Making BESS Even Better

Woman looking at computer

Interval House won’t settle for the status quo, and neither will the women it serves. This month, Interval House staff will implement an extensive redesign of the BESS program to ensure that no woman is falling through the gaps.

The new program relies on information gathered from a special report entitled, “Barriers to Employability and Employment for Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence.” The report is based on interviews with past participants in the BESS program, along with input from other community agencies who serve domestic violence survivors. The study concludes that programs designed to assist abused women with their search for employment must take a holistic, wrap-around approach that recognizes the barriers these women face. It also recognizes how women’s needs change at different stages of recovery and healing.

The new BESS program being introduced this fall will:

  • Help reduce barriers that women face as a result of the abuse they endured
  • Ensure women can access our services no matter what stage they’re at in their healing
  • Support women in creating and executing action plans for their self-identified goals
  • Offer standalone workshops covering a variety of topics, on a schedule that better accommodates women’s diverse needs
  • Respond to the need for longer-term counselling through individual and group counselling
  • Open doors for women who are looking for work; and help women achieve their career dreams.

Intimate partner violence is about power and control. As a result, many survivors have lived with isolation, immigration issues, lack of education—and a variety of other conditions that were imposed on them by their partners. The revamped BESS program will address the conditions that tend to negatively affect abused women when they begin looking for work to support themselves and their children. The new BESS program will take aim at knocking down those particular barriers because that’s what gives survivors a fighting chance to get on the path to healing and independence.

Testimonial #1(BESS Graduate)

“I was living in an apartment with five roommates. I had been out of work for six months and wasn’t getting any interviews for retail jobs. I came to the program after fleeing an abusive relationship and unsure of how to stand on my own two feet. My experience with the BESS program was life changing. It gave me a support system and a place where I could explore my employment options and learn more about the job market and myself. I learned how to write an effective resume as well as interview skills so that I could land my dream job at a non-profit organization using my facilitating and computer skills. If BESS did not exist, I would probably be on social assistance and stumbling through life unsure of how to reach my goals. I am now living on my own in a safe neighbourhood—it’s a place that I never imagined possible three months ago.”-- BESS Graduate

Testimonial #2 (BESS graduate)

“My dearest family and friends did not know what I was going through because I became a pro at being invisible. The emotional and psychological abuse left me hopeless, like a body with no soul. I didn't want to live. I didn't want to face anyone or talk to anyone, so I isolated myself.. I went into the [BESS] program thinking like a victim and feeling sorry for myself. I came out of the program thinking like a survivor and proud of my accomplishments. Although I am shunned from my community and certain family members do not wish to speak me, I am thankful that I am not in a dangerous situation. I am applying for jobs now and I know I am worth something, I'm not stupid, and I am far from being alone. – Pamila, BESS Graduate

Testimonial #3 (Donor)

“I’ve been an Interval House donor for many years and have always trusted them to get good value for my money. I’m impressed with the BESS program – it’s truly unique among Toronto shelters. It breaks the cycle of abuse by giving women the tools and opportunities they need so they can really manage on their own. Of course, the proof is in the extraordinary success BESS graduates experience, relative to other employment programs.” -- Sandra, Toronto, Interval House donor