Page 1

Resources

empowerment hope Here’s to the Volunteers!

• Victoria Women’s Transition House – www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line at 250-385-6611 • Cridge Transition House – 250 479-3963 • BC Centre for Advocacy and Support – www.bcceas.ca • Seniors Advocacy and Information Line – 1-866-437-1940 • For families with elder abuse issues, the Vancouver Island Health Authority – 250-388-2273 or toll free 1-888-533-2273 • Native Friendship Centre – 250-384-3211 • Inter-Cultural Association – 250-388-4728 • Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre – 250-361-9433 • Men’s Trauma Centre – www.menstrauma.com, 250-381-MENS (6367) or toll-free: 1-866-793-6367

Thank You! We extend warm thanks to our generous supporters for making our programs and services for Older Women possible.

• Victoria Foundation • RBC Foundation • Zonta Club • Kintara Women’s Chorus • Mr. Edwin Gale • E.L.W. Lutheran Church of the Cross • Holy Trinity Church • Victoria Osteoporosis Support & Information Group • St. Luke’s Anglican Church • St. Michael’s & All Angels Women’s Guild • Unity Church of Victoria • We also thank the many individual and business donors who have supported our programs for Older Women. We extend our gratitude to Home Instead Senior Care for supporting this publication.

Victoria Women’s Transition House has many dependable seniors who make an invaluable contribution through volunteering – cooking, shopping, childcare, gardening, picking up donations, speaking in the community, doing office work, organizing, assisting in programs, and serving on the board. The eldest is 82, and cooks dinner each week for the residents. Many have volunteered hundreds of hours over a number of years. To learn more about volunteering, visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the community office at 250-592-2927. ⌘

Harrison Place offers hope and a path to independence

I

n the eyes of the community, M, age 55, was the picture of success: attractive, living in a lovely home with a gregarious husband. But behind closed doors, M’s life was misery. Her partner controlled her activities and finances, while constant verbal attacks made her feel guilty and ashamed. She had thought of leaving when she

to help her to a new life of independence and self-confidence. The story is one that the staff and volunteers at the Victoria Women’s Transition House have heard time and again. And while the pattern of abuse is often similar regardless of women’s age, for those without dependent children and who are not yet seniors, their

was younger, but stayed because of the children. Now grown, they’ve begun showing the same behaviour and their angry put-downs make her feel hurt and humiliated. M. had saved an article about another woman who had lived with abuse but at 60 was now living happily on her own thanks to support from Victoria Women’s Transition House programs. The woman’s story struck a chord, and after several attempts, M. steeled her nerve to speak to the counsellor. While not yet ready to leave, it was the first step. When after a particularly violent attack she decided to get out, Transition House was there to help with a safe place to stay, counselling, and transitional programs

situation can raise particular challenges. While many lack resources to pay for decent accommodations in an expensive housing market, particularly as family assets become tied up in the legal process, they also don’t qualify for subsidies available to seniors or those with children. That’s where Harrison Place comes in. Providing housing for up to three years for women age 40 to 65 with a history of abuse, but no dependent children, the supported apartment complex is often a window of opportunity for those ready to take the next step in their lives, explains Janet Henly, Community Programs Manager for Victoria Women’s Transition House. Typically the women who come to

Harrison Place have been out of their abusive situation for about a year, and have started the healing process. There they have access to staff and resources, from practical programs dealing with cooking and nutrition, financial literacy and job skills to more personal explorations that help the women become more confident and self-aware, an essential step along the path to recovery. “This is often the foundation of what they need to move forward, to learn new tools, and unlearn things they may have been taught since childhood,” Henly says. “With the history of abuse often there’s a real diminishing of self-worth, yet with the women coming to Harrison Place there’s also a real survivor mentality, a real drive to move on; they don’t want the abuse to define them.” Through recovery, many discover remarkable artistic talents and the opportunity to set goals they may never have dreamed of. Sometimes those goals start small – determining what to cook for dinner or to save a little money for the future; yet for women who may never have had control over the most minute decisions, these small things build to great results. “Some women have never lived on their own, so it can be scary but exciting – they see the opportunity for growth.” From social services to employment readiness programs such as Bridges for Women, “we really encourage the women to do what is right for their situation, on a case-by-case basis,” Henly says. While many feel apprehensive at living on their own for the first time, “they get into Harrison Place and get settled and all of a sudden you get to see this vibrant, incredible personality surface.” ⌘

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

respect

support

future

ADVERTISING FEATURE

Creating Hopeful Futures Help protect local seniors by putting a stop to Elder Abuse BY JENNIFER BLYTH

