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The Young brothers honour their mother

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Michael Young (Right), founder of Quadrant Capital Partners, and his brother, David Young (Left), playwright and novelist, were co-chairs for Interval House’s Capital Campaign, which raised $5,000,000 in 2004. Interval House was able to buy, rebuild and equip the facility that now houses BESS and the shelter. They dedicate their work on the campaign to their mother’s memory. Toto Young, featured in the portrait in the shelter’s dining area, was an orphan who lived through difficult times. Her story and memory continue to inspire the brothers to support Interval House.

Peace of mind for our pet owners

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We’re excited to announce the SafePet Program, in partnership with Link Toronto and the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association’s SafePet Network. This new offering will provide peace of mind to women and children at Interval House.

We know that a woman is less likely to leave an abuser if it means leaving her beloved pet behind.  We have long wanted to remove that barrier to leaving a life of violence and now we have a program that confidentially places the pets of women staying at the shelter in trusted foster homes. The SafePet Program has trained people within partner vet clinics to organize a safe and confidential way for women to deliver their pets to the vet clinic. From there, the SafePet Program places the pets in dependable foster homes until their owners are ready to move into private housing. Women and children can know their loved, furry friends are safe and spend their time at the shelter focusing on their own healing journeys.

Women can access the SafePet program through Interval House’s standard admission and assessment process.

Gillian Stewart: an inspirational donor

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Gillian Stewart is a compassionate and inspiring donor who gives out of a love for the women and children starting their lives over at Interval House.

Gillian describes her own childhood as very unusual. She knew both her parents, but was raised by her grandmother. She rarely saw her father, and her mother tragically took her own life when Gillian was just 12 years old. Gillian knows grief and confusion.

“If life deals you bad cards,” she says, “you can go negative and resentful, and never want to do something nice because people haven’t been nice to you. Or you can go the other way: you have to keep on being alive in your heart, in your soul, to know that good things must come to people.”

Gillian cares deeply about the women and children at Interval House. To show her support, she started out giving small amounts a few times a year, whatever she could manage. Last year, she decided to become a monthly donor, so the families at Interval House could count on her regular, ongoing support.

Gillian summarizes the vision and heart of Interval House in one wise statement: “When a woman walks through your doors, those first steps back to self-respect are the footprints paving the way for the future that lies ahead.”

Donors like Gillian make it possible for us to help women rediscover their dignity and self-confidence as they work toward a better future for themselves and their children. We’re so grateful to Gillian and all donors who give so generously.

Helping kids be kids

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Fred Shayo-Mushi has an incredible job: he teaches kids to play and laugh again.

Fred co-facilitates the Children’s Group at Interval House. In deliberate and subtle ways, Fred uses play-based counselling with the children living here with their moms. His creative approach helps them express what they’ve experienced and what brought them to Interval House.

Fred is a fun-loving support for these kids. His sense of humour and ease make them feel safe and free to have fun.

“Through the activities, through play and interactions, you start to see a little bit of the kid coming out,” Fred says.

Fred also models positive relationships between differently gendered people, something many of the kids at Interval House have little experience with. He does this by working cooperatively with his co-facilitator in groups and by demonstrating respectful interactions with the mothers of the kids he works with. He also helps kids practice empathy by helping them care for the pet fish in the Children’s Program room.

Fred takes the children on all kinds of adventures. They explore local parks and trails, visit zoos and farms, and in the winter they go skating. “I’m not a good skater,” Fred admits, “so I provide a lot of humour.”

On the weekends, the mothers join the fun. Fred helps them build confidence and re-establish their relationships with their children. He helps them feel self-assured in their new lives. “Often it is the simplest thing, like how to use the subway system. It’s about giving people freedom to explore and spend quality time outside together.”

Fred is an invaluable support for children and their mothers as they transform their lives and break the cycle of violence.

stop sign

The Link Between Misogyny and Murder

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There is a direct link between mass murders and misogyny. We write about it all the time when we hear of gun violence in the United States. The link is hard to ignore when you consider that a grand majority of mass murderers are men and most mass shooters in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016 had a history of domestic violence, according to the gun safety advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety. The link is undeniable when men explicitly blame women and feminism for their violence, as Alek Minassian did on social media prior to his violent rampage in North Toronto on Monday.

It’s only been a few days since the horrific event, when Minassian plowed through a busy pedestrian sidewalk, wreaking havoc on a beautiful spring day. And there is still so much we don’t know. But we do know that Minassian killed 10 innocent people and injured 15 others — most of whom were women. And just moments before he committed this heinous crime, Facebook confirms he posted on the social network about an “incel rebellion,” referring to Elliott Rodger, a man who went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California in 2014, just after posting a video online about being motivated to kill by his hatred of women. Incel, by the way, means involuntarily celibate. It’s a term adopted by men who feel spurned and blame women for not giving them the sexual attention they feel they deserve and any other problems they may identify in their lives.

