BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will be resuming our clinics

We’re happy to be resuming our Legal Forms Clinic

Our Legal Forms Clinic are for Supreme and Provincial Court Family forms. They are offered for no fee and are facilitated by legal advocates and interns who can help women draft very specific family law court forms. We’re able to  help women who know which forms need to be filled out (e.g Affidavit, NOFC, NOA, F8, etc.).
 

The clinic will happen twice a month, every other Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Each appointment lasts two hours, and we ask women to come 15 minutes prior to their appointment so we can efficiently work together. There will be two BWSS legal advocates (Mayra Albuquerque and Summer Rain Bentham) and a legal intern from UBC Allard School of Law, allowing us to help three women per clinic. Legal advocates and interns will not be providing legal advice.

 

We are pleased to have family law lawyer Tanya Thakur who will be available as the duty counselor at each clinic, and will review the forms filled out by legal advocates and interns, and in some cases, will swear affidavits or F8.

 

The Legal Forms Clinic is available on the following dates from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.:
• Thursday, September 10
• Thursday, September 24
• Thursday, October 8
• Thursday, October 22
• Thursday, November 5
• Thursday, November 19

 

If you are interested in attending a Legal Forms Clinic, please contact the BWSS Intake Line at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868 (toll-free) or email intake@bwss.org.
Our Family Law Clinic is here to help women access justice

Our Family Law Clinic are staffed with pro-bono family law lawyers who will give free legal advice to women who are low-income (including division of assets & debt), and help them prepare to go to court. Please note that the pro-bono family law lawyers cannot prepare typed legal documentation or go into court on behalf of women.

 

Typically, the pro-bono family law lawyer advises women, and then, women will have to make a separate appointment with BWSS legal advocates to figure out their next steps. Appointments with the pro-bono family law lawyer will last approximately an hour, which will allow us to help three women per clinic.

 

Thank you so much to our pro–bono lawyers for their time and expertise in helping increase women’s access to justice. All too often women are self-representing in their family law cases without the benefit of legal support, and these services are extraordinarily important in dealing with abusive partners who often have lawyers to represent them.

 

The Family Law Clinic is available on:
• Saturday, August 29: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Wednesday, September 9: 5 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday, September 26: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m
• Wednesday, October 14: 5 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday, October 24: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Wednesday, November 4: 5 to 8 p.m.
• Saturday, November 21: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

If you are interested in attending a Family Law Clinic, please contact the BWSS Intake Line at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868 (toll-free) or email intake@bwss.org.

Work and volunteer at BWSS

Apply to come work with us

We are a feminist ending violence organization with an entrepreneurial spirit known for our commitment to creating and implementing programs and services that empower women from all walks of life. We offer the opportunity to work within an accomplished team making a difference every day on the frontline and beyond. If you are looking to work in an organization engaged in making a real difference in the lives of children and women in our community, please apply to work with us!

The following positions are currently open:

  • Research and Policy Analyst
  • Indigenous Women’s Legal Advocate
  • Housing Advocate
  • Latin American Women’s Counsellor
  • Volunteer Coordinator for My Sister’s Closet

Sign up for our Prevention and Intervention Volunteer Training

Our Prevention and Intervention Volunteer Training Program is offered to self-identified women who want to obtain the necessary skills to contribute to end gender-based violence, and will be offered again starting on September 18 to December 4, 2020.

We’re proud to say that our training is well-respected and well-known in the anti-violence community. Program training participants gain skills in crisis intervention, peer counselling, safety assessment, safety planning, advocacy, referrals, group facilitation, and public education.

With our crisis line and intake now extended to 24 hours a day and seven days per week, we are grateful for the commitment of our volunteers who help us respond to victims and survivors on the other side of the crisis line.

Consider these when helping your loved one suffering from domestic violence

For those that are experiencing domestic violence, reaching out to a loved one is extra challenging under COVID-19.

Now that we are in a different phase of the pandemic, it has been recorded that more than a million Canadian women lost their jobs in the first two months of the pandemic, and are facing additional stressors related to finances, and health. Some are torn about the next steps for their children’s futures.

