By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
In most cases of domestic abuse it is the woman and children who have to leave the situation to seek help, uprooting themselves from their homes and disrupting their lives.
Now, Rowan House has created a new program in Claresholm where the abuser actually leaves the home and receives counselling services while the woman and children can stay at home and receive support there.
Called Stay at Home, the facility opened for business in Claresholm on March 1.
“We are very excited,” said Timmi Shorr, chief executive officer of the Rowan House Society.
Safe at Home currently has space for two people for the first eight weeks of the program, or they can complete all 52 weeks through community-based services if they are already living on their own.
Shorr explained the program is set up in phases.
Phase 1 is eight weeks long, with each week consisting of three sessions, combining psycho-education and group therapy. It also includes weekly individual counselling or case management sessions.
Phase 2 is seven weeks, with each week consisting of weekly psycho-education or group therapy session. It also includes monthly individual counselling or case management sessions.
The final phase, the aftercare program, is eight months, consisting of one group therapy session each month, and monthly individual counselling or case management sessions.
“We follow them right for a year,” Shorr said, noting supports are in place that entire time.
“It’s pretty special,” Shorr added. “It’s so innovative.”
Safe at Home takes a holistic approach and is looking for people who realize what they are doing is not okay.
“They really want to make that change,” Shorr said. “That’s what’s going to help them be successful.”
Moreover, their partner and affected family will also receive support from local resources to assist them in their own safety and healing.
“It is the whole family who is being supported,” Shorr said.
Safe at Home has partnered with a number of agencies to provide that support, including Probation, the RCMP, Family and Community Support Services, Chinook Sexual Assault Centre, Mental Health and much more.
“Anything they need we will be able to provide,” Shorr said.
She emphasized how important is to change the dynamic of a domestic abuse situation.
“The idea is the family can stay,” Shorr said, adding the family can be supported before they have to seek shelter at Rowan House. They can also receive and internalize the education piece of the program.
It is good having the program in Claresholm, she said. There was a gap in service due in part to the town’s location halfway between both Calgary and Lethbridge. The new program now ensures access to support in a rural centre.
“I’m excited about the fact Rowan House is always going to be there,” Shorr said.
Safe at Home is a national program, funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada, and the first of its kind in a rural setting.
“Our goal at the end is to create a blueprint (for the rest of Canada),” Shorr said.
“(We’re) leading the way and then other communities can use it.”
Safe at Home is available to all men who:
• have been removed from the family home, or advised by RCMP to remove themselves from the family home, following a domestic incident;
• are living independently with a history of abusive patterns;
• accept their abusive behaviours need to change and want to develop healthier relationship practices and communication;
• want to be healthier partners in their current or future relationships.
Shorr has described the response from the media and the public to Safe at Home as “heart-warming”.
“The more we talk about this issue, the more it is okay to ask for help,” she said.
Anyone interested in more information can call 403-468-2042 or e-mail SAH@rowanhouse.ca.
Agencies can visit www.rowanhouse.ca/safe-at-home for referral forms. Men who are accepting that their abusive behaviours need to change can also follow that link to download their own application form.
Safe at Home is also facilitating a free, 10-week online community group for men, aged 18+, who recognize abusive or destructive behaviours in their intimate relationships and are looking to develop skills for healthy relationships.
Take a tour of the Safe at Home Program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-44S-5JJX0
Rowan House’s mission is to provide crisis intervention, long-term support and preventative education to break the cycle of domestic abuse in our communities. In doing so, we work to fulfill our vision: that we can all thrive in safe and empowering relationships.