Battered Women’s Support Services in need of more crisis line volunteers as support for domestic violence victims and survivors expand

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) has been taking calls from victims and survivors at their most vulnerable times for the past four decades. As of March 2020, BWSS expanded their community-based crisis line to support 24/7, and added a texting service in addition to communicating by email. BWSS’s crisis lines rely on dedicated, trained volunteers to support, educate, and empower callers to a life free from violence. More volunteers are needed and BWSS’s world-renowned Violence Prevention and Intervention Training Program is now accepting applications to join the fall cohort starting on September 18, 2020.

Participants of the free training program are provided skills-based knowledge grounded in a strong theoretical framework for understanding violence against women and girls in relationships and systemic oppression. The training program covers crisis intervention, peer counselling, safety assessment, safety planning, advocacy, referrals, group facilitation, and public education.

The crisis line typically gets 18,000 calls annually. However, this year, calls have increased by 300 per cent as the crisis line is now open 24/7 and as COVID-19 exposes more victims to danger and lethality for having to stay at home. Most calls from the crisis line are from victims and survivors, family members, children and youth, and coworkers. Forty per cent of callers are calling for the first time.

“The crisis line is where we learn of the unique and changing needs of survivors and victims across various demographics and we build our systemic advocacy based on the calls we receive,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS. “Volunteering with us is a way of giving back to the community for those who deeply care about ending gender-based violence. Our volunteers make a difference in the lives of thousands of victims and survivors as they are the first point of contact, becoming a gateway to accessing services including counselling, legal advocacy, and our various specialty programs that centre the needs of our callers.”

The training is now mostly virtual, which creates more options for participants who need the flexibility. Many of BWSS’s services are also offered virtually and in person. There are many shifts that need to be filled as the line is always open, and the crisis line offers shifts online and from home. Volunteers are supported and supervised by experienced and trained BWSS staff while on shift.

“Our goal is for victims to become survivors, and to live free from violence,” said Elza Horta, Crisis Line and Intake Coordinator at BWSS. “We also receive calls from people who want to help survivors and want to be active in the community especially during the increased rates of domestic violence during COVID-19. There are lots of education, life-changing and life-saving conversations happening over the phone.”

For more information about the Violence Prevention and Intervention Program and to apply for the fall training now, visit

The BWSS Crisis Line is available 24/7 and can be reached by phone at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868; or email


BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will be resuming our clinics

BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will be resuming our clinics

We’re happy to be resuming our Legal Forms Clinic

Our Legal Services and Advocacy Program 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) 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
BWSS Legal Services and Advocacy Program will be resuming our clinics

Our Family Law Clinic is here to help women access justice

Our Legal Services and Advocacy Program 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

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
✉️ Email

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.

Canadian courts test the “rough sex” defence

Canadian courts test the “rough sex” defence

As seen in The Economist, August 1, 2020

In a trial in Canada later this year, one of the questions is whether Cindy Gladue liked rough sex. Specifically, if she liked it rough enough to consent to digital penetration that tore an 11cm wound in her vaginal wall. Ms Gladue bled to death, so she cannot testify. Bradley Barton, charged with her manslaughter, says her death was a tragic accident. Mr Barton’s case, a retrial, will be heard in November. The verdict in another case is expected on July 31st. David Miller is accused of first-degree murder of his girlfriend, Debra Novacluse, in 2016. He told police that her death was a result of rough sex gone too far.

The cases come as a group of academics have called for a restriction on the use of the “rough sex” defence in homicide cases.

Elizabeth Sheehy, Isabel Grant and Lise Gotell, who specialise in gender studies and the law surrounding violence against women, argue that the law shouldn’t recognise the consent of the victim as a defence for causing bodily harm or death. “Rough sex rebounds on women,” they say.

It is not just in Canada that the so-called “50 Shades of Grey” defence appears. Men in America, Britain, Germany, Italy and Russia have claimed that their partner’s death was a tragic, kinky accident. We Can’t Consent To This, a British campaign group, has counted 27 cases since 2010. The group recently celebrated the addition to a proposed domestic-abuse law of a clause barring the use of consent as a defence for bodily harm (although this principle was already established in common law).

It is unclear how often the defence is used in Canada. In March, Kalen Schlatter used it as part of his (unsuccessful) defence against the charge of murdering Tess Richey. Ms Sheehy, Ms Grant and Ms Gotell say it has become more common since 2015.

Angela Marie MacDougall, the director of Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver, says that since 2010 her organisation has heard more complaints from women that their partners have been violent during sex.

