Submitted by Jen Cureton
As the holidays draw near, the popular notion of a “stress-free Holiday Season” seems more and more amusing to me. With gifts to wrap and food to prepare, decorations to hang and events to attend, stress is, well, omnipresent.
For most of us, this added stress can mean we say or do things that aren’t exactly in the ‘spirit of the Holidays’.
But for women living with abuse, the added stress can mean life or death.
A friend once confided in me that, many years ago, she helped a woman escape a violent abusive relationship. She trusted her intuition and started asking questions. She was patient but persistent. She listened, helped her friend pack a few essentials, then drove her to Crossroads.
I want to take this opportunity before the holidays, before we visit with loved ones we don’t see often enough, to offer a kind of ‘toolkit’. I want every woman who reads this to feel confident in her ability to help someone who may be living with abuse or staying in an unhealthy relationship because she simply doesn’t know how to get out.
Because let’s admit it – it’s not easy! How could I even bring it up? What would I say? What if I was wrong and saying something meant the end of our friendship?
I feel the same way.
But, what if you were right and NOT saying something meant the end of your friendship and all of her friendships?
It’s always worth telling someone we care about that we’re willing to help.
If you are concerned that someone is living with abuse, here are a few ways you can offer support:
- Talk to her about what you see and let her know that you are concerned. Tell her you believe her and that it is not her fault.
- Encourage her not to confront her partner if she is planning to leave.
- Offer to look after her children while she seeks help.
- Encourage her to pack a small bag with important items and keep it stored at your home in case she needs it.
- Know that you or she can call Crossroads Shelter at 1-800-461-7656 or the police any time, day or night.
If she tells you there’s nothing wrong:
- Assure her she can talk to you any time.
- Offer to go with her if she needs additional information or support.
- If she has children, let her know gently that you are concerned about her and her children’s safety and emotional well-being. She may be more willing to recognize her situation if she recognizes her children may also be in danger.
For many women, the idea of leaving home and staying at a shelter can stand in the way of seeking any help at all. That’s why it so important for everyone to know that contacting the YWCA isn’t the same as committing to staying at Crossroads Shelter.
A women can call the YWCA’s 24 hour crisis line at 1-800-461-7656 anonymously. She can make a counselling appointment by calling 705-743-3526. She can visit the YWCA at 216 Simcoe Street on a Monday morning and get connected with a whole range of support services. She doesn’t need an appointment, and she doesn’t need to know which services would be most helpful.
Every woman and every situation is unique. The YWCA is here to help in any way we can.
Wishing you a Safe, Happy and Healthy Holiday Season.