W

hile Canadian research suggests between four and 10 per cent of older adults experience one or more forms of abuse or neglect at some point in their later years, experts believe the numbers are in fact much higher. In B.C. alone it’s estimated that between 23,470 and 58,680 seniors are neglected or abused, but often the abuse goes unreported – the older adult may be ashamed or afraid, they may not realize what’s happening is abuse, or may not want to get the abuser in trouble. Sadly, elder abuse typically comes at the hand of a family member – a spouse, child or grandchild – but can also include friends, neighbours, care providers, landlords or others in a position of authority. Age, race, poverty, disability and isolation all can be risk factors. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day when people around the globe will wear purple as a celebration of seniors as valuable members of our society, and to raise awareness of the issue of abuse of older adults, says Dianne de Champlain, Community Education Coordinator and Volunteer Program Coordinator for the Victoria Women’s Transition House. In addition to its emergency shelter, the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society operates June 15 is World Elder Abuse programs for Older Awareness Day to celebrate Women with a history of abuse, and Harrison seniors as valuable members of Place, third-stage society, and to raise awareness of transitional housing for women between the the issue of abuse of older adults. ages of 40 and 65. While both older women and older men are at risk of elder abuse, their experiences can differ. For older men, their first experience with abuse may happen later in life, once they are relying on others for help; abuse in this case is often by adult children or a friend. However two-thirds of older people experiencing abuse are women, typically from her partner or adult children. Regardless of

⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘ ⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘ ⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘ ⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘ ⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘ ⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘⌘

gender, social, legal and economic concerns may make it seem that leaving the abusive situation isn’t possible. Feelings of shame or embarrassment are common, as is wanting to protect the abuser from consequences. Some may have a mental or physical disability, or be unsure how they will survive emotionally or financially. Others fear they won’t be able to see friends or grandchildren, or are unsupported by loved ones who deny the abuse. Abuse among older immigrant adults offers additional concerns, especially if there are language barriers, the person is new to Canada or fears deportation. Sometimes cultural factors can contribute to fear of social or financial isolation. Resources are available to help. The BC Centre for Advocacy and Support’s Seniors Advocacy and Information Line, 1-866-437-1940, is a toll-free number staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with extended hours to 5 p.m. beginning in July. The line is a safe place where older adults can speak with trained staff or volunteers about situations in which they feel abused or mistreated. They provide a listening, nonjudgmental ear, and if needed, referrals to the centre’s legal staff or Victim Services Program. Other resources are available through organizations such as the Victoria Women’s Transition House, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Inter-Cultural Association, the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre, and the BC Association of Community Response Networks.

For more information:

ℹ ℹ ℹ ℹ ℹ ℹ

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

Public Guardian and Trustee of BC – www.trustee.bc.ca BC Coalition to Eliminate Abuse of Seniors – www.bcceas.ca BC Association of Community Response Networks – www.bccrns.ca Canadian Centre for Elder Law Studies – www.ccels.ca/forolderadults.html International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse – www.inpea.net National Clearinghouse on Family Violence – www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/ familyviolence/index.html ⌘


empowerment

hope

respect

Get educated!

Community connections

Victoria Women’s Transition House offers programs and workshops to prevent elder abuse in the community

Social isolation is a key contributing factor to elder abuse

F

or many people, connections through their work environment, children’s activities or partner’s involvements help them forge links with the community. But what happens when time brings retirement, the death of a spouse and grown children who may be living half a country away? For too many seniors, the result is isolation, both physical and social. That isolation can diminish their quality of life, but more than that, it puts them at a significantly greater risk of abuse, whether by a family member, caregiver, or telephone or internet fraud. “There are so many benefits to being connected,” says Dianne de Champlain, Community Education and Volunteer Program Coordinator for Victoria Women’s Transition House. Not only do you continue to

Groups like Target Theatre, “a in the community, whether you’re company of mature actors who taking advantage of skills honed provide a voice for the concerns of through years in the workforce or seniors” have also been key to raising exploring an interest you haven’t had awareness about the importance of time for while you were working. The building connections. Coming up later local experts at Volunteer Victoria this summer, the Transition House can provide information about the Society will welcome the group virtually endless opportunities. for a presentation of the play, Dot. Sharon Baker is a local senior Con, which uses humour to educate who tailored her skills from a career audiences on matters of internet of leading workshops for teachers safety. into volunteering for the Victoria For those who may have lost a Women’s Transition House. Today spouse, grieving groups can help she conducts workshops in the people feel less alone, while women community and for other seniors who are suffering abuse from their exploring issues around elder abuse partner or family member can and its prevention. also contact the Victoria Women’s “I feel very strongly that we need Transition House’s Older Women’s to support other women and build Do you know a senior who may be lonely or isolated? Ask if they’d like to accompany Program (see related story). ⌘ on their success. The more we can you to a class or social event to help them build connections in the community. do that, the more we can feel connected,” Baker says, pointing out that “sometimes as people get older and retire, their world can narrow instead of expanding. “I think it’s so important to feel hile B.C.’s Aboriginal people have culture and traditions of their people so that they can connected to others in traditionally passed on knowledge through pass it onto their children. This is why this program is the community.” stories, art, narrative and cultural so important; it is designed to gently assist families Baker also practices, that knowledge is being lost to reconnect with their Relations, Culture, Language encourages everyone and as a result, families can be disconnected with their and Traditional Knowledge, through healthy life skills in the community to be culture, community and traditions. mentoring and friendship with the aware of seniors who However, a Victoria Native Friendship Centre introduction and connection of healthy might be experiencing program harnesses the knowledge and wisdom held by role models, our Elders, as Mentors.” isolation and to think the community’s elders, imparting it to the younger Through the Empowering Healthy about what they can generations, to build strong families with strong Families program, Elders are the do to help – taking the connections. storytellers and teachers of life initiative and asking The Empowering Healthy Families program is unique experiences “that can enrich our lives them to come with you in that it involves community members from babies to and through example, can help guide to a class or social Elders with the passing on of traditional knowledge us through our own life’s journey,” event, for example. through mentorship, explains program co-ordinator explains Lang, who matches families “There are so many Shirley Lang. with Elder Mentors with similar family ways people can keep Established to assist families that have had Ministry or cultural backgrounds, who work connected with a circle involvement, the program aims to reconnect families with the family in a non-threatening, of family, neighbours and with their culture to begin healing in other areas of their gentle way, to guide them to be friends,” de Champlain lives. Elder Mentors are the catalyst for this healing and stronger individuals and parents with says, pointing to the growth. the goal to create stronger families. Transition House’s Building “Our Elders have always been the carriers of our A success for both the families Community Connections history and knowledge of who we are, however with and mentors, “the collaboration Workshop. The 90-minute the residential school and reserve system, a lot of our and friendships that have developed session focuses on social traditional ways of teaching are slowly dissipating. within the Elder Mentor’s circle is connection as a powerful With families moving into urban areas and away very strong,” Lang says. “Where they tool to keep older adults from their home communities, many are finding they previously had felt isolated, they now safer from abuse and are disconnected from their Relations, Culture and have a circle of strong friends, of neglect and can be Traditional ways of living. family.” presented to groups of older “These families need our Elders guidance the For more details, email Lang at adults in any community most,” Lang notes. “They desire and need to learn their connectingelders@shaw.ca ⌘ setting.

Elder mentor program helps families connect with Aboriginal culture

W

build relationships, but “you also get information – and there’s a lot to learn and be informed about!” Because abuse takes so many forms, including emotional and financial abuse, often by family members, maintaining friendships and community connections can also help provide feedback and can be a good barometer if a situation doesn’t seem right. So, how do you stay connected? For those with extra time on their hands after retirement, volunteering can be an excellent way to get out

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

support

As with most challenges we face in life, when it comes to elder abuse, knowledge is power. Victoria Women’s Transition House provides many community education programs, including workshops designed to raise awareness and prevent the abuse of older adults. For more details, contact Dianne de Champlain, Community Education Coordinator at 250-592-2927 ext. 222 or dianned@vwth.bc.ca or visit transitionhouse.net. ❱ Frauds and Scams ❱ Gatekeepers ❱ Protect Yourself! Financial Literacy Workshops ❱ Powers of Attorney & Joint Accounts

❱ Victoria Women’s Transition House: A Dynamic Organization ❱ Building Community Connections Workshop ⌘

Programs help older women re-build BY JENNIFER BLYTH or three years after leaving her abusive relationship, Kate struggled to rebuild her life. Finally, the stress of dealing with her former partner and from working three jobs to make ends meet affected her health so much that she was unable to work. Fortunately, Kate found the services of Victoria Women’s Transition House and a year later, Kate had a lot to celebrate. Her medical condition has been properly diagnosed and she now receives a disability pension. She has a part-time job as a nanny and volunteers at a local seniors’ home. “I feel like my life is just starting,” she says. Victoria Women’s Transition House offers a variety of free support services for older women who are experiencing physical, emotional or financial abuse. In addition to the shelter and housing support, the Transition House also offers programs that help women identify abusive situations and become empowered to make the choices they want to make, without judgement, notes Dianne de Champlain, Community Education and Volunteer Program Coordinator. Support groups for women age 50-plus provide education, peer support, social networking and an opportunity to build friendships and establish new lives in the community. “The Older Women’s program just started from a small ad in the paper and the phone started ringing,” de Champlain says. “The groups are really popular. They all learn so much from each other.” Laurie Yeo is the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society’s Older Women’s Counsellor. In addition to individual counselling in both Victoria and Sidney for women who have experienced historical abuse or are currently in an abusive

F

situation, Yeo also leads the popular group programs. “One of the interesting things is that a lot of the women don’t really know what abuse is, so defining abuse is really important,” Yeo says, explaining that while physical abuse is more readily understood, “the emotional, spiritual and financial aspects of abuse aren’t as widely recognized.” Sometimes a grandchild will prey on the older person’s guilt or love for financial support, for example. Other times the person won’t be allowed to go to their church, or will have their faith used to coerce certain behaviour. Older women also face challenges not necessarily experienced by younger women, such as health problems, the lack of independent income or fear they’ll be put into an institution or extended-care facility. “One big challenge we’re really struggling with is the stereotype of what it means to be an older woman,” particularly for women who may have come from a patriarchal environment where she really didn’t have an independent voice. It’s never too late to develop that voice, however. Asked what she hoped to gain from the Older Women’s Program, one 82-year-old group member said, “I want to learn to set limits and I want to have a better quality of life,” Yeo says. “This program flies in the face of the belief that older women are too old to change.” It’s important to note that the program is designed for both women who have left the abusive situation and those who are still in it. “We support women whether they want to leave or not. We want them to be safe but we also want them to be strong and we respect their choice.”

For some women who aren’t ready to leave their situation, the group offers a safe place to talk, to hear other women with similar experiences, or just to vent.

Recognizing that those steps can sometimes bring risk to the woman, in addition to a newfound glimpse at independence, a safe home is connected to the program that can be used either for safety reasons, or to give a woman who is considering leaving her situation a place to stay for up to a month. For many, it will be their first time on their own, their first time experiencing what it’s like to make their own choices. As women take these first steps toward a new life, the Transition House Society’s Safe Home Outreach Program is there to help. Working with a knowledgeable counsellor, the program provides support to older women as they navigate often uncharted waters – locating lawyers, preparing necessary documentation, applying for financial assistance, locating housing, securing banking and more. “Getting support is the most important thing – from their family, friends and professional support if it’s needed,” Yeo says. The results can be remarkable. “It’s such a joy to work with women who really want to make changes in their life.” ⌘

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

future What does Elder Abuse look like? Physical Abuse – A deliberate act of violence or rough treatment, with or without injury; threat of physical force; use of restraint. Emotional Abuse – An act that diminishes an older adult’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth, including ageism, name-calling, , intimidation, threats, yelling, ignoring or social isolation. Sexual abuse – Any sexual behaviour directed toward an adult without full consent, including sexual harassment and non-consensual sexual touching. Financial abuse – Improper, illegal or unauthorized use of an adult’s resources for another’s benefit, including fraud, theft, coercion, misuse of power of attorney, unauthorized use of credit cards, forgery or misappropriation of money. Medication abuse – Misuse of an older adult’s medications, including withholding medication and overmedicating. Violation of rights – Ignoring an older adult’s basic rights and freedoms, such as privacy, access to information or community supports, including restricting visitors, decisions about health, personal care or restricting the person’s liberty and freedom. Neglect – Failure to provide necessary care, help, guidance or attention, which causes or is reasonably likely to cause someone physical, mental or emotional harm, or substantial damage to, or loss of, assets.

What can you do? If you suspect a friend, neighbour or family member is being abused, how can you help? If your relationship allows, talk to the adult and find out if they feel they need assistance or if there’s someone they’d like you to call. If the situation is an emergency and someone’s safety or life is at risk, call 911. If you feel there’s cause for concern, call the Vancouver Island Heath Authority, South Island, at 1-888-533-2273. While there is no legal requirement to report the abuse of older adults in B.C., if a report is made, especially in a situation where the person suffers from a physical or mental concern that may restrict their ability to seek help themselves, the Adult Guardianship Act ensures someone will look into your concerns, through a confidential report. ⌘


empowerment

hope

respect

Get educated!

Community connections

Victoria Women’s Transition House offers programs and workshops to prevent elder abuse in the community

Social isolation is a key contributing factor to elder abuse

F

or many people, connections through their work environment, children’s activities or partner’s involvements help them forge links with the community. But what happens when time brings retirement, the death of a spouse and grown children who may be living half a country away? For too many seniors, the result is isolation, both physical and social. That isolation can diminish their quality of life, but more than that, it puts them at a significantly greater risk of abuse, whether by a family member, caregiver, or telephone or internet fraud. “There are so many benefits to being connected,” says Dianne de Champlain, Community Education and Volunteer Program Coordinator for Victoria Women’s Transition House. Not only do you continue to

Groups like Target Theatre, “a in the community, whether you’re company of mature actors who taking advantage of skills honed provide a voice for the concerns of through years in the workforce or seniors” have also been key to raising exploring an interest you haven’t had awareness about the importance of time for while you were working. The building connections. Coming up later local experts at Volunteer Victoria this summer, the Transition House can provide information about the Society will welcome the group virtually endless opportunities. for a presentation of the play, Dot. Sharon Baker is a local senior Con, which uses humour to educate who tailored her skills from a career audiences on matters of internet of leading workshops for teachers safety. into volunteering for the Victoria For those who may have lost a Women’s Transition House. Today spouse, grieving groups can help she conducts workshops in the people feel less alone, while women community and for other seniors who are suffering abuse from their exploring issues around elder abuse partner or family member can and its prevention. also contact the Victoria Women’s “I feel very strongly that we need Transition House’s Older Women’s to support other women and build Do you know a senior who may be lonely or isolated? Ask if they’d like to accompany Program (see related story). ⌘ on their success. The more we can you to a class or social event to help them build connections in the community. do that, the more we can feel connected,” Baker says, pointing out that “sometimes as people get older and retire, their world can narrow instead of expanding. “I think it’s so important to feel hile B.C.’s Aboriginal people have culture and traditions of their people so that they can connected to others in traditionally passed on knowledge through pass it onto their children. This is why this program is the community.” stories, art, narrative and cultural so important; it is designed to gently assist families Baker also practices, that knowledge is being lost to reconnect with their Relations, Culture, Language encourages everyone and as a result, families can be disconnected with their and Traditional Knowledge, through healthy life skills in the community to be culture, community and traditions. mentoring and friendship with the aware of seniors who However, a Victoria Native Friendship Centre introduction and connection of healthy might be experiencing program harnesses the knowledge and wisdom held by role models, our Elders, as Mentors.” isolation and to think the community’s elders, imparting it to the younger Through the Empowering Healthy about what they can generations, to build strong families with strong Families program, Elders are the do to help – taking the connections. storytellers and teachers of life initiative and asking The Empowering Healthy Families program is unique experiences “that can enrich our lives them to come with you in that it involves community members from babies to and through example, can help guide to a class or social Elders with the passing on of traditional knowledge us through our own life’s journey,” event, for example. through mentorship, explains program co-ordinator explains Lang, who matches families “There are so many Shirley Lang. with Elder Mentors with similar family ways people can keep Established to assist families that have had Ministry or cultural backgrounds, who work connected with a circle involvement, the program aims to reconnect families with the family in a non-threatening, of family, neighbours and with their culture to begin healing in other areas of their gentle way, to guide them to be friends,” de Champlain lives. Elder Mentors are the catalyst for this healing and stronger individuals and parents with says, pointing to the growth. the goal to create stronger families. Transition House’s Building “Our Elders have always been the carriers of our A success for both the families Community Connections history and knowledge of who we are, however with and mentors, “the collaboration Workshop. The 90-minute the residential school and reserve system, a lot of our and friendships that have developed session focuses on social traditional ways of teaching are slowly dissipating. within the Elder Mentor’s circle is connection as a powerful With families moving into urban areas and away very strong,” Lang says. “Where they tool to keep older adults from their home communities, many are finding they previously had felt isolated, they now safer from abuse and are disconnected from their Relations, Culture and have a circle of strong friends, of neglect and can be Traditional ways of living. family.” presented to groups of older “These families need our Elders guidance the For more details, email Lang at adults in any community most,” Lang notes. “They desire and need to learn their connectingelders@shaw.ca ⌘ setting.

