Women escaping violence need better-linked services: report
Local agencies develop ‘navigator’ position to relay victims’ complex stories to helpers
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.”