AMHERST – We may see it but we turn our heads, pretending we don’t. As a neighbour, we might hear the screams, but we close the window. Domestic violence has been ignored, perhaps with the false hope it’s not a big issue in a rural areas. But most we’d be wrong.
“The issue (of domestic violence) can be even more serious in rural areas because of how isolated women can be in their homes,” said the executive director of Transition House, Terry Cove. “There are lots of high risk situations in our community and we (the shelter) certainly are utilized and needed.”
With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Cove wants more people to realize that domestic violence is a serious issue in the area. The number of women using the services offered by her facility has not decreased.
“We’re always busy,” she said. “All you have to do is read the paper and see that we’ve lost some women in this area. Just recently, a woman in Springhill was murdered by her son and the situation in Springhill just this past week shows, not that we need to be fearful in our homes, but women are particularly vulnerable.”
In 2010, 89 homicide victims in Canada were killed by their significant other or spouse. Although it’s not a regular occurrence, it still happens.
“There’s always a possibility that any woman in our province may lose their life to their partner. It has been a real outcome for a lot of women and we need to be always aware that that is a possibility.”
Cove said although homicide may be a possibility, not all male partners who are abusive set out to end the life of their significant other.
“If you spoke to someone who had killed his partner, you’re probably going to learn it was not his intent or that he didn’t think he would ever do that either.”
Abuse is a learned behavior. Because society does not talk openly about abuse, Cove said it would be that we are teaching abusers their behaviour is acceptable. She said there has been a long tradition passing on the message that what goes on in someone’s home is private and not to be spoken about. Cove believes that over the years, that message still holds true.
“There’s a campaign going on right now in the province called ‘Neighbours, Friends and Family’ and it is a campaign with the purpose to educate the community so that you know how to respond if you become aware that a friend, family member or neighbour is being abused,” she said. “You know how to approach the person being abused or the abuser and talk to that person about how they can get out or to let them know you’re there for them.”
She said the program will be a good way to educate everyone about the services available in the community and encourage others to stop looking the other way when they see signs of domestic violence. In her career, she said she has seen abuse goes through generations of families.
“I’ve been working at this shelter for 20 years and I’ve seen, probably, third generation of families where now, the grandchildren of women who were coming when I first started, are starting to come here for help. That sends a very strong message about how the cycle is not stopping.”
The Transition House, located at 41 Russell Street, is a nine-bed shelter for battered and abused women and children. They have outreach services and individual counselling all over the county. Counsellors can meet with women in their own communities away from the shelter to help them in their situation. They also offer counselling services for men who are in abusive relationships.