November 26, 2011 by Tara Miller
Once I heard about the Elizabeth Fry Society from a friend years ago, I knew it served an important role for families in the Okanagan but I didn’t have any real idea of just how important until recently.
As I move towards the end of my journey in graduate school for my Masters in Counselling, I have this privilege and honour of fulfilling my practicum requirement at Elizabeth Fry. What I have learned in just a few months there already will have a profound impact on me as a woman, a mother, and a therapist.
This hardworking, under-staffed, and under funded team at Elizabeth Fry offered me this internship placement with a warm welcome. This diverse group of women are legal advocates, outreach workers, counsellors, and volunteers that work fervently for the rights of women every day.
The clients they serve are women, children, and men that have been victims of domestic violence, primarily sexual abuse and they are serving them not just by short term fixes or immediate solutions, but also by ongoing support in the form of group therapy, psychoeducation, individual counselling, legal advice and support. They connect their clients to other agencies in the valley for education upgrades, skill development and other assistance that will help victims of violence recover, strengthen, and get back on their feet, empowered and with a voice and a choice for a better future.
Their effects on these individuals and families have a long term effect that often ripples silently, but is no less profound for each client they serve. Being a witness to the work done here has been both humbling and inspiring.
Beyond the services and the women both behind the scenes and on the frontline, I have been moved by the clients themselves. I am humbled and saddened with every new client that walks through those doors. I sit in a seat of honour and privilege across from every one of my clients. I have been surprised at the prevalence of new assaults in our community and think most of us are oblivious to what’s really going on.
New assaults, within families, marriages, and acquaintances, mentor abuse, drug-facilitated sexual assaults, violent hate crimes – new ones every week, every day – and that’s just the women that know of, have been connected with, and have had the courage to walk through the doors at Elizabeth Fry. There are many others, that are trying to recover from their assaults that don’t know about these services and are desperately trying to heal their lives on their own. The numbers are shocking.
In a country that is supposed to be “civilized”, women, children, and teenagers are being attacked daily like it’s the dark ages. Brutalized and then tossed aside. It’s information that everyone needs to know, it’s information that women need to know for their own safety and that men need to know to bring awareness and advocate for an end to.
In the face of the shocking numbers and details that race through this city, I am blessed to serve as an intern and volunteer at Elizabeth Fry. I am touched daily, as I am taught daily, of compassion, resiliency, and empowerment by the women that keep the Elizabeth Fry Society breathing life into clients and into this community. I could not have found a more profound place to forge this experience and I will hold this learning with me for the rest of my career and beyond.
Beyond awareness, Elizabeth Fry needs the support of this community by spreading the word as well as adding donations and volunteers so that the supply can meet the overwhelming and ongoing demand in this city.