With the details around Monday’s massacre still so murky, one thing is very clear. Misogyny kills. Toxic masculinity leads men to horrific acts of violence. It’s not just one, isolated incident that leads to this conclusion. Time and again, we see a common thread between men who kill — they hold extremely patriarchal beliefs, they have a strong sense of entitlement, especially when it comes to women, and they blame women for their misfortune in life.

Upon learning of the potential motives of Minassian, it was impossible not to recall the massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989 when Twenty-five-year-old Marc Lépine specifically targeted female students, killing 14. He said he was fighting feminism for ruining his life. In a society that socializes men to refrain from addressing their emotions in healthy ways, outward acts of aggression occur instead. And while we may not see the same number of mass murders here in Canada that our friends south of the border do (thank you gun control), there is nevertheless a trail of destruction behind men who have internalized toxic beliefs.

Every 6 days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner in Canada. That means that so far this year, approximately 20 women have died as a result of just one form of violence against women. We need to look at violence against women holistically. Detaching events like Monday’s van attack from intimate partner violence and other forms of gender-based violence makes it impossible to examine the big picture and the many intersecting ways that sexism puts women’s lives at risk every day. Violence against women is an epidemic and it’s completely unacceptable.

In response to the Alek Minassian story and in trying to make sense of the tragedy, there has been mention of mental illness as a possible cause. And while it’s important to assess mental health when a violent crime is committed, it’s also important to recognize that mental illness is not generally the motive for an attack. Mental illness is a broad term that refers to a spectrum of disorders, so you can’t simply point to mental health as a cause of violence. Furthermore, studies show that women actually experience mental illness at rates 20%-40% higher than men. So if that’s the case, why aren’t mass killers predominantly women, not men?

Rather than looking high and low for ways to explain senseless murders committed by men, perhaps the media, law enforcement, and politicians should acknowledge what’s right before them. Worldwide, toxic masculinity leads to violence against women in many different forms. There is a range of ways that misogyny and its sense of entitlement results in the psychological destruction and the deaths of far too many women: from street harassment to intimate partner violence to ‘apparently random’ mass murder. The sooner we open our eyes to the connection between toxic masculinity and murder (whether it’s mass murder or not), the sooner we will be able to start finding ways to prevent violence motivated by misogyny.

45 Years & Volunteers!

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This is a very momentous time for Interval House. Not only is it the middle of National Volunteer Week, it is also our Birthday month! Perhaps you’ve seen our posters up in the TTC this month, marking our 45th. How appropriate it is for these two occasions to collide, considering the important role volunteering has played in Interval House’s history.

In 1973, Interval House was founded by a group of determined feminists who saw a gap in services available to women and set forth to fill that gap. They started out as a collective, volunteering their time to open the first centre for women survivors of partner abuse and their children. Initially a drop-in centre, Interval House soon became a full-service shelter when the founders realized many women did not want to go home to their abusive partners at the end of the day. Programs and services were then designed specifically to help survivors of intimate partner violence get back on their feet and forge ahead into a future free from abuse for themselves and their children. If it weren’t for the giving spirit of these impassioned volunteers, Interval House would not exist today.

Over the years, Interval House has helped more than 3,000 families rebuild their lives. Through counselling, workshops, group activities, family outings, job training, life skills training, housing and resettlement services and so much more, Interval House continues to be dedicated to guiding women and children into brighter days. Because sadly, intimate partner violence is still a problem that so many women face — part of a complex system of gender-based violence that feminists and allies in the quest for gender equity continue to untangle today.

What also continues today is the important role volunteers play in carrying out our important mission. We are so grateful for those that give of their time to make a difference to so many women and children — those who keep our boutiques neat and up-to-date so that women can pick out casual and professional clothing options as they’re establishing a new normal; the amazing corporate groups that come in and cook meals for the families, giving the women a night off; the generous supporters  that raise money for our programs with third party events; the groups that come in to decorate and brighten the space for the holidays; the families and companies that run drives to collect items like toiletries and diapers that we always need in the shelter; the cheerful folks that help out at our events for residents and clients, bringing so much energy with them; and of course, the Board of Directors, always working hard to keep Interval House on track so that we’re keeping up with the needs of those we serve.

Yes, volunteers are part of the very fabric of Interval House and we wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them. Our work is bolstered by those that stand behind us and show that ending the cycle of violence against women is important to them too. We hope you, like our volunteers, will help us make a wish as we blow out our birthday candles this month. That wish is to put an end to intimate partner violence. For good!

Interval House & Link Toronto are Partners in Pet Safety

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After several months of careful planning, Interval House is excited to announce our partnership with Link Toronto’s SafePet program. This program will match women survivors of abuse seeking emergency shelter with foster homes for their beloved pets for the duration of their stay at the shelter.

