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Nothing black and white in domestic abuse

SAIF (Stop Abuse in Families) hopes that its Red Shoe Gala will bring in 10 per cent of its annual counselling budget of $300,000. That money allows it to offer its services free of charge to its clients both young and old, female and male.

For nearly three decades, it has helped people get through and out of abusive situations. In all those years, it has been working on a harm reduction model that seems to be ahead of its time for effectiveness.

“It goes against the grain of the traditional models around domestic violence, and we’ve been doing it for 30 years,” explained Doreen Slessor, the executive director of the organization.

“It’s pretty unique. Only now are research studies confirming that our model is the best way to go.”

The traditional model, she continued, is what people see in the movies: there’s a physically violent husband who hurts his wife leading to the police being called. As she goes to a shelter, he goes to jail. End of story, she said.

“That’s just not the reality.”

Each case is very complex and thus, needs to be approached for the individual’s benefit, she continued. Those abused might decide that they need to leave but that person might also decide to stay.

Either way, SAIF offers counselling based on that person’s choice. The cycle of violence might need to be explained. Risks are assessed. A safety plan could become an important role in their future. People might not recognize the full extent of what has been happening in their lives.

“It’s very complicated. It’s not black and white like people think. There’s lots of factors involved. What we do is present all the options to somebody, guide them in their decision and support them in whatever decision they make.”

A large part of that decision-making process deals with the housing issue. If someone decides to leave an abusive relationship, there isn’t a shelter in St. Albert or Morinville that could take her or him in. It’s the biggest gap in programming, Slessor said. The closest shelters are all in Edmonton. All women’s shelters, or other outreach service providers, can also help men who may be at risk of violence. People should call the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters toll-free at 1-866-331-3933 or visit www.acws.ca to locate the nearest shelter.

For information about agencies that offer services and support to people impacted by family violence, the 24-hour Family Violence Info Line is available toll-free in Alberta at 310-1818.

According to Human Services Alberta, the provincial government’s Victims of Family Violence New Construction and Renovation Program is providing $6.15 million between 2016 and 2018 to address priority capacity issues and the need for additional shelter and transition housing (second stage shelter) spaces. It will result in the construction and renovation of off-reserve shelters and transition housing for victims of family violence.

As for SAIF, the organization isn’t resting on its laurels with its many successes through its various programs. Slessor said that, while it remains strong and plays a vital role in the community’s health thanks to the support it receives, it is constantly striving to do more as demand continues to rise.

2016 Stats

• More than 200 individuals or families in SAIF’s various programs benefitted from counselling services encompassing more than 3,500 direct service hours in 2016.
• More than 165 new cases were opened in 2016 with several others being carried over from the previous year.
There were 76 cases of elder abuse responded to in the community, with 69 receiving additional counselling and support.
• SAIF Ed facilitated 284 sessions and worked with more than 2,000 students aged 12 to 17, as well as professionals and care providers. It also provided training for 141 professionals with its Make it Our Business program.
• There were 12 youths who continued the goals of addressing positive peer relationships, a positive sense of self and acceptance of others through SAIF’s youth group.
• The New Directions program worked with 17 families.

– Courtesy of SAIF

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.