Canadian law says that a person cannot consent to bodily harm in the context of a fist fight. But punch-ups are not usually engaged in for pleasure. “The difficulty is that our Supreme Court [did not say whether] this same rule would apply in the context of sexual contact,” say Ms Grant and her colleagues. Some think harm during sex should be illegal regardless of consent.

But despite, or because of the risks, some people do like rough sex. bdsm, or bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, can feature acts that some people would find extreme. Some of these acts, such as asphyxiation, are dangerous. “It’s very debated in the community if it can ever be safe,” says Andrea Zanin, a Canadian writer who focuses on bdsm. Ms Zanin rejects any proposals to criminalise kinky sexual behaviour, especially the notion that a person can’t consent to harm. However, consent should be explicit, and can never be assumed. “You can’t say that because someone is involved in kink, [assaulting her] is okay,” she adds.

Still, when people engage in risky acts, accidents happen. Just ask any athlete. A person can be strangled into unconsciousness in 15 seconds. No one really knows how long death takes after that. Estimates range from 30 seconds to several minutes. There are no controlled experiments, for obvious reasons.

When evidence is heard in court, the verdict largely depends on whom juries believe. What jurors believe depends on what they find plausible. In recent years public awareness and acceptance of diverse sexual practices has increased. But male violence against women has not gone away.

The worry is that a murderer could deliberately make the crime look like “rough sex” gone wrong. Even if false, his story could be consistent with the physical evidence. A murder charge requires proving that someone intended to kill or seriously harm the victim. So much of the evidence hinges on accounts of intention and consent. “He said, she said” cases are notoriously tricky. In a concerning number of trials, it’s a case of he said, she’s dead.

If you or someone you know needs support, please contact our Crisis & Intake Line:

Toll Free: 1.855.687.1868
Text: 604.652.1867

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.

Domestic homicide is Predictable and Preventable

The tragic, and entirely preventable, deaths of Chloe and Aubrey Berry are a grim reminder that when we are concerned about violence against women we should also worry about violence against the children. On paper, the legal system is designed to safeguard women and children’s right to a life free from violence. However, the Oak Bay tragedy confirms that this right is only extended in theory, and not in practise.

Rather than providing reprieve to women and children fleeing violence, the family law system revictimizes them, by obliging them to repeatedly disclose their most traumatic memories in court proceedings; allowing abusive men to cross examine them; and permitting abusive fathers unfettered access to their children. At BWSS, we provide emotional and advocacy support to numerous women who express hopelessness, frustration, and anger with the court system. Many are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place when they are faced with parenting time orders that allow their abusive fathers to spend time with their children, children who have often been victims themselves and have witnessed the violence perpetrated on their mothers. Women face the impossible choice of either following the court order and placing their children in jeopardy or being held in breach of the court order.

In October, BWSS wrote an open letter to B.C. Minster of Justice, David Eby on the Provincial Court Family Rules Project which includes the “Consensual Dispute Resolution”(“CDR”). It is BWSS longstanding direct experience as well as extensive research in the field that has repeatedly demonstrated alternative dispute resolution processes, including mediation, are neither safe nor appropriate for women, particularly when there is a history of relationship violence. Children who have witnessed their mother’s abuse are also being abused and they experience the impact. With alternative dispute resolution processes, unfortunately, FJCs, judges and others in the legal systems are continuing to place an overriding importance on children’s contact with their father, even if that father is abusive.

Preventing such a tragedy from happening again requires significant changes to the system, including extensive training for judges and police officers, free access to legal representation for women fleeing violence: the majority of people who require legal aid for family law services are women and many women who are fleeing violent partner. This means that women have been directly affected to the progressive cuts to Legal Aid since 2002. Additional social resources for women and children to help ensure their safety. Women and children cannot access justice if their voices are heard but not believed.

Western University’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children found that Eighty per cent of domestic homicides are preceded by at least seven risk factors that were known to someone close to them. The risk factors include prior violence against women, stalking, separation, prior threats and a perpetrator’s substance abuse. These deaths are preventable.

Battered Women’s Support Services is holding Women Seeking Safety: BWSS Forum on Violence against Women and their Children and the Law on Friday, January 26 2018 looking at systemic change, lethality/assessments and recommendations. Details to follow.


B.C. girls’ deaths prompt debate about how judges handle domestic-violence cases

Girls’ deaths in B.C. see questions raised about judges and domestic violence

Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS ED interview on Roundhouse Radio