Reaching Out

OVISTA project to address community awareness and plan regarding women and girls' abuse issues

WRC executive director Susan Scott

The Women’s Resource Centre is embarking on a new project thanks to funding from Status of Women Canada in the amount of $288,000 over three years.

OVISTA (Our Vision Is Stopping The Abuse) is a research project designed to reach out to women and girls who’ve experienced violence and discover barriers which prevent them from accessing services and changing their lives.

“At a meeting in October 2011 with social service, aboriginal and community leaders, it became clear that better coordination and communication is needed between these professionals,” WRC executive director Susan Scott said.

The project goal is to establish working partnerships with women and girls, local organizations, community leaders and various stakeholders to look at the issue of violence against women and develop a coordinated community response in the context of the local issues and needs. The project will be driven by the viewpoints and feedback received from local women.

Scott said the project includes focus groups and interviews as well as an online questionnaire.

Across Canada, 55 agencies received funding for this project, with six in B.C.

“The strength of the WRC proposal, as drawn up by former executive director Melanie MacDonald, won the funding for Quesnel,” Scott said.

“It’s important for the community to recognize the problem of abused women and girls and the need to understand and address the issue.”

According to Statistics Canada’s 2004 general social survey, 653,000 women (or seven per cent) reported they had been physically or sexually assaulted by a spousal partner during the previous five years.

During that same time period, 18 per cent of women reported experiencing emotional or financial abuse.

The project will draw feedback from the aboriginal community and to coordinate this aspect, Jennifer Love has been hired  as the Aboriginal Project Coordinator.

Aboriginal and young women are at particularly high risk of violence. Rates of violence against Aboriginal women are more than three times higher than for non-aboriginal women. In Northern B.C., there are very high rates of violence against women and unique issues due to the rural setting. B.C. has the highest rates of missing or murdered Aboriginal women of anywhere else in Canada and specifically in this region with our close proximity to the Highway of Tears corridor.

An advisory board has been established for this specific project and is comprised of representatives from social service agencies and professionals like Dr. Heather Peters, head of the Department of Social

Work at UNBC.

“Dr. Peters will assist in the development of focus groups and the online questionnaire,” Scott said.

For Love, she is pleased the project is reaching out to young women.

“I’m very excited to be reaching female youth on this issue,” she said.

“If we can address abuse before it happens then we’re implementing preventative measures.”

With the goal of decreasing current numbers of abused women and girls, Scott said they can expect the number of women seeking services to increase. And that’s a move in the right direction.

However, she isn’t ignoring the men and boys affected by this problem.

“The question inevitably comes up, ‘what about the men in this issue?’”, she said.

“When you help women, you help the men as well. Education benefits everyone.”

With three years to complete the project, Scott and Love, the lead proponents, say they’re already underway and are looking for any women willing to provide feedback. As they establish the focus groups and set up interviews, both women will be devoting their time to the project and interviewers will be hired as needed.

They expect to draw on WRC clientele, network with other agency’s clients, reach into the First Nations communities, spread the word through media, posters and hopefully, women will voluntarily come forward.

“Information from women and girls who’ve suffered abuse is vital to the success of this project,” Scott said.

She added the feedback is vital and so is the improved access to services and the removal of barriers to a better life for these women and girls.

Any women or girls willing to provide feedback for this project, can contact Love or Scott at the Women’s Resource Centre 250-992-8472 or e-mail qwrc@shawcable.com.

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