STC was a 'lifeline' for escaping domestic violence, says organization

Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, says rural areas have higher rates of domestic violence and services for the abused are largely located in distant cities. That means a service like the STC was essential, she says.

Loss of bus service puts those facing domestic abuse in rural Saskatchewan at risk, says PATHS

Jo-Anne Dusel says the STC provided an essential service to people facing domestic violence in rural and remote areas. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

Lorna Standingready remembers a time when she lived through domestic abuse, and how she and her four children walked down a highway to escape when she didn't have access to a bus ticket.

Standingready said she stopped a vehicle which was driven by a social worker, looking for help.

"I asked him for a ride and he said no," she recalled as she spoke to CBC from Hearts in the Park on Wednesday. "He didn't want to get involved."

And with the Saskatchewan Transportation Company shut down, women in situations like Standingready's — those who face domestic violence in rural areas — are at greater risk, says the executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, whose member agencies run shelters and support centres across the province.

Lorna Standingready said cutting the STC is akin to cutting the throat of those attempting to escape domestic violence. (Joelle Seal/CBC)
Saskatchewan's rate of domestic violence is the highest in the country, and Jo-Anne Dusel says rural areas have higher rates of such violence. Services for victims are also largely located in cities, she said.

For families which have only one vehicle or no vehicle, a service like STC was essential, Dusel said.

"Very often, it's necessary to put some physical distance between yourself and your abuser in order to feel safe," Dusel said.

She worked in a shelter in Moose Jaw, Sask., for 20 years, and said many of the clients who went there arrived by bus from all across the province.

In some cases, police might provide a ride but more often than not, social services would arrange a plan and provide a bus ticket. 

Even when STC — which was shut down May 31 — was around, there were still places where there was no bus for days.

To offset the loss of STC, Dusel said she hopes the province considers providing more funding to shelters. 

"It's a lifeline," Dusel said.

Standingready said she's glad there are people willing to help others now, and there are means available to help those trying to escape.

"But in my day, there was no help. The Saskatchewan Transportation Company … has shut its door and it's so heartless, because there's women out there who can stand up for themselves and have the means to take the bus," Standingready said.

"With that gone, you might as well cut their throat and end their life, because it's going to happen if we don't have our access to transportation."

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition