Featured Organization: Battered Women’s Support Services
- 1 in 3 women will suffer violence at the hands of another at some point in their lives
- 1 in 3 Canadians will experience or be connected to a mental health problem
- 66% of all female victims of sexual assault are under the age of twenty-four, and 11% are under the age of eleven. Women aged 15 to 24 are killed at nearly three times the rate for all female victims of domestic homicide.
- Immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources
- On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women (along with their 2,500 children) are living in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.
The Power Of A Single Story:
“I was 6 years old the first time, my mother’s second husband hit me. I had left an empty popsicle wrapper on the table, and forgot to put it in the trash. These memory of how this event shaped is still fuzzy, but what I do remember was my first real and raw understanding of what fear, anxiety and no longer feeling safe feels like. What I do remember is hearing screaming behind me as I ran up the stairs blindly grabbing at the carpet, as he dragged me back down – kicking and screaming. Being thrown into the spare bedroom, it was dark, a chill in the air. He scrambled on the bed and my own screaming for my mother was deafening. She cried in the corner of the doorway, begging him to stop. Then I felt something hit the side of my head, sending me flying off the bed and into the side wall. I remember tucking myself into the fetal position, my face hot, I was sweaty, shaking, my head pounded and I could taste iron – my own blood. He left, closed the door and told me, lights off and to not come out until I was ready to be “good.
I stayed in that room for what seemed like hours, laying on the floor, trying to understand what had just happened. Trying to understand why someone who said they loved me and my mother would cause such pain and fear. At the age of 6 – nothing, none of this makes any sense and it re defines, it re shapes how you see the world and your place in it. From that moment on, I slept with a night light on, I had a backpack ready by my bedroom window, a crayoned route to my biological father’s house and I slept with that widow cracked open in case my cat and I had to escape. No child should ever have an escape route from their own home.
After that day, the abuse, the anger would continue. I would witness him hit my mother, fight with her, knock her down; physically, psychologically and spiritually. Over the years she became less and less the strong, vibrant mother I knew – and more of a woman fighting for her life. He controlled her actions, she lost friends, she rarely went out, she drank, he made her do cocaine with him. He was a sexual predator. For 9 years, I was slapped, spanked, whipped with a belt and even up to the age of 12 I remember being stripped naked and “disciplined.” At the age of 14 when we lost our home to debt, I convinced my mom to leave him. I got 2 jobs in high-school, she got a restraining order and when the divorce was finalized – the healing began. The long road of recovery, begins with a single step.”
I tell this story in detail because stories, like mine, need to be told. They need to be heard and the silence needs to be broken. Abuse is what started the downward spiral of my mother’s mental illness – a two decade long battle with her demons, her manic depression – later turned- bi polar disorder, struggling with alcohol addiction.
For me – I turned to running as a way to process and understand “what the F*** had happened to me.” In all our trauma, my mother never got angry with me, she was always loving and even at a young age, I knew I was the glue that had to hold it all together. This burden turned out to be my most valued lesson. In my mother’s passing from accidental suicide; I have learned that in my own silence there can be no full healing. I choose to not only speak for myself, but to pay tribute and honor to my mother’s memory by telling her story of courage.
As an adult, I have had decades of therapy to better understand the long term effects of my childhood abuse and chronic pain has been one of them. I have suffered from back pain for nearly a decade. The reasons why some children experience long-term consequences of abuse while other’s emerge relatively unscathed are still not fully understood. The ability to cope, and even thrive, following a negative experience is what we call “resilience.”
Resilience comes from really owning your sh*t, really accepting the cards that we are dealt and more importantly, accepting that your future, the life you wish to lead, the legacy you wish to leave behind – can only be chosen by “YOU.” The right to choose is the most important rights we, as a human species can harness.
For years I struggled to understand why some people who survive trauma – be it combat, violence, sexual or physical abuse, neglect or isolation – exhibit tremendous resilience and lead full, loving lives; while others become defined by their trauma. For years, I stood somewhere in between. Someone who couldn’t fully accept her past, but someone who wasn’t about to be defined by it either.
Over the last year, I have been knee deep, head down, rolling around in every leader, TED Talk and podcast I could my hands on that deals with; wholehearted living, defense against the dark arts, vulnerability, cognitive behavioral therapy, superhero movies – you name it, I am researching it.
One of the turning points for me was the talks, and associated books by Brene Brown, specifically, her book called “Daring Greatly,” where she discusses “Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training.” Shame derives power from being unspeakable – from being silent. It’s easy to be silent, because they do not have to risk judgement, ridicule or criticism. To be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen – is a scary place.
Daring greatly requires worthiness and much like those manipulative “gremlins” from the 1984 Steven Spielberg movie; shame is that booming voice that self sabotages our efforts to move forward, it numbs us from feeling. I don’t want to feel hurt anymore, I don’t want to be angry anymore – but at the same time those gremlins numb us from feeling love, connection, trust and joy. We cannot NOT feel. It is that voice that says…. “You’re not enough,” “You don’t have a degree,” “Your past is less than exceptional,” “You’re still single,” and so on and so on and so on.
