Men who abuse women- or who themselves have been abused- will soon be able to reach out for help in Nakusp and area.
Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services has been granted funding to hire an outreach worker to address the issue of men’s violence against women.
“Our goal is to de-stigmatize men seeking services,” says Carlee Hughes, the Stopping the Violence Outreach worker with ASLCS. “I’ve been doing this for three years, and what I’ve seen is we’re treating the symptoms and not the cause.”
Hughes says she and project partner, Robin Hildebrand, approached the Columbia Basin Trust for a $5,000 grant under the Social Small Grant program. The program is designed to improve the quality of life for Basin residents by providing support to small projects.
Hughes says the project will see an outreach worker hired for 10 hours a week for six months, early in the new year. ASLCS will provide the administration for the program, and three counsellors have volunteered to be available to talk to men seeking help.
“Right now, if a man is abusive and needs help, there are no free services available,” said Hughes. “Unless you are mandated through the justice system, or parole system, to seek anger management treatment. There’s mental health services though the hospital, but it’s not really suitable for this issue.”
Hughes says a village committee that looks at gaps in social services has identified support for men seeking help as a priority. While there are programs in place now to support women who are victims of violence, she says it’s time to address the cause of the problem.
“The analogy I use is you have a community that’s built on the edge of a cliff. And the problem is, you have people who keep falling off the cliff and dying. So the community parks an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to treat people after they fall,” she says.
“Then the community realizes, ‘oh, if we build a fence at the top, then people won’t fall off the cliff anymore.’”
That fence, says Hughes, will begin with the outreach worker developing awareness programs and creating safe places for men to meet and discuss violence and abuse in their lives.
“We want to provide a service to men, so if they have been abusive, or have suffered trauma, they can seek help,” she said.
“Eventually we want to apply to other granting streams, and have a physical space where men can gather, and access free counselling.”
News of the program funding came on the eve of the annual Dec. 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action On Violence Against Women. Several dozen men, women and children marched on Broadway Avenue to raise awareness of the problem of violence against women.
And it wasn’t the only news anti-violence workers like Hughes received about support for programs to address the issue. Last week the new NDP government also announced extra support for victim services, counselling and outreach programs.
Nakusp will receive a minimum $5,000 to help reduce wait lists for some of the most vulnerable seeking care.
“That’s wonderful, because our Stopping the Violence women’s counsellor has a wait list, and doesn’t have enough hours allocated to see everyone who needs to be seen,” said Hughes.
“It’s going to really positively impact women in our region.”
Besides the one-time grant for counselling and outreach, the government also earmarked nearly $1 million for improvements to police, crisis shelters, victim support and education campaigns.
“I think it’s fantastic, it comes at a really good time, there’s a lot of momentum building right now in the media, with sexual violence being exposed in politics, the media and entertainment,” said Hughes.
“There’s a bit of a wave of awareness and I think it’s a good time to keep on going.”