Our crisis line continues to take calls from people who are concerned about their loved ones experiencing domestic violence. Although there are so many factors that are even more frustrating at this time, your friend or family member may still be unable to contact you because of their abusive partner. Your support, involvement and presence continue to be vital.

Please consider the above thoughts when talking to your loved one who is suffering from abuse.

You can also call our crisis line and we can help you determine how you can support your loved one.
📞 Call 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868
📱 Text 604-652-1867
✉️ Email intake@bwss.org

Wear your support for BWSS

We’re selling shirts with 100% of proceeds going towards our mandate to end gender-based violence.

If you’re interested in other fashionable wear, check out our social enterprise My Sister’s Closet – social enterprise of Battered Women’s Support Services. We have an online shop and our store at The Drive (1830 Commercial Drive – Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm) is now open!

Thank you very much for your support.

We’re here to serve you online and in person

Here for you in person too

Our direct service team has been working very hard since social isolation was mandated in March.  Our office has remained open for drop-ins and staff have been onsite. As we enter the next phase of the pandemic here in BC, we are offering more services at our confidential location in Vancouver.

Crisis Line and Intake Coordinator Elza and volunteer Breanne, along with the rest of the staff are practicing physical distancing in the office as we continue to offer in-person services as well as virtual sessions. Although our office hours are still reduced, we acknowledge the importance of having face-to-face sessions for many of the women we serve, and have continuously found ways to stay connected.

Volunteers back in action

Congratulations to BWSS Prevention and Intervention trainees who graduated from a unique spring 2020 training series.  BWSS has offered this training for 40 years and this year, under COVID-19, the entire session happened virtually in addition to our support group with the entire session happened virtually in addition to our Healing from Trauma support group with Ileah and Daniela; Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group and art workshops by Summer-Rain and Michelle; and the Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment Program (AWARE) workshops by Stephanie and Claudia. Big thanks to our wonderful team members including Manager of Direct Services and Programs, Rosa Elena Arteaga, and Crisis and Intake Coordinator Elza Horta who did a fabulous job moving the training to the virtual world. 

Our trainees have now become committed volunteers, taking calls through our 24-hour-and-7-day-a-week crisis line. Great work, everyone!

Our training is world-renowned, and if you would like to join the September 2020 session to take action on gender based violence through our crisis and intake line, we would be thrilled to have you join us.

We offer Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Ending Gender Violence workshop

With the continued movements such as Black Lives Matter and Land Back, which demand to eradicate racial injustices and inequities globally, BWSS is proud to be a part of these movements by providing anti-racism training for thirty years. We have now also designed a workshop especially for anti-violence organizations. Angela Marie MacDougall, our Executive Director, is conducting an Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Ending Gender Violence workshop for the great people at Sara for Women, a feminist non-profit society providing safe refuge and community-based resources for women in Mission and Abbotsford.

The Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression and Ending Gender Violence workshop intends to deepen the application of an anti-racism and anti-oppression framework in the frontline work of women’s and anti-violence organizations.

Working Towards an Intersectional Feminists Recovery

According to a report by RBC, Canadian women’s participation in the labour force is down to its lowest level in three decades, while also having to shoulder more child care responsibilities than men. The federal and provincial governments are now talking about what “recovery” could mean and unfortunately we are seeing minimal recognition and action on the impact for women.  As a founding member of Feminists Deliver, we are taking action on “just recovery” through a report, This Economic Labour Hurts the Arch of Our Backs: A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for COVID-19.

Find our more by listening to our Executive Director Angela Marie MacDougall’s interview alongside Feminists Deliver’s Priscilla Omulo with CBC’s Stephen Quinn.

We’re now a part of BC Society of Transition Houses

We’re excited to be members of the BC Society of Transition Houses, which supports anti-violence workers in their work to provide the most compassionate and effective help possible for women, children and youth experiencing violence. Together, we can be a strong voice for those we support and advocate for the changes needed to end violence against women, children and youth.

Safety Resource Card: Connecting Survivors of Violence to Support

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
July 26, 2018

Connecting Survivors of Violence to Support

An updated, comprehensive, and easy to understand guide to finding help for survivors of violence.

Vancouver, B.C. —Since its initial launch in March 2006, tens of thousands of copies of The Safety Resource Card have been shared throughout Metro Vancouver. The first of its kind, the Safety Resource Card contains dozens of useful phone numbers.

