 24/7. We can help you:

  • make a safety plan that includes your pregnancy and any other children
  • with legal information and advocacy
  • find safe transitional housing or housing advocacy
  • emotional support and support groups
  • accompaniment to hospital and/or police

 

Call us 24/7 to make an appointment to speak to a support worker

1-855-687-1868

Or email us at [email protected]

Healing Connections Support Group

women's support group

BWSS is thrilled to announce the Healing Connections support group has resumed in person meetings for the first time since 2020.

At BWSS Support Groups are intrinsic to empowerment and empowerment is at the heart of healing from the oppression of abuse and violence. One of the very first programs BWSS offered, for over 40 years, Healing Connections has provided a safe place to connect with each other in order to alleviate isolation, share information, raise awareness and heal.

This drop in support group meets every Tuesday at our confidential office from 12pm to 2pm. The group is for women, trans women, transfeminine, and women with trans experience who are dealing with the impacts of past or current experiences of gender-based violence. Folks are welcome to attend when they need to access support, information, and/or a safe place to share.

When the group meets, trained facilitators support discussion ranging from:

  • Criminal system
  • Power and control
  • Cycle of violence
  • Resources
  • Coping tools
  • Emotional Support
  • Building Connections

For more information call BWSS Intake and Crisis Line 604-687-1867 or send an email to [email protected].

Healing Connections Poster