Inspiring Stories, Amazing Women, Ending Violence
By Angela Marie MacDougall
Think about Battered Women’s Support Services as concentric circles or a web of interconnected experiences, lives and stories steeped in survival, hope and effective change. At the centre are women who access our services, on a continuum of living with power and control including physical and sexual violence. Women who are seeking safety, living the complex reality of staying in an abusive relationship with the hope that “he will change”, leaving for a while, getting a taste of freedom and being pulled back by fear, societal pressures, systemic barriers, returning with the hope that “things will change”.
Throughout that process reaching out to lean on another through our support groups, our crisis line, our counselling, our legal advocacy, our workshops, our employment program, our specialized services and finding other women who are also finding a sense of personal power and empowerment. Who are living free of violence.
Statistically, women will stay, leave and return seven times before leaving for good, and some women never leave. As one 86 year old woman said, “if I had support like I have received at BWSS when I was younger I would have left a long time ago.”
Yes, all women of all ages, 14 – 86 who are dealing with power and control in their relationships including sexual and physical violence access BWSS. Each woman, or girl, with a painful journey of injustice and harm who are writing strength, survival and hope into their story through their contact with Battered Women’s Support Services, this year well over 8,000.
Women Who Volunteer
Women who volunteer with us who are also on a continuum who through their experiences have decided that they want to connect or reconnect with a community of women giving back to help other women find a way to live violence free. On Thursday, March 31, 2011, eight-six women attended our annual Volunteer Appreciation Event. Though we like to think we are demonstrating appreciation to women who volunteer with us every day, our annual event is the only time when all volunteers, staff and board members get together to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate.
Women who volunteer at BWSS are a true reflection of our communities and tell the story of women’s survival and women’s liberation. This year was our biggest and best event ever. With the microphone open, women shared their stories of the connections, relationships and positive impact volunteering at BWSS has made in their lives and the impact they’ve been able to make in the lives of other women, children and men.
Our staff team, women who are committing their lives to the work of ending violence against women as a personal mission statement dovetailing with the mission of Battered Women’s Support Services. Indigenous women from Indigenous communities in Canada reaching out to Indigenous women living in the urban settings and on reserves linking the abuse in their intimate relationships to the very making of this nation as a nation and that personal safety is linked to Indigenous sovereignty. Recent Immigrant women delivering information, counselling, support groups in languages including Farsi, Punjabi and Spanish integrating critical cultural nuances that speak deeply and profoundly. BWSS Women counsellors working with women who are so impacted by lives filled with physical and sexual violence the trauma lives deep inside well after the abuser(s) have left assisting women unravel the experiences, piecing back together that which has been fractured, shattered…
Our board members, strong women leaders, leading change in their respective professional and personal lives while lending their wisdom and guidance to the governance and strategic direction of Battered Women’s Support Services. Strong leadership growing authentically from years of experience ending violence in the diverse communities of women and feminist organizing.
And the activism, BWSS staff, help women prepare, then accompany and successfully advocate for Refugee women to achieve refugee status, when after 20+ years of dismissing deaths of marginalized women (disproportionately Indigenous women) our staff who occupied the Vancouver Police department and said in no uncertain terms “enough is enough”, our staff who stand up to government policies like changes to Family Relations Act, restructuring of Bridging Employment programs, changes to immigration sponsorship that will disproportionally impact abused Immigrant women, proactively addressing bad practices in co-ed emergency shelters where women have been sexually assaulted, our staff who take the streets to stand up for women who are missing and who didn’t survive. And will do it again, in a moment’s notice.
Each amazing woman with a story of overcoming, embracing and embodying survival and empowerment; grounding herself in her personal experience fueling her forward to effective change in her life, in her relationships, in her community and in the larger society, like ripples in a pond reaching our larger community regionally, provincially, nationally and internationally.
Our current issue of Women Making Waves is going to print; it has taken a while to get to this issue because we’ve been busy ending violence against girls and women. In this issue we celebrate our positive and effective change, inspiring stories, and all the amazing women who are ending violence.