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) is pleased to announce the update of the card, to include updated phone numbers and information including the updated operating hours of BWSS, now including Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. The card also includes other emergency/crisis numbers, transition house numbers and specific support services in the Downtown Eastside.

Fifty percent of women in Canada have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. On average, a woman is murdered by her intimate partner every week in Canada.

“Gender-based violence in all forms — sexual harassment, sexual violence, physical abuse and femicide is truly an epidemic in Canada –there is no time to waste”, says BWSS Executive Director Angela Marie MacDougall “The Safety Resource Card provides survivors of violence with direct contact to essential services in Metro Vancouver, including BWSS, that can be life-saving”.

The Safety Resource Card folds up to the size of a business card so that women using the card may do so discretely and without fear of its being discovered by an abusive partner.

The Safety Resource Cards are available to the community and those interested in obtaining the free card please call 778-558-7179 or email communityengagement@bwss.org

For almost 40 years, Battered Women’s Support Services has worked towards women’s liberation through education, advocacy, support services, and systemic and social change to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence.

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Media enquiries:
Angela Marie MacDougall, Battered Women’s Support Services
Executive Director
Cell:  604-808-0507
Email:  director@bwss.org

Cyber Security

Planning for Safety

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

The UN estimates that 95% of aggressive behaviour, harassment, and abusive language in online spaces are aimed at women and come from current or former male partners.  This behaviour is used to control, intimate and isolate women and girls. Planning for safety can be one way women can take back power in abusive relationships. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to be safe online.

cell phone safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

Cell Phone Safety

A cell phone used for harassment is a common tool of power and control.  This might include

  • Constantly texting all day long
  • Expecting an immediate reply and becoming abusive if you are unable to reply
  • Calling you repeatedly from known or unknown numbers

There are cybersecurity strategies that can help you gain more safety.

Most strategies depend on having a smartphone; if you have a regular cell-phone, you will have fewer technical options available, although there will be fewer means of tech-based harassment.

  • Blocking a phone-number is one way to cut-off contact from an abusive partner/ex-partner. Unfortunately, for many women this is not always an available solution. For example you may need your partner’s number for communicating about your children –or they may change their number or use a different phone number that isn’t blocked.
  • Disabling notifications lets you communicate when you feel safe to do so, but also at the expense of instant communication with friends and family. You may need to disable and re-enable notifications throughout the day.
  • Some apps, like Messages in iOS (IPhones), can filter unknown phone-numbers into a separate list.
  • Disable the read-receipts (the messages that say when someone read your text) means your abusive male partner won’t know when you’re using your cell phone.
  • Turning off location-sharing will hide your physical whereabouts.
  • Deleting conversation history can be comforting if you find yourself repeatedly reading old abusive conversations (though you should preserve this history if you need evidence for legal reasons).
  • Use alternative texting apps –you can use one specific app if you need to communicate with your partner/ex-partner and that way you can disable notification specifically from that app.

Look into what your phone and your phones apps offer and customize them to what you need. No setting changes have to be permanent and you can always change them when you need to.

Changing Your Phone Number

Changing your number is choice based on the intensity of your partner’s harassment, the viability of changing your contact information amongst your social and business networks, and your financial resources.

  • Create a back-up of any important photos and conversations that you want to preserve, especially any evidence of abuse.
  • Make a note of any online accounts that are connected to your phone number, like social media or banking accounts—sometimes your login information is tied to a cell phone number, so you should update these accounts with your new number if you want to.
  • Find out if any of your accounts display your phone number. Profiles, like those on Facebook or LinkedIn, might reveal this data without your knowledge. Then update your settings so that your new phone number will not be visible to the public.
  • Once you’ve changed your phone number, make a point not to give that number to any website unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t hesitate to lie about your phone number, as well as other personal information online. Just because a website requires this data, it doesn’t mean you have to compromise your safety. Create a fake number, address, or even a fake name.

social media safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

Social Media

There is so much gender based violence that can be found on social media. And abusive male partner will be quick to exploit this this vulnerability, either directly harassing you through various online platforms, or enlisting hate communities to assist in the abuse and harassment. Making your profile private: choosing to be private or public makes you no more deserving of harassment.

