AMHERST – Almost one thousand men in the area can challenge they’re trying to changed their ways when it comes to domestic violence against women.
In its annual report, the Cumberland County Transition House Association for Autumn House revealed one of its services, established at the same time of the women’s shelter in 1988, is on the brink of counseling 1,000 abusive or allegedly abusive men.
“To date, we have worked with 999 men,” Caroline Foster said in providing the annual report for New Directions. “In the past year we have worked with 63 new or re-entered male clients. We have offered 86 group sessions and 898 individuals and/or phone sessions to the men we work with/ We have also met with 36 partners or ex-partners of the men in the program and have had 108 phone or individual sessions with them.”
To support the program further, the SOAR Community Health Board approved a $5,000 grant for the program to use towards assisting travel costs of the men enrolled in the program who cannot financial afford the travel costs.
“Men ordered to the New Directions Program live in all areas of Cumberland County and not having access to transportation presents barriers to service,” Forster’s report said. “We have encountered this challenge for many years and our goal in receiving the grant was to promote retention in our program by removing the travel barrier.”
Of course, no one wants there to be the 1,000th referral.
“The problem is not going away,” Barbara Jack, longtime member of the Autumn House board, said.
As juxtaposition to the formal reports and accounting, Jack introduced Monday’s guest speaker, Truro MLA Lenore Zann. A leading member of the provincial NDP, Zann launched a successful acting career out of high school, appearing in film, television and animation. Zann gave an honest and energy-driven address of her life in the movie industry and the challenges she had to overcome, including domestic violence, to become the person she is today.
“I’m an alcoholic. I have been sober 18 years,” Zann said.
Entering the entertainment industry at a young age, surrounded by older people constantly drinking, and dealing with anxiety about her future and performance, Zann turned to alcohol as a form a self-medication. At the age of 36, she felt she had hit rock bottom and sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous in Los Angeles.
“When you wake up every day with the feeling of impending doom, no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a scary place. 18 years later, I feel better. Stronger,” Zann said. “A lot of times abuse goes hand in hand with addictions. In my early years I put up with abuse because of the shame of being an alcoholic. I felt I deserved it.”
Zann was not as candid with her abusive relationships, but acknowledged for her she needed to deal with her addiction before her propensity for the wrong man.
It’s not an uncommon story, Autumn House executive director Terry Cove said. The transition house team is seeing more than just the issue of domestic violence when its services are called for.
“The issues are becoming complex,” Cove said. “We’re seeing more and more mental health issues, housing issues, and addictions issues are up there. They’re serious.”
The seriousness of the matter is not without support, however. Provincial, municipal resources, along with a number of fundraisers and patrons, provided the team with more than $673,000 in revenues to offset it’s $698,000 expenses incurred between March 2013 and March 2014, which included shelter-related expenses and wages.