Crisis centre luncheon serves up information

FORT FRANCES—A women’s luncheon sponsored by the Atikokan Crisis Centre last week drew a small crowd but organizers are hoping to turn it into a monthly event.
“I was pleased with the turnout,” said Dorion Chambers of the ACC.
“I’m going to hold another one in March,” she added. “We’ll try to have it once a month, depending on the need.”
Just over a half-dozen people turned out for the lunch at La Place Rendez-Vous last Wednesday, most of whom were social services professionals.
Chambers said she was pleased to make contacts with other people in the field, but hopes to make the event a support group for women who have experienced violence in their lives.
Among those on hand were representatives of the Northwestern Health Unit.
“It was great. It was nice to link with other community partners,” noted Lisa Jackson, a health promoter with the health unit, which occasionally does deal with survivors of abuse or violence.
“In terms of our sexual health clinics, for instance, we do have clients who come in occasionally who have experienced violence, whether it’s presently or in the past,” noted Jackson.
“We refer [them] to outside agencies, so having that information handy is really important.
“Gender-based violence is a public health issue,” she stressed.
Jackson also had a more personal reason for attending last week’s event. “Being able to show support for the Atikokan Crisis Centre and the work that they do for our community,” she said.
The centre provides various services to women and children in Rainy River District, Chambers told those attending the luncheon.
In Atikokan, it has an emergency shelter for women fleeing a violent situation.
Although the shelter is located in Atikokan, safe and immediate transportation can be arranged for women anywhere in the district—day or night.
The ACC also operates New Horizons Second Stage Housing, a 10-unit apartment building for women—and their children—who have decided to leave an abusive partner and start fresh.
And it provides a number of support programs, including some legal information and support, one-on-one counselling, advocacy and accompaniment to various appointments, such as medical, legal, or social service, and support groups.
Centre staff also can refer clients to other agencies or services when needed.
The ACC also offers an annual Young Women’s Forum for girls aged 12-18.
“The forum promotes self-esteem, physical and spiritual well-being, encourages self-growth, and provides accurate information regarding women’s issues, in a group setting,” according to the program’s pamphlet.
“They watch movies, they do crafts,” Chambers noted.
Once a year, the group takes a trip together. Last year, they had a picnic at Quetico Park. In past years, they also have travelled to Thunder Bay.
“The young women really enjoy doing this,” Chambers said. “It supports friendship among young women.”
This program only is offered in Atikokan at this time, although Chambers said the ACC would look into offering the program in Fort Frances, as well.
One of the centre’s newer endeavours is the Child Witnessing Program—a 12-week program designed for children who have witnessed abuse in their home, and their mothers.
“The purpose of the program is to provide children with opportunity to process and understand the violence and the abuse of power and control that they have witnessed,” according to the program pamphlet.
Three sessions already have been offered in Fort Frances, and another likely will begin in the fall, noted Chambers, who helps run the program.
“There’s a very large demand for this here,” she added. “It’s going really great, and the women are doing great, too.”
Also in Fort Frances, the ACC offers a weekly women’s group at the United Native Friendship Centre, run by Shawna Griffiths.
The group does crafts and scrapbooking, but Griffiths also provides counselling and referrals when needed.
“It’s a really good program,” said Chambers. “It gets the women out and involved with something, involved with other women.”
In addition to all their programs, the ACC has a toll-free, 24-hour crisis line (1-800-465-3348) for women in crisis.
(Fort Frances Times)