The story of Women’s Resources starts with the story of our shelter for women looking to escape abuse. Although we’ve grown much bigger and offer many more services now, we’d like to take a few moments to go back even before the opening of Victoria’s Shelter three decades ago.
Women have experienced abuse from the men who purport to love them since the dawn of humankind. But as women gained more control over their lives and more of say in government and society, they were finally in a position to help each other find safety and support. In 1983, the seeds of what would blossom into Women’s Resources were planted in the form of the Family Violence Task Force, a local initiative established by dedicated women in the area. They wanted to investigate the extent of woman abuse and the needs of and services for female victims of domestic violence in what was then Victoria County.
Research conducted by a professor at Trent University in 1988 underlined the desperate need for a shelter in this area. Statistics from the Peterborough shelter system showed that every year, 30 to 45 per cent of those they served were actually from Victoria County.
Despite the naysayers and the NIMBYs—there was plenty of opposition in Lindsay to the re-zoning required for the original site of Victoria’s—this dedicated group of volunteers pushed ahead with its central mission: to create a safe haven for women and children who needed to get away from their abusive environments. They applied for grants, appealed to donors, made connections with local businesses, worked with municipal councillors and, in 1991, hired the organization’s first two staff members.
The need for a shelter was clear right away. Victoria’s Shelter opened its doors on January 10, 1992, and within three weeks, 15 of its 18 beds were filled. At the end of its first year of operation, more than 200 women and children had sought refuge there, and staff had responded to more than 500 crisis calls. Within three years, more than 70 women from the community had trained to become volunteers in our organizations.
The shelter moved to its present location alongside our resource centre in 2004, and continues to provide essential help for women, those identifying as women, and children who need urgent advice and support. Victoria’s is now largely funded by the Ontario government through the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Since 1992, we have safely sheltered more than 2,800 women and 2,700 children. The 24/7 Crisis Line has responded to more than 38,000 calls.
Those are sobering numbers, just as the reality of violence against women is sobering. And that’s why, while we’re marking this important milestone, we’re not celebrating it. Of course it’s better to have a shelter and services for women than to leave them and their children to face abuse alone. We’re deeply grateful for the support of our community as we continue our 30-year legacy. But the true celebration will take place when all of those who once sought our help live lives free of fear, and Victoria’s Shelter is no longer needed.
By Nancy Payne