First Responder and Supports Workshop- Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter

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By: Nicole Rossi

The First Responder and Supports Workshop was run by women who provide shelter and support for women and children escaping violence. Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter’s mission is to assist women and children rebuilding their lives by providing crisis intervention and a range of support services. They have many programs available for women and children who are trying to escape violence that has occurred in their lives.

Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter has a phone line available where woman can call in and a live person will answer the phone lines as well as provide individual tailored counselling sessions. Likewise the women’s shelter has program for families in need where they can access food and clothing.

The women that ran the workshop shared that there are 14 shelters in the city of Toronto, a majority of the time these shelters are full. This was not surprising but it was sad to hear. Depending on women’s situation, the average time women will stay in their shelter is 8 months or longer because of the housing crisis in Toronto, citizenship etc. Women have sense of privacy in their rooms, however other communal areas like kitchen, family etc., are shared. The goal is for women to feel dignity, respect and privacy, the environment is meant to feel comfortable and welcoming.

Security measures are put into place as well.  The physical location does not show up when you look up their shelter on a map. They do not have their address only a PO box on their website.   There are video cameras in the parking lot and there are two doors to get in to.

Through this workshop I learned about the term internalized sexism, this relates to stereotypes that women should be a certain way and have certain traits so they start to believe it themselves. This workshop helped me understand that abuse happens not just because of anger but also because of power and control and the need to be superior to someone else.

Women often do not report because they feel that people will not believe them and they don’t want to be judged. This can help me in my future because I am a student in the child and youth care worker program, as someone who is studying to be a counsellor it is important to know why someone may not disclose their abuse and how to be there to support someone who is going through abuse. It is important to remain healthy so that u can provide proper support and be there for the victim in the best way possible that makes them feel they are in a safe place. Also, being empathetic and validating how hard it was for them to open up and share is important to do.

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