Tips on what to do when receiving abuse or harassment on social media:

  • One option is to report the abuser through the platform itself.
  • Abusive messages that threaten violence are criminal. If you think these threats are an imminent danger, you should contact the BWSS Crisis line, friends or family that can provide safe shelter, or, if you feel safe doing so, the police.
  • Collect evidence of the threats –these can be helpful in demonstrating danger to the legal systems, and police.
  • While the abusive partner can delete proof of their harassment, you can take screenshots for your personal records, or report the messages to the social media platform so they have a record.

He might use social media by getting friends or family to contact you about your relationship, making you feel pressured or ganged up on. He might monitor your friend’s activity on social to gain information about your personal life if you appear on their account. He might post harassing and abusive messages or photos about you, to embarrass you in front of your community.

You can resist social network exploitation through mindfulness and self-care.

  • Check your friend or follower list of people who you don’t know, or aren’t very close with—if you ran into them on the street, would you want to talk to them? If not, delete them.
  • When your friends post something about you, in photos or otherwise, politely ask them to withhold that information out of respect for your privacy. It’s especially important to discourage “tagging” in photos or posts, which frequently reveal your physical location at a specific time.
  • Don’t hesitate to block or unfriend people who are contacting you in a way that causes stress, discomfort, or harm: you are not obliged to talk to anyone who makes you feel that way.
  • Comment sections are especially cruel, where many people are thoughtless and angry—it’s okay to ignore them.
  • If your partner is publicly attacking you, report them to the social media platform for harassment.
  • You can also take a social media hiatus to reduce stress.

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

Is your partner impersonating you online?

This is a tactic used to damage someone’s reputation, causing isolation from friends, coworkers, or family. Your partner may impersonate you by sharing sexual photos, sending embarrassing messages to your social network, or using your online accounts.

This is done through the creation of fake social media accounts, such as a Facebook profile or a Twitter account. If the platform has the option, report the account as an impersonation and/or as harassment. Having friends/family report the account may increase the possibility of a response from the platform.

Is your personal information being shared online?

Posting your information online is also a common tactic that is used. This includes sharing phone numbers, addresses, names of family members, embarrassing private information, intimate photographs or texts, and other pieces of personal data can be shared on social media, email, and websites.

Technology facilitated location stalking

It’s never been easier to track your daily movements. GPS technologies are built-into our phones, available for any app that wants to share your location. Photos are embedded with information identifying when and where the photo was taken. Social media posts from your friends reveal where you are and where you are going. Even the Compass Card used on Transit compromise women’s safety because it can be used to track the exact time and location a woman uses transit.

It’s frightening to know that your partner or ex-partner can track you and important to know that this is stalking. Stalking is illegal and if you are comfortable you can connect with our crisis line for more support or the police.

GPS Tracking in Cellphones

Your cellphone reveals your physical location at every given moment. GPS, which means “Global Positioning System”, determines where your phone is in real-time based on satellites. This isn’t internet based but rather there’s a chip in your phone that receives and processes the satellite signals.

Your location can be tracked through apps that use Location Services.  Disable Location Services for any app that may compromise your safety. An abusive male partner may secretly download apps on your phone to keep track on where you are, so if you see any unfamiliar apps, delete them right away.

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

 My partner is monitoring my computer or cell phone activity.

Is your partner monitoring you? Here are some red flags to notice.

  • He frequently asks to see your computer or cell phone, or takes it.
  • He demands passwords to your computer or cell phone.
  • He wants login information for your email, banking, shopping, or social media accounts.
  • He is known to be “good with computers” and handles your computer tasks.
  • He gives you devices that he’s set-up for you.
  • He spends a significant amount of time on his computer and is unusually secretive about it.
  • He makes vague references to activities or conversations they were not present for.
  • He gets unexpectedly angry towards a person you’ve recently communicated with.
  • He threatens to reveal embarrassing information about you.

Changing Passwords

If you think your partner is reading your texts, watching your emails, looking at your photos, or using your cell phone, you can change your passwords to lock them out. Changing your passwords depends on your safety levels. Don’t change your passwords if there’s a risk of him retaliating. You may not know whether he has your passwords—try changing one password and wait a few days to see if he reacts. If they don’t react, try changing another password and repeat the process.

