Activity: Start a volunteer position
Where: At a women’s centre in Hamilton (I’m going to keep the exact one confidential)
Cost: FREE! Just my time 🙂
The Story: The United Nations defines violence against women as: “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Volunteering with women has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but have never been able to make time for in the past. I volunteered with the organization Ten Thousand Villages in my university days (which paired nicely with my global studies courses), but still every time I drove by signs asking for domestic violence hotline operators, I felt a strong pull to call and take action – I just never did it. I don’t know what stopped me, or why I didn’t follow through before, but I finally decided (before this blog was even on my radar actually) that I wanted to make time for this very important responsibility back in February when things first fell apart with my ex-husband.
My ex’s Mom had been very involved with a Halton-based women’s shelter in her youth and while he was growing up, and it’s something I respected about her so much when he would tell me stories about her crusades for women’s rights. If I’m being honest, when the idea of volunteering first came to me earlier this year it was because I wanted to win back my husband and “prove” to him that I was the kind of woman he wanted to be married to, but I’ve since realized that it is actually a deep-seeded passion within me to help women that has led me to this amazing volunteer opportunity about 8 months later. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that when I first applied they had just closed applications for their winter training program, and that I needed to wait until the Fall for their current training sessions to get started – it was the time I needed to realize that I am doing this for ME and not for him. As always, I am so grateful to the universe for keeping me on the right path, and bringing me opportunities when it sees I am ready for them 🙂
So flash forward to a few weeks ago when I receive the call for the Centre and am offered an interview to see if I’m a good candidate for their volunteer program. I initially thought I’d be volunteering doing administration work – answering phones, booking appointments, filing, etc., but I found out at the interview that I’d actually been selected for their Peer and Court Support program. I was (and still am!) very intimidated at the prospect of doing something so outside my wheelhouse, but when I heard back that I had been accepted for the training program, excitement about becoming involved in such a worthwhile cause took over any nerves I might have had.
I won’t get into anymore specifics due to confidentiality, but I will say that my 10 week training program started this past week, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to help women in my community. These statistics are so incredibly alarming to me that they have made me realize what kind of need for volunteers and CHANGE there really is:
- 25 % of all violent crimes reported to police involve family violence.
- 70% of the victims of police-reported family violence are girls or women.
- Police-reported rates of intimate partner violence are highest among women 25 to 34 years of age.
- 25% of all police-reported violence against children and youth are committed by a family member, with girls four times more likely than boys to be victims of sexual assault or other sexual offences by a family member.
- 65% of spouses accused of homicide had a history of family violence involving the victim. This was most often the case when the spousal victim was estranged from their partner, including those divorced and separated.
The Verdict: I have no doubt that this ongoing volunteer position (I committed to a minimum year’s service) will become a huge part of my life, and a huge part of my continued evolution as a woman. I am so thankful that I am able to come away from my marriage independently able to pay bills, make my own choices, and work doing something I love, and that makes it all the more real to me that there are hundreds of thousands of women around the world that cannot do the same. We can only continue to work towards change together, and I hope that reading this ignites a small flame within you to put yourself out there and get involved.