Women’s centers, an essential link in the fight against violence

Open doors and outstretched hands: Quebec women’s centers remind us that they are an essential link in the help offered to victims of violence. Judging that this aspect of their mission is little known, they want their services and expertise to be recognized in order to fully participate in the collective fight to end violence against women.

Women’s centers are often “a little forgotten” when it comes to helping those who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, notes Nadia Morissette, general coordinator of L’R des centers de femmes du Québec, which brings together 77 centers in Province.

People think more easily of specialized resources such as shelters for victims of violence or centers for help and the fight against sexual assault (CALACS). However, women’s centers offer a range of services, activities, support groups and workers who can listen to them, guide them and direct them to the right places, says Mme Morissette: “We complement other more specialized resources. »

Intervention and awareness-raising are an integral part of the mission of these centers, as are actions to defend women’s rights, she adds. And their interventions are not limited to domestic or sexual violence: there is also violence experienced in the street, at work or even on the Web.

In Quebec, more than 300,000 women pass through the doors of women’s centers each year, recalls L’R, who adds this worrying statistic: three-quarters of them are experiencing or have already experienced situations of violence.

On this National Women’s Centers Day, L’R unveils its campaign to recognize their work, along with a report summarizing everything they offer. The latter contains the testimony of many women who went there to seek help, including this one: “I took a deep breath [avant d’entrer dans le centre], I walked through a door, there was a worker who said to me: “Can I help you?” I said “yes, I could do it”, then I bawled, I talked about it, she was there to listen to me, referred me to organizations that I didn’t even know, I didn’t even think about that it existed. »

A “global and versatile” approach

Women’s centers pride themselves on having a “different” approach, because it is more “global and versatile”: “The woman can come to see us because she lives in isolation, but with the support received, she can become aware that she also experiences violence. At this point, the bond of trust is already created and she can ask for help in other areas,” explains M.me Morissette.

For some women, it may be easier to seek help if she is not “labeled as a victim of violence,” continues the coordinator. For workers, dealing with violence in the context of activities not specific to this issue “can be an opportunity, even a strategy”, making it possible to get women to address the subject of violence experienced without naming it from the outset. game, so as not to frighten those who would not be ready to recognize or denounce it.

“It’s fine to talk about violence, but if we put it too much forward, it risks scaring [… ]so we offer painting classes, knitting workshops, it’s great,” explained a speaker cited in the report.

“We can be a gateway,” illustrates Nadia Morissette: before becoming aware of the experience of violence, during, and after, during the reconstruction phase. »

The R of women’s centers wishes to be consulted and involved in the deployment of actions against violence in Quebec. He also asks that funding for women’s centers be increased by $350,000 each, on an annual basis, specifying that they are “rooted in their communities”, particularly in the regions, where certain specialized services and resources are not available.

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