By Carol Perkins
In one day at the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter, anything can happen. There is chaos and quiet, healing times, anguish and hope, moments of connections with others, laughter and sadness.
The ringing cell phone in my pocket startles me, making me jump. Thoughts flicker across my mind that a crisis could be happening for the person at the other end of the line. A woman says hello. She is trying to be brave, humbling herself to ask for help, to come into the shelter. I ask her the questions. Are you safe right now? Do you have children? Where should I send the cab to pick you up? I can hear the relief in her voice that someone will help her.
I prepare for her arrival. It’s late, it’s dark and cold outside. I imagine that if she were in better circumstances, she might be a guest in my home, coming to spend the night. I open her room, mentally checking for towels on the bed. Maybe she will need pajamas, a toothbrush, a hot cup of tea, something to eat.
The cab arrives. We meet. She is wary, her eyes darting and alert, her body tired. She is holding back tears.
I know you are scared. I know you have been hurt. I know you have left with nothing but your purse. We will help you here. Like we would help our own daughters, mothers and friends. We will help you start again. We will help you feel strong and sure.
The intake papers signed, the formal part done, it’s time to show her the house. She is nervous now —l what is behind the closed door of the foyer? Her shoulders relax when she sees that the shelter is a comfortable home. The smells of dinner cooked hours ago lingers with the smell of popcorn. A round, grey haired woman sits in a chair crocheting. A thirtyish woman in pajamas and a housecoat lies on a couch watching Criminal Minds. A thin girl with short black hair and bright green fingernail polish is on the computer. They all say hello and introductions are made. They know, too well, how she is feeling. They too have recently walked through the front door of the shelter dealing with their own crisis.
I take her down the hallway to her room, her sanctuary for the next few days, or even weeks. She’s grateful for the pajamas, the toothbrush. I mention that the windows are alarmed and her eyes tear up again. We go outside while she smokes a cigarette and tells me more. She tells me that she is always afraid of what kind of a mood he will be in when he gets home from work. That she never can do anything right, how he rages, how he told her to get out. She shows me her bruises. She tells me about her medical problems. She has trouble sleeping. She is on meds for depression and meds for pain. She has struggled with drug addictions. She wants to go to bed now. I give her an extra blanket and heating pad. She says thank you for the tenth time. I wish her a good night.
I wish that she feels worthy of being safe and comfortable, worthy of relationships that do not involve abuse of any kind. That she finds the self worth to become responsible for her own happiness and well being and make good choices for herself.
All of us at the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter, all of us involved directly or indirectly strive to make a difference in women’s lives and their children’s lives by the support work that we do.
The BC Society of Transition Houses conducts an annual 24 hour census, a survey of violence against women services across the province.124 transition houses, safe houses and second-stage facilities in BC participated by gathering statistics on November 24th, 2011:
- In just one day, 1,110 women, youth and children who experienced violence were helped in person across the province.
- In just one day, 741 people were safely sheltered and supported in shelters and safe homes and second stage programs.
- In just one day, 369 youth and children exposed to the abuse of their mothers were supported in Children Who Witness Abuse programs.
- In just one day, 1,461 calls, emails and texts were answered.
- In just one day, 305 people were educated about violence against women and the impacts on women, children and communities.
- In total, the violence against women programs touched the lives of 2,876 people, in just one day.
Despite helping and educating almost 3,000 people in one day, 658 women, youth and children were either turned away from, or remained on waiting lists for services because programs did not have the resources to meet the demand in their communities.
At the Women’s Shelter, we help one person at a time — the woman that telephones, the woman that takes that step through the front door, changing her life for the better.
Carol Perkins is a frontline worker at the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter