At a time when many communities were refusing to even acknowledge that spousal or partner violence was a real issue, a group of people in Chatham applied for funding because they recognized the local need for a safe place for abused women to go.
That was 40 years ago. The current Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre (CKWC) continues to offer women, men and children a safe place to go to escape violence and abuse – plus a whole lot more.
Some communities struggled with fierce opposition to women’s shelters, and not that long ago. Residents felt “arguments” between a husband and wife were a private family matter. Clergy and family would counsel woman to stay and work it out, and forgive their spouse because as the man, he had so many more stressors on him, so the odd “love tap” should be excused.
Thankfully, we as a society, understand so much more about the cycle of spousal abuse and violence, and the right for all women, men and children to feel safe in their own home.
Domestic violence takes a huge toll on families. Children, even if they aren’t abused, suffer a huge trauma just witnessing violence against their mother or father. Women or men fleeing a violent situation need not only immediate shelter, but longer term help to put their lives back together and live violence free.
As the CKWC executive director Karen Hunter said, domestic abuse can affect people of any socio-economic type – from the rich to the middle class to the working poor to those on social assistance. Having money and nice things doesn’t make you immune to violence, but it can make you invisible, as people can’t see past the nice things to the isolation or the need for long sleeves and makeup. The same applies to people who are financially challenged – they shouldn’t be ignored or have it assumed they must have done something to deserve it
The concerned and caring pioneers of the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre, including the Ursuline Sisters who saw a need and donated the land for the current shelter, deserve our thanks and support for giving victims of abuse hope for a future without violence. Now it’s our turn to step up.