"School's out" takes on new meaning for children of abused women

iStock_000032473206Large.jpg

It’s a shocking reality that as kids across Canada prepare to toss the books aside and celebrate the start of a long hot summer, thousands will be fleeing their homes with mothers who are escaping abusive relationships.

Christmas isn’t the only time of year that sees a spike in the numbers of women seeking shelter. In fact all across Canada, late spring is one of the busiest times, and Interval House is no exception.

The reason? These women — battered and abused but not broken —are putting their kids first.

According to Paula Del Cid, Administrative Services Supervisor of the Residential Program at Interval House, mothers often hang on as long as they can, leaving home at the end of the school year in order to minimize the disruption to their children's routines.

“These women put their children before themselves,” Paula says. “Sometimes moms think that if their child is finishing school it’s an easier transition for them — and they will endure the abuse until they can make it better for their child.”

At Interval House, this end-of-school-year spike in numbers means we must be prepared.

“When the kids arrive, there’s often a lot of fear,” Paula says. “It’s a new place for them. The first few weeks are the hardest. They’re not in their bed, they don’t have their toys. We explain to the child what the shelter is. We say this is a place where people are living for a while all together until mommy is able to work on some things.”

"Even being in that environment and witnessing abuse is abuse itself. When we have the older kids who do understand and who say ‘I want to come back and be a social worker one day’ or ‘I’m not going to treat my partner or kids like that’ … if we only reach one child that way then we’ve made a difference.”

Paula admits it’s tough to see so much pain and tragedy every day. But she prefers to focus on the good that comes from a stay at Interval House. Equipping and motivating the women to rebuild and reinvent themselves is a big task; watching the transformation play out in their lives is enormously rewarding.

“These are women of different languages, countries, income levels, education levels,” she says. “It’s not just low-income women who are new to the country. Unfortunately it hits everyone, it hits hard, and no one’s immune to it.”

As an organization we’re always evolving and broadening our services to reach more women.

“I’ve always been a firm believer in the phrase that when one door closes, another opens,” she explains. “When that new door opens into Interval House, I want that woman to know she’s not alone. I’d like to believe that if I were ever in need of assistance, there would be someone there for me. That’s the drive that keeps me going: passion for my career and knowing that Interval House is changing lives every day.”

“Although our name is Interval House — and the women are here for that brief interval — the impact lasts a lifetime. She will forever remember her time here. She’ll remember that someone like you gave her the opportunity to make a better life for herself, that you helped feed her children and clothe her, you provided her with the opportunity to be treated like a human.”