This issue we will talk about one of the reasons why women can’t get out of abusive relationships and maybe we can help by telling women that there are resources for them, like women’s shelters.

First of all, let’s ask ourselves why can’t they get out and try to end the abuse?

One reason many women can’t leave is because family members just aren’t supportive enough. Mind you, for some women, family are very supportive. But the sad fact is, there are families that believe a couple should stay together for the children, or because they said their vows in front of God and vowed to stay together till death.

Not to judge anyone because of what they were taught, but respect should be the most important aspect in a relationship and of course, when someone is abused there is no respect being given to that person.

It is also damaging for the children. Children need a peaceful, loving and stable home most of all, even if it is only with one parent. How can it be good for children to live in fear, and to see their mother being degraded?

We can’t change the beliefs of older generations, but we can teach young couples that it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that. You don’t have to stay in a relationship where you are constantly being judged, put down and beaten.

But for many women, family beliefs are what make them stay. There is usually pressure from family for the couple to come to some reconciliation. But what the family doesn’t understand is that the woman has come to the point where she has begun to feel empathy towards the abuse. She’s in a web and can’t get out. She is also constantly living in fear. When will he hit her next? Will he break her bones? Kill her? Living in fear doesn’t give her much of a life.

But we can’t only blame family beliefs for keeping abusive relationships going, as there are many reasons why women can’t leave. But I think when a women goes through abuse, family should be the first people she can count on. If not, another option is women’s shelters. To be fully informed, we will tell you a bit about women’s shelters and what they do.

I had an interview with the Val d’Or Women’s Shelter “Le Nid” and I felt so much warmth from the workers and the women staying there. At the Shelter, women were smiling, because they had reason to smile, because they were treated with respect and given back some of their self-esteem, because no one was degrading them.

Mrs. Yvette Saucier, one of the workers at the Val d’Or Shelter, tells us a bit about how the Shelter works. She also mentions that all of the six workers at the Shelter have experienced some kind of abuse. For abused women, I think talking with someone who has personally experienced some of what they’ve gone through is good for them. Because the person they are talking to can relate to their situation.

So to women who want to get out, please take into consideration that women’s shelters should be one of your options to end the abuse. Because you HAVE to get out, because no one should have to live in fear of anyone.

The Val d’Or Women’s Shelter “Le Nid” is situated in the old part of Val d’Or and was founded in 1983. It is a home which accommodates 12 women and their children. The staff has taken many security measures so women and children will feel safe. Two video cameras have been installed for prowlers and the windows are unbreakable. For confidentiality from outsiders, the windows are tinted. There is a special computer-coded lock at the front door, so not just anyone can go in. Only the staff and women staying there know the code. The women’s shelter not only makes the women feel at home, but also the children. There is a playroom and many toys, so the children can play and not feel so homesick. The women and staff also have weekly meetings to talk about themselves and/or make any complaints they have about the shelter.

Yvette Saucier and I spoke after my tour of the shelter and she answered some questions.

Marilyn Bearskin Herodier: The first question I’d like to ask you, Yvette, is how many Native women come to this shelter?

Yvette Saucier: In 1995-1996, our statistics on women that came here to the Shelter in Val d’Or were that 111 women and 104 children. 30% of these were Native women.

MBH: Do they say why they don’t go to the shelters run by Natives?

YS: They don’t say why, but some did mention they don’t go to the shelters run by Natives because everyone knows everyone and they are embarrassed to go.

MBH: Why do women go to women’s shelters? Why don’t they settle their problems at home?

YS: Because it is too dangerous for them. There is no reasoning with a man who uses violence to settle a problem. When they come here they can think in peace.

For our future, children need a loving and stable home.

MBH: Do you provide counselling both for the woman and her husband?

YS: We only counsel women. These shelters are for women. We can’t do everything. If we started trying to counsel the men also, how exhausted would women be? It would take away too much of our energy and we wouldn’t have our full concentration to deal with conjugal violence and trying to get the women out of their abusive situations.

It’s a long process to work with women who are severely emotionally abused. A group of men here in Val d’Or started a support group for themselves and they meet every week. It only takes two people to start a support group.

MBH: Why do we need women’s shelters?

YS: Women need shelters because shelters are their support. At shelters women can build up their self-esteem. And it also gives them a place to think about the situation they are in. Some women face life-and-death situations at home and here they are made to feel safe.

Yvette Saucier has been working at the Val d’Or Shelter for 10 years and she is a survivor of spousal abuse. We would like to thank her for taking the time to share her knowledge with Nation readers. Thank you very much, Yvette Saucier.

In the next issue The Nation will do a readers poll to find out what you think about domestic violence. There will be questions for everyone to answer, anonymously, so you can give us your views. Both men and women, young and old, are encouraged to participate. Meegwetch.