When women and children decide to flee to a shelter, we know that the concern for their family pets is often a major factor in the decision to leave an abusive partner. Often, an abuser will threaten the animal’s life as a form of control. Knowing that she can’t bring her pet to a shelter, a woman may decide to stay with her abuser if she believes leaving could harm her animal in any way.

In an effort to remove this major barrier to seeking safety, the SafePet program was started. Now a woman can bring a pet to SafePet partner veterinarians, who will ensure the animal is well taken care of in approved foster homes. Then she can safely make her way to an emergency shelter, with peace of mind in knowing her pets will be happy, healthy, safe, and loved for as long as it takes for her to get back on her feet.

The SafePet program was designed with the safety and anonymity of survivors in mind. Survivors can access the program as part of Interval House’s regular admission and assessment process. Partner veterinarians and foster caregivers are also kept confidential, to prevent abusers tracking down their pets and/or victims.

We are proud to provide this service to women and children fleeing abuse. Survivors can focus on healing and regaining their independence with their pets housed and fed away from any possibility of abuse. The SafePet program gives Interval House the opportunity to help even more families — women, children, and now, their pets!

Nourishing Women in Need

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For Pam Pridham, food is more than just fuel. The owner of Toronto’s DISH café and cooking studio fervently believes food is love, sharing, giving, conversation and nourishment for both body and soul.

That’s why Pam started a program at DISH called Pay It Forward. Corporate groups come to DISH and work together to make delicious meals that are then delivered to the families at Interval House, giving the women a much appreciated night off from cooking.

“I love feeding people,” Pam says. “It’s important with my family, it’s important with my friends. I love the opportunity to nurture people in need.”

Pam still remembers the first time she delivered a meal to Interval House. “I get goose bumps just thinking about it!” she says. “It was just so exciting to know I was helping these women and their families. What Interval House does for women is just remarkable.”

Even though she’s a busy businesswoman, Pam always finds time to deliver the food herself. “I want to be there. I want to see the women’s faces. And I love seeing the employees at Interval House. It’s not an easy job and I think everyone should be appreciative of what they do.”

Pam believes everyone should do whatever they can to give back. “Giving is a wonderful thing. Whether it’s financially or a donation of time, you’ll receive so much warmth and love in return.”

Thank you so much for giving to Interval House. Your support gives sustenance to women survivors of intimate partner violence and their children.

Healing Through Art

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Many women come to Interval House so wounded and traumatized they can’t even describe it. They’re not ready or able to talk about their experiences. They don’t want to relive their trauma by recounting it to a counsellor. Sometimes, they’ve been living with abuse for so long they don’t even completely recognize it.

That’s where Brittney comes in. She’s a Women’s Counsellor/Advocate at Interval House, and she specializes in art therapy. Part of her job is to harness the power of art to give survivors of intimate partner violence the opportunity to heal.

“At some point, most of the women who come to us have felt numb, angry, defeated, or like they’ve lost hope,” Brittney says. “And it’s hard for them to put that into words. Art gives them the chance to express their feelings before they are able to articulate them. When women don’t have the words, they are able to express themselves through art way more than if we were to just talk in a counselling session.”

Brittney describes one example of art therapy she’s found incredibly successful. “We ask the women to draw their faces, divided in half. One half is how they feel and the other half is what they’re expressing to the world. Or it could be their past and their future. It’s incredibly insightful for us counsellors. It’s like a window into feelings they haven’t been able to tell us in words.”

Art also transcends cultural, language and socioeconomic barriers. It gives every woman a voice and a way to express how she is feeling on the inside.

In Brittney’s experience, art therapy is one of the most effective ways to help women heal from their trauma. “Once they’ve put their feelings out there through art, then the words come,” she says. “It’s a huge part of self-care; a release of the emotions they’re feeling on the inside. Once you start to peel back the onion and let go of the trauma and stress, you become more healthy as an individual and can see things more clearly.”

Your gifts help support the art therapy program that is giving an alternative form of expression and healing to women survivors of abuse. Thank you!

The Greens’ Full Circle Support of Interval House

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It is with great appreciation that we announce a most generous gift to Interval House, made by three Toronto sisters: Karen, Donna and Lindy Green. Their combined contribution serves to retire the remaining mortgage held by Interval House, freeing more of our resources to provide essential programming for women survivors of intimate partner violence, and their children.

This recent donation continues the Greens’ legacy with Interval House. Supporting women’s issues is of particular importance for the sisters and their children. As well, the family supported the 2003 Capital Campaign, helping us to purchase the current shelter, providing a home for up to 30 women and children at a time. Their generosity has touched many lives and helped families heal, grow, and live free of violence.

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