Elder mentor program helps families connect with Aboriginal culture

W

build relationships, but “you also get information – and there’s a lot to learn and be informed about!” Because abuse takes so many forms, including emotional and financial abuse, often by family members, maintaining friendships and community connections can also help provide feedback and can be a good barometer if a situation doesn’t seem right. So, how do you stay connected? For those with extra time on their hands after retirement, volunteering can be an excellent way to get out

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

support

As with most challenges we face in life, when it comes to elder abuse, knowledge is power. Victoria Women’s Transition House provides many community education programs, including workshops designed to raise awareness and prevent the abuse of older adults. For more details, contact Dianne de Champlain, Community Education Coordinator at 250-592-2927 ext. 222 or dianned@vwth.bc.ca or visit transitionhouse.net. ❱ Frauds and Scams ❱ Gatekeepers ❱ Protect Yourself! Financial Literacy Workshops ❱ Powers of Attorney & Joint Accounts

❱ Victoria Women’s Transition House: A Dynamic Organization ❱ Building Community Connections Workshop ⌘

Programs help older women re-build BY JENNIFER BLYTH or three years after leaving her abusive relationship, Kate struggled to rebuild her life. Finally, the stress of dealing with her former partner and from working three jobs to make ends meet affected her health so much that she was unable to work. Fortunately, Kate found the services of Victoria Women’s Transition House and a year later, Kate had a lot to celebrate. Her medical condition has been properly diagnosed and she now receives a disability pension. She has a part-time job as a nanny and volunteers at a local seniors’ home. “I feel like my life is just starting,” she says. Victoria Women’s Transition House offers a variety of free support services for older women who are experiencing physical, emotional or financial abuse. In addition to the shelter and housing support, the Transition House also offers programs that help women identify abusive situations and become empowered to make the choices they want to make, without judgement, notes Dianne de Champlain, Community Education and Volunteer Program Coordinator. Support groups for women age 50-plus provide education, peer support, social networking and an opportunity to build friendships and establish new lives in the community. “The Older Women’s program just started from a small ad in the paper and the phone started ringing,” de Champlain says. “The groups are really popular. They all learn so much from each other.” Laurie Yeo is the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society’s Older Women’s Counsellor. In addition to individual counselling in both Victoria and Sidney for women who have experienced historical abuse or are currently in an abusive

F

situation, Yeo also leads the popular group programs. “One of the interesting things is that a lot of the women don’t really know what abuse is, so defining abuse is really important,” Yeo says, explaining that while physical abuse is more readily understood, “the emotional, spiritual and financial aspects of abuse aren’t as widely recognized.” Sometimes a grandchild will prey on the older person’s guilt or love for financial support, for example. Other times the person won’t be allowed to go to their church, or will have their faith used to coerce certain behaviour. Older women also face challenges not necessarily experienced by younger women, such as health problems, the lack of independent income or fear they’ll be put into an institution or extended-care facility. “One big challenge we’re really struggling with is the stereotype of what it means to be an older woman,” particularly for women who may have come from a patriarchal environment where she really didn’t have an independent voice. It’s never too late to develop that voice, however. Asked what she hoped to gain from the Older Women’s Program, one 82-year-old group member said, “I want to learn to set limits and I want to have a better quality of life,” Yeo says. “This program flies in the face of the belief that older women are too old to change.” It’s important to note that the program is designed for both women who have left the abusive situation and those who are still in it. “We support women whether they want to leave or not. We want them to be safe but we also want them to be strong and we respect their choice.”

For some women who aren’t ready to leave their situation, the group offers a safe place to talk, to hear other women with similar experiences, or just to vent.

Recognizing that those steps can sometimes bring risk to the woman, in addition to a newfound glimpse at independence, a safe home is connected to the program that can be used either for safety reasons, or to give a woman who is considering leaving her situation a place to stay for up to a month. For many, it will be their first time on their own, their first time experiencing what it’s like to make their own choices. As women take these first steps toward a new life, the Transition House Society’s Safe Home Outreach Program is there to help. Working with a knowledgeable counsellor, the program provides support to older women as they navigate often uncharted waters – locating lawyers, preparing necessary documentation, applying for financial assistance, locating housing, securing banking and more. “Getting support is the most important thing – from their family, friends and professional support if it’s needed,” Yeo says. The results can be remarkable. “It’s such a joy to work with women who really want to make changes in their life.” ⌘

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

future What does Elder Abuse look like? Physical Abuse – A deliberate act of violence or rough treatment, with or without injury; threat of physical force; use of restraint. Emotional Abuse – An act that diminishes an older adult’s sense of identity, dignity and self-worth, including ageism, name-calling, , intimidation, threats, yelling, ignoring or social isolation. Sexual abuse – Any sexual behaviour directed toward an adult without full consent, including sexual harassment and non-consensual sexual touching. Financial abuse – Improper, illegal or unauthorized use of an adult’s resources for another’s benefit, including fraud, theft, coercion, misuse of power of attorney, unauthorized use of credit cards, forgery or misappropriation of money. Medication abuse – Misuse of an older adult’s medications, including withholding medication and overmedicating. Violation of rights – Ignoring an older adult’s basic rights and freedoms, such as privacy, access to information or community supports, including restricting visitors, decisions about health, personal care or restricting the person’s liberty and freedom. Neglect – Failure to provide necessary care, help, guidance or attention, which causes or is reasonably likely to cause someone physical, mental or emotional harm, or substantial damage to, or loss of, assets.

What can you do? If you suspect a friend, neighbour or family member is being abused, how can you help? If your relationship allows, talk to the adult and find out if they feel they need assistance or if there’s someone they’d like you to call. If the situation is an emergency and someone’s safety or life is at risk, call 911. If you feel there’s cause for concern, call the Vancouver Island Heath Authority, South Island, at 1-888-533-2273. While there is no legal requirement to report the abuse of older adults in B.C., if a report is made, especially in a situation where the person suffers from a physical or mental concern that may restrict their ability to seek help themselves, the Adult Guardianship Act ensures someone will look into your concerns, through a confidential report. ⌘


Resources

empowerment hope Here’s to the Volunteers!

• Victoria Women’s Transition House – www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line at 250-385-6611 • Cridge Transition House – 250 479-3963 • BC Centre for Advocacy and Support – www.bcceas.ca • Seniors Advocacy and Information Line – 1-866-437-1940 • For families with elder abuse issues, the Vancouver Island Health Authority – 250-388-2273 or toll free 1-888-533-2273 • Native Friendship Centre – 250-384-3211 • Inter-Cultural Association – 250-388-4728 • Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre – 250-361-9433 • Men’s Trauma Centre – www.menstrauma.com, 250-381-MENS (6367) or toll-free: 1-866-793-6367

Thank You! We extend warm thanks to our generous supporters for making our programs and services for Older Women possible.

• Victoria Foundation • RBC Foundation • Zonta Club • Kintara Women’s Chorus • Mr. Edwin Gale • E.L.W. Lutheran Church of the Cross • Holy Trinity Church • Victoria Osteoporosis Support & Information Group • St. Luke’s Anglican Church • St. Michael’s & All Angels Women’s Guild • Unity Church of Victoria • We also thank the many individual and business donors who have supported our programs for Older Women. We extend our gratitude to Home Instead Senior Care for supporting this publication.

Victoria Women’s Transition House has many dependable seniors who make an invaluable contribution through volunteering – cooking, shopping, childcare, gardening, picking up donations, speaking in the community, doing office work, organizing, assisting in programs, and serving on the board. The eldest is 82, and cooks dinner each week for the residents. Many have volunteered hundreds of hours over a number of years. To learn more about volunteering, visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the community office at 250-592-2927. ⌘

Harrison Place offers hope and a path to independence

I

n the eyes of the community, M, age 55, was the picture of success: attractive, living in a lovely home with a gregarious husband. But behind closed doors, M’s life was misery. Her partner controlled her activities and finances, while constant verbal attacks made her feel guilty and ashamed. She had thought of leaving when she

to help her to a new life of independence and self-confidence. The story is one that the staff and volunteers at the Victoria Women’s Transition House have heard time and again. And while the pattern of abuse is often similar regardless of women’s age, for those without dependent children and who are not yet seniors, their

was younger, but stayed because of the children. Now grown, they’ve begun showing the same behaviour and their angry put-downs make her feel hurt and humiliated. M. had saved an article about another woman who had lived with abuse but at 60 was now living happily on her own thanks to support from Victoria Women’s Transition House programs. The woman’s story struck a chord, and after several attempts, M. steeled her nerve to speak to the counsellor. While not yet ready to leave, it was the first step. When after a particularly violent attack she decided to get out, Transition House was there to help with a safe place to stay, counselling, and transitional programs

situation can raise particular challenges. While many lack resources to pay for decent accommodations in an expensive housing market, particularly as family assets become tied up in the legal process, they also don’t qualify for subsidies available to seniors or those with children. That’s where Harrison Place comes in. Providing housing for up to three years for women age 40 to 65 with a history of abuse, but no dependent children, the supported apartment complex is often a window of opportunity for those ready to take the next step in their lives, explains Janet Henly, Community Programs Manager for Victoria Women’s Transition House. Typically the women who come to

