MEDICINE HAT, AB — Males in Medicine Hat who are impacted by family violence will soon have a safe place to go and seek help and support.
During the annual general meeting of the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society on Wednesday, executive director Natasha Carvalho announced that the Phoenix Safe House emergency shelter will be accepting male clients starting on October 1st.
“It’s pretty big news for us, it’s a pretty big paradigm shift,” said Carvalho. “We recognize that there is a need out there, and we wanted to work towards being able to offer services to all victims of family violence.”
Discussions about accepting male victims into the shelter began four years ago, said Carvalho, when they launched the Safe Families Intervention Team partnership with the Medicine Hat Police Service.
“We wanted to be able to work with the whole family, and we started to recognize that we wanted to think about family violence in a different way,” Carvalho said. “We started offering services for people who wanted to change their behaviours.”
While doing this, the shelter recognized that there were more male victims of family violence coming out to access their services, such as the Ridge Outreach centre. According to the shelter, seven per cent of their outreach clients in 2017 were men.
“Family violence is still predominately a female issue, it’s still a power and control issue, but we recognize that there are men out there who need those supports,” Carvalho said. “We recognize that there are men out there who are victims of family violence, and I think sometimes people need to shift their way of thinking. It might not be physical violence, but there’s emotional, there’s financial, there’s other ways of abuse. Those are the men who are hurting, and there’s been males with children who need their support.”
Staff visited Brooks and Strathmore, which also have emergency shelters accepting men, to determine changes they would need to make to Phoenix Safe House to accommodate males. Carvalho says discussions will be held with clients as well to ensure they’re comfortable with men in the same space, and notes the program will be monitored to see how it’s working.
Carvalho says it’s important that all victims of family violence have support.
“I think there’s a lot of societal stereotypes and stigma that men have to suck it up and deal, or ‘how could that be happening to you?’” Carvalho said. “They don’t want to admit that, but I think offering the services at the Ridge in the past couple of years has made us realize men are coming out and saying ‘I need the help, I need the support.’
If you or someone you know is in need of support for a family violence situation, the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society Help Line is available at 403-529-1091 or toll-free at 1-800-661-7949.
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