“Safe Haven Within the Trenches” Victim Services Spotlight
As the hearings for the National Inquiry wrap up and the media spotlight moves on, Indigenous women continue to face the brunt of violence and intergenerational trauma, especially in the Downtown Eastside. Around 70% of women who access the centre and shelter are Indigenous. Today we’re sharing a piece on our Victim Services program from last year’s spring report, with words by Carol Martin, long-time community leader and matriarch, and Victim Services Worker at DEWC.
Program Spotlight: Victim Services at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
Victim services at the Women’s Centre has grown, parallel to the ongoing issues women deal with daily. For many, the stress and difficulty that come with judicial proceedings expound other challenges: poverty, homelessness, addiction, child apprehension, barriers to other organizations, disability and illiteracy. Many first, second, and third generations of residential school survivors suffer ongoing trauma. Long waits in court proceedings, difficulty deciphering documents, and bureaucratic procedures are all obstacles for women experiencing violence.
At the Centre, we can accompany women to court and help guide them through the judicial system. When a woman experiences violence, it is difficult to move forward on charges and can be problematic for her day-to-day life and safety – especially if she lives in the area. The Women’s Centre is often the last resort for women who have been maneuvered through the system and fallen through the gaps, or do not fit the mandate of other organizations. We accept all women without judgement, offering a Healing Circle and Elders Council for guidance and an entry point to healing.
The Women’s Centre serves as a solid foundation from which to work from, ensuring the rights and safety of women are addressed.
We spend many hours working with women through hardships and triumphs, and the impacts are hard, sad and painful, but the end result is always worth it.
Our biggest battle was the many Missing and Murdered Women whom we lost to violence. So many women and girls whom we knew, loved, respected and supported were taken away from the community in the most horrific way. It is to these women that we dedicate the annual February 14th Memorial March each year, commemorating their sacred lives. At the Centre we cared for each and every one of these women. We supported them, accompanied them to court, ate and cried with them, hugged and comforted them, all with the utmost respect.
The ongoing struggles, stories, and survival of these women, and the women who continue to enter our doors, are a bridge to increased public awareness about crucial places of safety. When women have a place in which they are supported and safe, they are free to be known and cared for as they are, away from an environment plagued with violence, stigma, stereotypes and racism.
The Women’s Centre has created a safe haven deep within the trenches of this community.
This story originally appeared in our 2017 Spring Report.