Women es­cap­ing vi­o­lence need bet­ter-linked ser­vices: re­port

Lo­cal agen­cies de­velop ‘nav­i­ga­tor’ po­si­tion to re­lay vic­tims’ com­plex sto­ries to helpers

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - KELLY NOSEWORTHY knose­wor­thy@thes­pec.com 905-526-3199

In front of a crowd at Good Shep­herd Women’s Ser­vices, 52-yearold long­time Hamil­ton res­i­dent Olga Ku­likovsky spoke about sur­viv­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

She de­scribed her 25-year bat­tle with emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse as “tor­ture,” be­liev­ing there was “some­thing wrong” with her and it “needed to be fixed.”

“I didn’t trust my­self,” she said. “I felt badly about my­self and I didn’t know why.”

Ku­likovsky shared her story about abuse and the strug­gles she faced when at­tempt­ing to get help at an event by the Woman Abuse Work­ing Group — a coali­tion of more than 20 com­mu­nity agen­cies — to launch a re­port high­light­ing the ser­vices and gaps for women who have been abused.

The mother of four boys be­tween the ages 15 and 21 is a for­mer stu­dent at McMaster Univer­sity with de­grees in bio­chem­istry and psy­chol­ogy as well as an MBA in ac­count­ing. Ku­likovsky said she worked more than 60 hours per week all while be­ing told by her ex-hus­band she was “worth­less, use­less and lazy.”

She spoke about not be­ing per­mit­ted to drive a car, have In­ter­net in the house or have a cell­phone and along with her chil­dren was bul­lied and be­lit­tled on a daily ba­sis.

De­spite re­peated calls to po­lice, it wasn’t un­til Ku­likovsky got help from a tran­si­tional sup­port worker that she was able to rec­og­nize the abuse.

The re­port — in the form of a map and list of rec­om­men­da­tions — by the So­cial Plan­ning and Re­search Coun­cil of Hamil­ton for WAWG was de­signed to bet­ter un­der­stand the lo­cal ser­vices avail­able to women who ex­pe­ri­ence a range of abuse — emo­tional, psy­cho­log­i­cal or phys­i­cal — and rec­og­nize where the voids and bar­ri­ers ex­ist.

What be­came ob­vi­ous to WAWG co-chairs Natasha Dobler and Yolisa De Jager was the need for a co-or­di­nated ef­fort be­tween the agen­cies and their ser­vices.

“If you look at the as­set map and you look at all the ser­vices that a woman may come into con­tact with, think about all the times she has to say her story,” said Dobler.

“How many times does she have to say she is a vic­tim of sex­ual as­sault, of phys­i­cal as­sault, emo­tional, fi­nan­cial? Think about all the times she has to say that to ev­ery sin­gle ser­vice.”

It was the cat­a­lyst to de­velop a “nav­i­ga­tor” per­son for vic­tims who of­ten have com­pli­cated sto­ries sim­i­lar to Ku­likovsky’s.

An­other key rec­om­men­da­tion was in­creas­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity for mi­nor­ity groups, LGBTQ and abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple and those who speak lan­guages other than English.

“We know that what we have right now we can al­ways im­prove on, in­crease and have more spe­cific train­ing so that we bet­ter un­der­stand how best to serve those pop­u­la­tions,” said De Jager.

Other ar­eas ad­dressed in the rec­om­men­da­tions fo­cused on in­creas­ing safe, af­ford­able hous­ing op­tions for women, in­creas­ing the num­ber of front-line staff, and pro­vid­ing train­ing to le­gal pro­fes­sion­als and po­lice and hav­ing flex­i­ble hours dur­ing evenings and week­ends.

For Ku­likovsky, she hopes by com­ing for­ward it will en­cour­age oth­ers fac­ing sim­i­lar chal­lenges to get help.

“No one has the right to make you feel bad about your­self.”

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