REGINA – Each year, hundreds of women and their children in Saskatchewan rely on shelters to flee domestic violence.
Thirty years ago this month, the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services (PATHS) was formed to help train people working in shelters.
“We knew very little about domestic violence,” said Deanna Elias-Henry, executive director of the YWCA and one of the people who helped form PATHS. “We knew little about the subject so we really had to rely on each other and what little training was available to understand the problem.”
The umbrella organization now works with over a dozen Saskatchewan shelters. Frontline staff members admit gauging whether there’s more or less violence since thirty years ago is difficult, but attitudes seem to have changed.
“There’s more public awareness about family violence and I think there’s less tolerance and that’s a good thing,” said Maria Hendrika, executive director of the Regina Transition House.
However, hundreds of women each year still rely on shelters.
A Statistics Canada report last year found Saskatchewan has the highest rate of police-reported domestic violence of all provinces.
“We know that unequal societies have higher rates of violence in them,” said Diane Delaney, provincial coordinator of PATHS. “Unless we address these systemic issues, we are always going to have violence in our society.”
Lani Elliott spent five years with an abusive husband. She spent time in women’s shelters in Regina, Saskatoon and Fort Qu’Appelle but she continued going back to her husband.
“I was convinced that my husband loved me,” said Elliott. “I still felt that with counseling maybe we could work things out. I was still trying to convince myself that my sons needed their dad.”
A violent incident where her husband assaulted her with a baseball bat was the beginning of a slow recovery for Elliott and she credits shelter workers for providing non-judgmental support.
“They supported me in whatever decisions that I made. And that was important. It was important to be in a place that was safe,” said Elliott.