Roosevelt once said; “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The answer is shame resilience. Resilience is about moving from shame to empathy. When we share our story with someone or a group who responds with empathy and understanding, and we practice self-compassion – shame cannot exist. Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training has four elements:
- Recognizing shame and understanding its triggers
- Practicing Critical Awareness – Give yourself reality checks
- Reaching out – Own your sh*t and share your story
- Speaking Shame – talk about how you feel
RUN4MOM is all about putting one foot in front of the other; both metaphorically and physically. This is the first year where I am focusing the majority of my acceptance, advocacy and awareness on surviving child abuse and sharing my mother’s story of domestic and family violence. Battered Women’s Support Services has been an expert on providing women-centered, anti-oppression support and training for more than three decades. They provide several training programs for women and front line workers across BC, as well as programs, support services and crisis intervention for women and girls experiencing violence.
Supporting Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS):
For over 30 years BWSS has been working to end violence against women and girls. They provide education, advocacy and support services to assist all battered women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence and to work from a feminist perspective that promotes equality for all women. In 2010 they launched their The Violence Stops Here campaign recognizing the role men play in eliminating violence against women.
One of the key programs, I feel needs to be recognized is the Advancing Women’s Awareness Regarding Employment (AWARE) program; which is one of the many ways that Battered Women’s Support Services works to eliminate all forms of violence and abuse against girls and women. Their specialized employment program includes:
Recognizing, Understanding and Overcoming the Impact of Abuse (RUOIA)
Workshops related to personal development and employment related skills
Career Exploration including informational interviews, job search skills, volunteer work experience
Information and referrals to educational and training resources
Critical and Essential Services:
This pass year Battered Women’s Support Services:
- responded to 10,000 information & direct service requests
- provided 4200 court/police accompaniments
- facilitated 500 Legal Advocacy workshops
- ran 420 support group sessions – 1520 women attended
- provided 3550 1-1 counselling sessions
- supported 105 women in Job Search skills
- offered 500 Training in Violence Prevention & Intervention
- Percentage of women who self identified as recent immigrants: 42%
- Percentage of women who self identified as Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, Native, Indian or Métis: 18%
- Percentage of women who self identified as refugee: 2%
For more information on BWSS: https://www.bwss.org/
My Sister’s Closet:
Women are the experts of their experience and their healing journey. BWSS has numerous programs to help women establish better connections and healing along their journey. Everything from crisis line support, to counseling, to legal advocacy, to youth programs, to a social enterprise called “My Sister’s Closet.”
One of the many ways BWSS meets the needs of women in our community is through social enterprise. This includes a Retail Program and a thrift boutique, My Sister’s Closet.
My Sister’s Closet is a community boutique offering a mixture of fashion to shoppers and an exceptional experience to over 40 volunteer women, who enable their boutique to be open 7 days a week. Their boutique is a space for community to come together each and every day to end violence against women and girls.
You can find gently used, recycled, vintage, and eco-fashion clothing in a variety of styles and sizes for women and men. All the clothing and accessories are donated by community members, retailers, and film industry.
The proceeds from sales go to fund BWSS support services and programs. My Sister’s Closet was born from the decision of being free from the whims of government to end violence against women. In the past year alone, 10,000 women accessed services at BWSS. In addition, clothing is donated out to organizations serving women and men in need of free clothing such as the YWCA Single Moms housing, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, DTES Women’s Centre, and to BWSS Safety & Outreach Program in the DTES.
My Sister’s Closet also supports local women artisans. Giving retail space and promoting their work contributes to their financial independence and the growth of their artistic expression.
For more information on My Sister’s Closet: https://www.bwss.org/support/programs/social-enterprise/my-sisters-closet/
Join us for RUN4MOM ON July 28th and why not stop by and support BWSS, CMHA and Sarah J on July 26th for our RUN4MOM Pre race event party!
Date: Friday July 26th
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Location: 1092 Seymour Street, Vancouver
Come and join Sarah Jamieson for the RUN4MOM pre race party. This is a great opportunity to connect and meet the women and supporters of BWSS and SHOP at My Sister’s Closet. This is a free event, and all refreshments can be purchased by donation.
How Can You Support?
- Join me on RUN4MOM. Walk with me on my run route – from Ambleside to Dundarave @9am on July 28th
- Donate to either one of the charities and take a stand against violence and stigma. Donate here: http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?
- Share RUN4ACAUSE and help break the silence at www.sarahmjamieson.wordpress.com
This blog is written by Sarah Jamieson. BWSS wants to acknowledge and appreciate her strength, support and action. Here she is outside at our social enterprise My Sister’s Closet with one of our volunteers Ava.