Airdrie shelter provides support for domestic violence victims

Embracing Change: Ginelle Graham poses at Airdrie’s only women’s shelter on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Graham is an outreach and support worker at the shelter. (Photo by Abbey Whitehead/The Press)

Hope and support in Airdrie has taken the form of Airdrie POWER, the city’s sole women’s shelter.

Since its establishment in 2021, officials say this crucial resource has aided 250 women in their quest for safety and freedom. The organization provides an array of services, including safety planning, danger assessments, emotional support, and court assistance for those seeking help.

“What they should expect is, they’re coming into an environment that is very welcoming,” said Ginelle Graham, POWER’s outreach and women’s support worker. “(They) will be in a safe and non-judgmental environment.”

Sixty-seven per cent of all domestic violence victims are women and girls, according to a report from the Government of Canada. Abuse can come in many forms — physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and spiritual.

“That’s probably the most common misconception, that it’s physical,” said Graham. “She’s being hit and has bruises.

“That is abuse, but there are a lot of other types of abuse. It can look in a myriad of different ways.”

Kacie, who requested not to disclose her last name, was just 18 years old when she found herself feeling trapped in an abusive relationship.

“It was fine for the first six months of our relationship,” she said. “He was sweet, he was nice, he was my first real boyfriend.

“After six months, he hit me. He sexually assaulted me a couple of times, and he made me do things I didn’t want to do.”

Worldwide, more than 25 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and sexual violence by their intimate partner, according to the World Health Organization.

“There is a cycle,” said Graham. “There’s the honeymoon phase, where things are really good. There’s the tension-building phase, where she might feel like she’s walking on eggshells. And then there’s the incident or the explosion where there might be some sort of event that happens.”

Only a small fraction of victims report these incidents to police. Women facing spousal violence are vulnerable, with higher chances of enduring severe abuse. This abuse can include sexual assault, beatings, strangulation, and threats involving weapons, according to the Government of Canada.

“You’re not taught about how it’s not OK if someone who’s supposed to love you hits you,” said Kacie.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, abuse rates have been at an all-time high. Police in Canada received more than 114,000 reports of intimate partner violence, with a steady incline in the year 2021. According to a 2019 Statistics Canada report, 27 per cent of women experience feelings of depression and anxiety.

“It’s gotten scarier to get into relationships now, and there’s a big protection aspect,” said Kacie. “It’s a back-and-forth process. Some days, I’m like, ‘This happened, and it’s fine, I’m healing, I’m moving past it. I’m getting stronger.’ And then some days it’s, ‘I can’t trust anyone, and I have to be on guard.’”

Help is available from organizations such as Airdrie POWER.

“What’s most important is to connect with somebody who can support you,” said Graham. “But the key is to remember that whoever you’re talking to needs to have an understanding of what domestic abuse is.”

The Alberta Health Services Mental Health Helpline is available 24-hours-a-day and can be reached at 1-877-303-2642.

Hope and Support: Ginelle Graham poses at Airdrie’s sole women’s shelter. Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (Photo by Abbey Whitehead/The Press)
About Abbey Whitehead 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Abbey Whitehead is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.