November may be Woman Abuse Prevention Month, but the head of the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre said the problem is year round.
“We’ve been running over capacity since September,” Karen Hunter, executive director of the centre, told The Chatham Voice. “We’re always quite busy. We’re funded through the Ministry of Community and Social Services for 15 beds. Today, we’ve got just over 20 people. Last week, we had close to 30.”
When women show up with several children in tow, she said it does not take long for those 15 beds to fill up.
“It’s not a good situation heading into the Christmas season.”
Hunter said a lack of affordable housing exacerbates the problem.
“The housing situation is just atrocious. We’ve got people who need safety and they come here. They can’t get housing. Instead of being here for six-eight weeks, they’re here for months,” Hunter said. “After six-eight weeks, I can’t say to a woman, ‘Sorry, you can’t stay. We’re going to kick you out.’ They’ve got nowhere to go.”
Hunter said intimate partner violence continues to be a problem in Chatham-Kent and beyond. Alcohol and addiction issues, as well as mental health concerns factor into the problem.
As well, children are exposed to the abuse at an early age.
“The children witness this and hear it in their homes. They hear it, they sense it, they see the bruises the next day,” Hunter said. “It’s very upsetting and scary for them. It creates a whole world of uncertainty for them.”
Hunter said a home should be a safe haven for the people who live there.
“You should be surrounded by loving and comforting people. When that’s not the case, it’s just a horrible situation to be in,” she said.
She encourages people to have a safety plan, and to be aware of signs of abuse.
“Educate yourself. It may not happen to you, but it may happen to a friend or a loved one,” Hunter said. “Everyone should have a safety plan: know how to get out, how to call for help, how to get the assistance you need and know the resources in your area.”
For more information, including how to recognize signs of abuse and what to do to get help, visit the Women’s Centre website at ckwc.ca.
During the month of November, the Women’s Centre is participating in several awareness and fundraising campaigns. They include the Wrapped in Courage campaign where people can purchase and wear purple scarves and ties to show their support.
There is also the Shine the Light campaign.
“We’re asking the community to light up with purple lights – decorate your homes or businesses with purple,” she said, and asks that people don’t do it until after Nov. 11 out of respect for our veterans.
The Women’s Centre is also participating in the annual Say No to Violence walk on the Third Street Bridge Nov. 29 at 12:15 p.m.
Hunter said a candlelight vigil is planned, but the date is yet to be determined.
For those just looking to donate, Hunter said money, gift cards, toys for the children, and toiletries can be dropped off at the women’s centre office on Sandys Street in Chatham.