Hiatus House at capacity, had to turn away women
'It worries me as a member of the community that we don't take domestic violence seriously'
The number of women seeking shelter from the Hiatus House has gone up, so the shelter has turned away seven women fleeing abusive relationships in the last few months.
43 women and children are being housed right now in shelter, which only has 42 beds. Thom Rolfe, the executive director said it's unusual for them to turn women away.
"Shelters such as ours only see about 15 per cent of the abused women," Rolfe said. "So we would see 300 women and 300 kids a year roughly and if that's only 15 per cent of the population, that's one of the reasons why we're full."
Women who are turned away are asked to stay in constant contact with Hiatus House, checking in every day or more often if their situation changes.
"One of the main factors that maintains violence is social isolation, so the more that it's talked about publicly and the more conversations that happen about it the less likely it is that people are going to continue that behaviour," Rolfe said.
He credits the OHL Onside program and the University of Windsor's bystander effect classes as two ways our community is taking steps to publicly talk about abuse.
"The key to really making a difference is the conversations that we have with each other about the fact that it exists, that it's not her fault, men can change and stop being violent," Rolfe said.
The Hiatus House is working with Leamington District memorial Hospital for an additional shelter in the county.
CBC spoke with a woman who was in an abusive relationship. She agreed to speak with us on the condition of anonymity. It started with verbal abuse, eventually leading to alienation from her family and then to physical violence.
She got help from Hiatus House, but says many of the resources are overused and most don't know of the services until they're in a situation where they have to get help.
"It worries me as a member of the community that we don't take domestic violence seriously and we don't provide the resources necessary for people to get access to help early on," she said. "It outrages me because the criminal justice system doesn't take it seriously and people are not penalized appropriated when they do horrific things to other people."
She says women and families need support to leave situations safely.
"Providing external resources to the Hiatus House would be helpful, providing local resources, supporting the domestic violence unit and giving them the access that they need to get the resourcing that they need to provide help to people on a day-to-day basis."