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What I learned when my mom wanted to escape a violent relationship

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Over the last year I watched my mom trying to escape Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and learned how the pandemic has increased the already substantial barriers for women trying to navigate the systems and resources. 

Finding the will to leave a relationship involving intimate partner violence is mentally exhausting. When you add children to the situation it adds another layer of challenges. 

My mother contacted every resource available for IPV in HRM. In case you are not familiar with these resources, they are Bryony House, Alice House, and New Start Counselling

She didn’t have much luck. But I am not saying that people facing IPV should just not contact them, you should absolutely try. This is my mother’s story, hopefully other people will have better luck.

Bryony House is a transitional house in HRM where women and children who are experiencing IPV can go and stay for up to 6 weeks while they find permanent housing.

In the pre-Covid days the shelter was a 24-bed shelter, but from March of 2020 on the shelter capacity substantially decreased, at times likely occupied beyond the six weeks because of the pandemic. Where does this leave women and children fleeing IPV? 

Bryony House does have a 24-hour distress line which you can contact and speak with one of their women’s counsellors on the other end. But COVID left options here more limited than they were before. 

With only limited spaces available the shelter was full for what seems like forever. Not only this, but my mother was denied access since she had 5 children. The recommendation was that my brothers go to a male homeless shelter. This would have been terrifying and possibly more traumatic for them then staying in the household.  

Alice House, our other option, is a non-profit which has access to units across HRM that can be rented out on a yearly lease to women leaving IPV.

At this point we would have been having our second encounter with Alice House. We once had housing through them when we were younger due to my mother’s ex boyfriend. 

Alice House is a non-profit which has access to units across HRM that can be rented out on a yearly lease to women leaving IPV. 

This is where a big problem begins for me. I know people who have suffered in silence simply because Alice House makes it a rule that you cannot have boys or men on or around the property, or this will result in the termination of your stay.

Housing at Alice House was limited during the pandemic because of the economy and just like the shelter clients, Alice House did not have clients moving on and making room for others. 

For my mom it was not ever a question about what she was going to do since she was not going to be able to bring my oldest brother who at the time had just turned 18. She just toughed it out like any mother would, who otherwise would have to leave one of her children behind with an abusive partner. 

Counselling just to cope with the abuse was a last resort. 

New Start Counselling is a non-profit that works with people experiencing gender-based violence. The problem is that in our case they wanted to charge a fee for their services and for someone who is low-income and struggling to meet their basic needs paying a fee for counselling is simply not an option. 

At this point, there is no access for someone like my mother to any of the resources which were developed to support victims of IPV. So, I finally had the courage one day during one of my stepfather’s outbursts to call the police. 

I cried and begged them to help us and take him out of our house. With little sympathy Halifax Regional Police (HRP) told me that they would not remove him from the house even though his name was not on the lease, as he had been living with us for more than a year (common law), and there was no evidence of physical abuse. 

HRP suggested my mom pack the five of us up and find somewhere to stay such as with family or a hotel. Except we had no family and were low income and could barely afford rent, let alone a hotel. 

We had no choice but to stay, and this left me wondering how many other people are experiencing this same thing? How many mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, and friends must die at the hands of a man? Things need to change. HRM is not doing their part.

24-hour distress line: 902.422.7650, https://www.bryonyhouse.ca/crisis-contact/

Kids Help Phone (available by phone or text) — 1-800-668-6868

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One Comment

  1. I am sorry to hear your story of your mothers struggle to find recourses for domestic abuse. It is a serious problem that programs are under funded and not available when vulnerable people are in need. I would like to address the issue of New Start directly as I find what happened perplexing. New Start does not charge a fee for counselling for what we call the partners program. New Start Counselling is a non-profit agency to address intimate partner violence. We primarily work with people who have used abuse and or violence in their intimate partner relationship and want to address that problem in counselling. We also invite the partners of those in our counselling program to participate in their own counselling for support. If a woman called looking for counselling she would only be invited in if her partner was attending counselling at New Start. If the partner is not attending they would be directed to another program such as Bryony House or Alice House.

    I just wanted to clarify the message about New Start regarding fees. Again, I am sorry for the lack of resources for your family and if there is anything that we can do to help please contact us again.

    Jane Donovan
    Clinical Supervisor
    New Start Counselling

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