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This non-profit offers free support for individuals in unhealthy relationships

The Safety and Wellness in Conflictual Relationships program aims to provide information and options for people from all walks of life to empower and educate

Sometimes, the most difficult step in escaping a dangerous relationship is simply recognizing the signs. And while there is no such thing as a perfect relationship, there is a significant difference between a healthy one and an unhealthy one. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of this difference, which often leads to people staying in relationships that are toxic or abusive.

Westcoast Family Centres Society is a non-profit organization that understands the challenges faced by individuals who find themselves in these situations. Recently, the organization has implemented a free program called Safety and Wellness in Conflictual Relationships. The program provides a safe space for individuals to talk to trained family counselors — often survivors themselves — who can offer help with safety plans, access to resources and support, but most importantly, education and information.

The program is open to all women, men, non-binary and trans folks who are in relationships that are unhealthy, toxic, or potentially dangerous. The service is available to individuals of any sexuality, aged 25-55, whether they are parents or non-parents. The program is completely free, and participants are not pressured to leave their relationships or make drastic and immediate changes. Instead, the goal is to help people understand how to keep themselves safe and to access the resources they need to achieve this.

The program provides a safe space for individuals to talk to trained family counselors. Photo by iStock

“We wanted to offer some sort of program where we could reach people who are experiencing domestic violence, specifically intimate partner violence, from an educational perspective,” says Kristy, the founder of the program. “Because what we know from working with this community of people, and what I know personally, from my own experience, is that when we're in a domestic violence situation, particularly when we're in an intimate partner violence situation, we usually don't see it.”

It's about meeting the client where they are at, providing information and language around their situation, empowering them with information and support, and connecting them with the community or crisis resources that will best serve their needs, Kristy explains. The organization’s involvement is short-term; they are not crisis shelters or long-term community supports.

“We're there to give them information, support them, empower them, connect them to resources and then step out,” she says. “I'm not expecting people to go, ‘wow, I'm in a domestic violence situation,’ I want people looking at me like, ‘maybe I should go and have a look. Maybe I should get some more information. Maybe I should learn something more about this,’” she says.

Westcoast Family Centres Society has a team of trained family counselors who are available to offer one-on-one counseling support. The counselors work with each participant to create a customized safety plan that fits their unique situation. The counselors are here to help people understand their options and support them in making the best decision for their situation. The program is funded by the Canadian Women's Foundation and works with partners who can help ensure participants have access to all the resources they require. The primary goal of the program is to see more people accessing the service and reaching out for one-on-one counseling support.

A survivor herself, Kristy hopes to inspire and educate others in similar situations — even if they don’t recognize it yet themselves. “By being willing to share my story, I'm hoping to be able to reach at least a couple of people who can recognize themselves, and be like, ‘Oh, maybe I should at least go and find out some more information.’ That's what I'm hoping for.” 

The program is open to anyone who needs support, and individuals can access the service by visiting Westcoast Family Centre's website and registering for the program. Once registered, they can book a free appointment with one of the trained family counselors. The program provides a personal and supportive environment where individuals can feel safe to explore their options and develop a plan for their future.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, please visit Westcoast Family Centre's website and register for the program today.

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