Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter

Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter

March 26, 2009 09:00 ET

Unprecedented Number of Family Violence Victims Seeking Support

Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter uses 35th anniversary to launch year-long initiative to stop abuse

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - March 26, 2009) - A record-breaking number of Calgarians seeking support and information about family violence found the help they needed from the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter during the first quarter of 2009.

"The number of people seeking support from professional counsellors on our telephone helpline and needing the security of our shelter continues to escalate to numbers we've never seen before," says Executive Director Lisa Falkowsky. "We are seeing a dramatic increase in the severity and complexity of the abuse that women and children are experiencing. That makes the work we're doing even more challenging."

The Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter's Family Violence Helpline received 1,366 calls in February alone, a 300 per cent increase from the previous year, and the shelter remains full with clients being served by outreach and crisis counsellors in hotels and other safe places. "We are stretching our resources because we know each person contacting us is in critical need of safe shelter, or requires vital information and support," says Falkowsky. "We recognize we are an essential service so we never turn anyone away. We get creative in how we help clients keep safe. I don't think we've ever seen this number of Calgarians with the heightened level of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as we're seeing right now."

Calgary has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Canada, however only a small percent of victims seek support. Because of this, the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter is marking their 35th Anniversary on March 29 to launch a comprehensive public education and information campaign to encourage people experiencing abuse to come forward to get help. The goals of the campaign are to encourage Calgarians to:

1. Get help;

2. Talk openly about family violence to remove the shame and secrecy surrounding family violence and open space for victims to tell their stories and get support; and

3. Learn about family violence so we can better understand how to prevent and stop it.

"Family Violence is the most prevalent social issue Calgary currently faces," adds Falkowsky. "The police receive more than 12,000 calls a year and spend more time on domestic violence than any other issue. Today, there are three to five children in each classroom who have seen their mother be assaulted. And employers are increasingly recognizing more absenteeism and other adverse business impacts from employees experiencing abuse. The personal, financial and social costs are escalating and so we're using our anniversary year to encourage Calgarians to say - No More."

The reasons for the current escalation in abuse are not well-understood. However, researchers and the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter's experience point to several key factors that may currently be at play:

1. With low disclosure rates in Calgary, research shows women still experience shame, self blame, a desire to keep children in traditional family structures, and are often not believed when they tell their story. When a community finds itself in stressful times, citizens often retreat in to supportive friends and family - perhaps not looking around to recognize the signs of someone experiencing abuse or not having the time or energy to extend a supportive hand.

2. Research indicates that in tough financial times, many of the positions being eliminated are in industries where women are the majority of employees. Unemployment can make women feel they have no option but to stay in an abusive relationship rather than starting a new life in an unstable economy.

3. When a family is living in chaos, it may seem unwise to leave and enter an even more chaotic environment where vital social services and community supports are stretched.

4. During significant economic highs and lows, there is an increase in the use of drugs and alcohol that can escalate violent behaviours at home.

5. If an abuser loses control in one area of his life, whether it is his job or finances, he may try to regain control by controlling his family through violence.

"It's important to remember a poor economy doesn't create abusers or make family violence acceptable," says Falkowsky. "The message we need to send today to the thousands of Calgarians living with abuse is that they can phone the Family Violence Helpline, anonymously if they desire, to assess their options, get information about available resources, and receive the support they need to be safe. Our work is about hope - and that's why I believe clients seek the support of the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter."

If you are experiencing family violence, suspect someone is being abused or you are an abuser, please phone the Family Violence Helpline to get help today at 1-403-234-SAFE (7233) or 1-866-606-7233.

About the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter

Since 1974, the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter has helped more than 100,000 individuals build lives free of abuse. The Shelter operates nine programs in addition to the Shelter facilities including counselling and court support for women, children, youth and men. Also, the organization operates the Men's Counselling Service, a 10-year-old program supporting abusive men who want to stop hurting the people they love.

Contact Information

  • Brookline Public Relations, Inc.
    Karen Parucha
    (403) 538-5641 ext. 104 or Cell: (403) 801-0433