Harrison Place have been out of their abusive situation for about a year, and have started the healing process. There they have access to staff and resources, from practical programs dealing with cooking and nutrition, financial literacy and job skills to more personal explorations that help the women become more confident and self-aware, an essential step along the path to recovery. “This is often the foundation of what they need to move forward, to learn new tools, and unlearn things they may have been taught since childhood,” Henly says. “With the history of abuse often there’s a real diminishing of self-worth, yet with the women coming to Harrison Place there’s also a real survivor mentality, a real drive to move on; they don’t want the abuse to define them.” Through recovery, many discover remarkable artistic talents and the opportunity to set goals they may never have dreamed of. Sometimes those goals start small – determining what to cook for dinner or to save a little money for the future; yet for women who may never have had control over the most minute decisions, these small things build to great results. “Some women have never lived on their own, so it can be scary but exciting – they see the opportunity for growth.” From social services to employment readiness programs such as Bridges for Women, “we really encourage the women to do what is right for their situation, on a case-by-case basis,” Henly says. While many feel apprehensive at living on their own for the first time, “they get into Harrison Place and get settled and all of a sudden you get to see this vibrant, incredible personality surface.” ⌘

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

respect

support

future

ADVERTISING FEATURE

Creating Hopeful Futures Help protect local seniors by putting a stop to Elder Abuse BY JENNIFER BLYTH

W

hile Canadian research suggests between four and 10 per cent of older adults experience one or more forms of abuse or neglect at some point in their later years, experts believe the numbers are in fact much higher. In B.C. alone it’s estimated that between 23,470 and 58,680 seniors are neglected or abused, but often the abuse goes unreported – the older adult may be ashamed or afraid, they may not realize what’s happening is abuse, or may not want to get the abuser in trouble. Sadly, elder abuse typically comes at the hand of a family member – a spouse, child or grandchild – but can also include friends, neighbours, care providers, landlords or others in a position of authority. Age, race, poverty, disability and isolation all can be risk factors. June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a day when people around the globe will wear purple as a celebration of seniors as valuable members of our society, and to raise awareness of the issue of abuse of older adults, says Dianne de Champlain, Community Education Coordinator and Volunteer Program Coordinator for the Victoria Women’s Transition House. In addition to its emergency shelter, the Victoria Women’s Transition House Society operates June 15 is World Elder Abuse programs for Older Awareness Day to celebrate Women with a history of abuse, and Harrison seniors as valuable members of Place, third-stage society, and to raise awareness of transitional housing for women between the the issue of abuse of older adults. ages of 40 and 65. While both older women and older men are at risk of elder abuse, their experiences can differ. For older men, their first experience with abuse may happen later in life, once they are relying on others for help; abuse in this case is often by adult children or a friend. However two-thirds of older people experiencing abuse are women, typically from her partner or adult children. Regardless of

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gender, social, legal and economic concerns may make it seem that leaving the abusive situation isn’t possible. Feelings of shame or embarrassment are common, as is wanting to protect the abuser from consequences. Some may have a mental or physical disability, or be unsure how they will survive emotionally or financially. Others fear they won’t be able to see friends or grandchildren, or are unsupported by loved ones who deny the abuse. Abuse among older immigrant adults offers additional concerns, especially if there are language barriers, the person is new to Canada or fears deportation. Sometimes cultural factors can contribute to fear of social or financial isolation. Resources are available to help. The BC Centre for Advocacy and Support’s Seniors Advocacy and Information Line, 1-866-437-1940, is a toll-free number staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with extended hours to 5 p.m. beginning in July. The line is a safe place where older adults can speak with trained staff or volunteers about situations in which they feel abused or mistreated. They provide a listening, nonjudgmental ear, and if needed, referrals to the centre’s legal staff or Victim Services Program. Other resources are available through organizations such as the Victoria Women’s Transition House, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Inter-Cultural Association, the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre, and the BC Association of Community Response Networks.

For more information:

ℹ ℹ ℹ ℹ ℹ ℹ

visit www.transitionhouse.net or call the crisis line 250.385.6611

Public Guardian and Trustee of BC – www.trustee.bc.ca BC Coalition to Eliminate Abuse of Seniors – www.bcceas.ca BC Association of Community Response Networks – www.bccrns.ca Canadian Centre for Elder Law Studies – www.ccels.ca/forolderadults.html International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse – www.inpea.net National Clearinghouse on Family Violence – www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ncfv-cnivf/ familyviolence/index.html ⌘

June 14, 2013  

Section W of the June 14, 2013 edition of the Victoria News

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