What does a woman do when she realizes that her physical and emotional
safety, or that of her children, is at risk, not on the streets, but
within their own home? What does she do when the danger comes, not from a
menacing stranger “out there”, but rather from an intimate partner, her
partner, the one she believed would love, honour and cherish her? What
does she do when she can’t ignore the damage resulting from the vicious
and unpredictable verbal and physical attacks he inflicts on her – and
on their children? What does she do?
Every woman living in an abusive relationship, must answer this
question and a host of related questions as she struggles to deal with
her situation. “What do I do? Do I tell my family? Do I tell a friend?
Should I call the police? If I call them, what will they do? If I ask
for help will it make things worse? Do I give him another chance? Do I
pretend it didn’t happen? Do I stay? Do I leave? If I go, where will I
go? Will he really hunt me down? Will he really take the kids? How will I
support myself? Could I really survive on my own?” And again and again,
“how can I possibly stay, but how can I ever leave?”
Every woman living in an abusive relationship must deal with the
questions, and every woman living with abuse must find the answers – her
Women stay in abusive relationships – or leave and return to them – for
a variety of reasons. Most would say that they love their partner and
that they don’t want the relationship to end, they simply want the abuse
to stop. And there is often hope that things can be better- his
apologies after an incident, his promises that “things will be
different” and “it won’t happen again”, the good times when he’s caring
and considerate and fun. Women often say, “When he’s bad, there’s no one
worse, and when he’s good, there’s no one better! If we could just keep
the good times, it could be great.” It’s those extremes in the
relationship and the dream of what could be that serve to keep a woman
hooked in and hoping, often long after she knows deep down inside that
it’s never going to be okay and he just won’t ever change – no matter
how hard she tries, no matter how much she gives or how many times she
gives him “just one more chance”.
When the abuse has finally destroyed all hope for the relationship,
fear and damage to her self-esteem can keep her there, fear of him and
what he will do, fear that he will follow through with his threats, fear
of the unknown and of her ability to deal with all the practical
challenges. If she leaves where will she go? How will she feed, clothe,
house and provide for herself and the children?
When a woman decides to reach out for help, there is almost always a
pivotal moment that finalizes the decision in her mind and leads her to
take action. For some, it’s knowing that she probably won’t survive his
next assault, for others, it’s the terror in their children’s eyes as
they cower before him, for others it’s simply the final loss of any
remaining love or respect for him. For one woman, it was the day her
four-year-old spit in her face and called her a filthy name – just like
his daddy – and she saw in that instant the future man he would become
if she stayed.
Whatever leads a woman to reach out for help and whenever it happens,
it is essential that the help and support she and her children need are
readily available. And help is available through the Kelowna Women’s
A woman does not have to leave the relationship or involve police in
order to access the continuum of services that the Kelowna Women’s
Shelter offers. Generally, accessing service begins with a phone call
and contact with an Outreach or in-house counsellor who can provide
validation, support, information, referrals and help with
decision-making and safety planning.
If a woman finds it necessary to leave the relationship, the Kelowna
Women’s Shelter provides safe accommodation, including food,
transportation and childcare as well as counseling, support,
information, advocacy and referrals. Additionally, on-going follow-up
supports are available to assist a woman and her children in
transitioning to a new life free from abuse.
Abuse is never okay… asking for help is. If you need help or know
someone who does, please call the Kelowna Women’s Shelter at
250-763-1040. All services are free of charge and confidential.