Fingerprint passwords are being used more and more for phones and laptops. While this might seem like a safe way to protect your privacy, your partner could simply swipe your finger while you’re asleep or intoxicated, or physically force you to unlock a device.

If you’re separated from your partner, change all of your important passwords just to be safe. One option is to use the use a Password Manager. A password manager generates and stores passwords for you, so you don’t have to remember them. This makes it impossible for your partner to guess your password or hack into your account. You can also use the Two-Step Verification defense strategy. When you login to a website, you will need a number generated by your phone or received in a text. Even if your partner has your password, they would still need your cell phone to access your website.

Protect Your Computer Web Browsing

Web browsers store every website you visit in their “history”. Your partner can check this history to see which websites you’ve visited and when. Web browsers also store “cookies”, pieces of data used by websites to store login information, website settings, or advertising data. Cookies let you return to websites and still be logged in. Though it might be inconvenient, log out of your websites when you’re done using them.

More about Internet Safety here.

Create Back-up Accounts

With unwanted access to your accounts, he may try to destroy or sabotage them: deleting emails, erasing photos, or unfriending people on social media. Create backups of your important data when it’s not safe to remove your partners access/

  • Emails –create a forwarding address so every incoming email is sent to an additional email address that your partner doesn’t have access to.
  • Texts –enable text-forwarding, where your texts are saved on another device: possibly a friend or family member’s phone.
  • Create secret accounts –create an alternative account your partner doesn’t know about. When you register online, use a totally new password, email address, and login name and only use private browsing when on the secret account.

online safety

(Image via hackblossom.org)

I’m Afraid of My Sexual Content Being Hacked.

Sending sexual content to another person means it lives on your recipient’s devices, apps, cloud, or websites. Even if you delete the content in one location, it could still survive elsewhere. To protect your sexual content, be aware of where the data lives, choose apps that offer control over your media, and secure your devices and accounts. It’s okay to skip the following strategies when it doesn’t feel safe for you.

Protecting your apps

  • “Short-lived” apps like Snapchat may seem private, but it’s very easy for your partner to take screenshots or install software to record snaps. Be aware of app permissions: if there’s an app that has unwanted access to your content, either delete the content, or disable permissions for the app.
  • Reduce risk by choosing apps that do not back-up to the cloud, do not share across devices, and require a password.
  • It’s likely that your text messages, photos, and videos are automatically backed-up in the cloud. Deleting them on your device doesn’t guarantee that they are deleted in the cloud. When creating sexual content, try to use apps that don’t back-up to the cloud, or have back-ups disabled. Securing your cloud with a strong password will reduce the risk of your cloud being hacked.
  • Two-Step Verification offers even more security.

My Partner is Sharing Images of me online without my consent.

There are “revenge porn” websites that explicitly encourage content that was shared without consent which is illegal.

If you find your sexual content being shared on a website, first collect evidence. Sharing pornography non-consensually violates the law in Canada, so evidence is crucial if you decide to pursue legal action. Then, contact the website about taking down the content.

Create a Safety Plan

 

Battered Women Who Have Been Arrested

employers-survey-gr-eat

Back in 2008, Battered Women’s Support Services confronted the growing problem of police services misapplying “pro-arrest” policies and criminalizing battered women for self-defending in domestic violence situations. We came to this confrontation authentically when we began supporting a growing number of women who were arrested for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence against their male partner and these arrests occurred despite the fact that in all cases the women were in relationships where their male partners were abusing them. This was evidenced by previous police reports, hospital/doctor visits, child witnesses and neighbour or co-worker accounts.

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) continues doing this work as one of the only organizations in B.C. supporting women who have been arrested. In 2017, BWSS will provide training to service providers on this issue.

 

To help with planning for the training and future advocacy for battered women who have been arrested. we are asking you to participate in our short survey.

 

By completing the survey you can enter to win a $200 gift certificate to Battered Women’s Support Services social enterprise, My Sister’s Closet! Closing date to enter the draw is January 31, 2017.

Thank you!