April 12-18, 2015 is Prevention of Violence Against Women
Week. As part of its efforts to focus attention on the ongoing issue of family
violence, and galvanize the community to take action to help prevent it, the
Kelowna Women’s Shelter submitted this article.
Hairstylist Colleen Woelders arrived in
Kelowna on a bus from Vancouver Island 15 years ago, with a dislocated and
broken shoulder and her eight-month-old son in her arms. She was exhausted and
terrified, having finally gathered the courage to leave her partner after another
“He used to take the steel toed boots
to me, and he had kicked me several times in the past. This time I decided I
had enough and reached out for help,” she says.
A counsellor from the Kelowna Women’s
Shelter picked her and her infant son up at the bus station, and brought them
back to the Shelter, where Colleen could finally get some rest.
“I had been awake all night. Just the
feeling of being in a safe place with my son, where I could get some sleep and
start to gather my strength gave me such a sense of relief that I could breathe
and finally start to heal.”
In the coming weeks, Colleen cried a
lot of tears, attended countless individual and group counselling sessions, and
started to realize she didn’t have to protect her abuser anymore.
“I was so brainwashed, fearful, tired
and beaten down,” she says now. “The counsellors at the Shelter were so
amazing, and it was powerful to go from being so controlled and dependent on
him to becoming a stronger and more independent woman.”
One day during her stay at the Shelter,
Colleen saw an employment posting for a hairdresser, and bravely walked in and
applied for the job.
Fifteen years later, Colleen owns and
operates Kelowna Hair Design, and gives back by training high school students,
offering special needs employment opportunities, and providing free services to
Kelowna Women’s Shelter clients.
“I know what it feels like to be in
that situation. I will always have my chair open for that emergency colour for
the girl that’s running and hiding. I will step up and help her change her
appearance and do what I can to keep her safe and feeling good about herself.”
Of her time at the Shelter Colleen calls
it “lifesaving” and says if she can help one woman make the decision to leave
an abusive relationship by speaking out about her experience it is worth it.
“I want women who are in this situation
to know if they can face their fears and gather the courage to reach out for
help, there is a better, brighter, happier future ahead, and life can be
The Kelowna Women’s
Shelter is a non-profit organization that offers emergency transitional
housing, counseling, support and education to women and their children who have
experienced abuse. For more information, or to make a donation, visit
kelownawomensshelter.ca or call 250-763-1040.