Abuse on farm hard to escape

The Manitoba government has offered up $100,000 to help employers recognize the signs of domestic abuse in their employees.

But what happens when the employer is the victim’s husband or partner?

Farm women or women in remote rural areas are unlikely to benefit, and their isolation makes them vulnerable.

“We do know statistically that domestic violence is very much underreported,” said Kim Iwasiuk, who works at the Women’s Resource Centre in Brandon.

Unreported

“There is usually 35 incidents of domestic violence before women report it and that’s not inclusive of verbal, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual abuse. That’s physical only.”

Many women stay in relationships not knowing how they will manage on their own financially. For farm women, the fear is worse. Many don’t even have a vehicle to use for escape.

“Where do they go? If they are living in rural Manitoba, there are no shelters,” said Iwasiuk.

She said while many small communities have a resource centre, the hours are nine to five and in small towns where vehicles are recognized; it’s tough for a woman to seek help anonymously.

As for many women claiming they still love their abusive partner, Iwasiuk said it’s natural. “Just from being women, we’re hopeful, we’re nurturers, so we continue to stay,” she said.

Ironically, many women stay for the sake of the children, yet this is often the worst thing to do as boys see this as an appropriate way to behave, and girls tend to seek out abusive boyfriends.

“The longer women stay, the longer they continue to stay,” said Iwasiuk.

But one thing she tries to tell her clients, the abusers don’t stop. Iwasiuk said that while some abusers might become less physically aggressive with age, the emotional abuse continues.

Iwasiuk urges victims to “tell somebody.”

Ask for help from friends, family, clergy, health centres or anyone who might help escape an abusive situation.

Iwasiuk appreciates the magnitude of the decision for the victim. She said she is never surprised but always sorrowful when she hears about situations ending in murder, especially in rural situations. Right now the Women’s Resource Centre is featuring a display remembering women of the community who fell victim to extreme abuse.

Iwasiuk thinks interventions that remove the woman from the isolation of the abuse works best, but likely it won’t happen until the woman asks for help.

Children are victims

She encourages women to realize that their children are victims of the abuse even if the abuser never touches them.

Iwasiuk offered clues to whether someone you know is being abused.

In the workplace, frequent lateness and absenteeism are both “red flags.” Extreme fatigue, aches and pains, lack of money or lack of lunches, and rushing out of work at the end of the day are all signs that something isn’t right.

There are lots of resource centres and a couple of shelters in Winnipeg, but shelters across the province are scarce. By their very nature they are not easily found. But there are resources in communities like Selkirk, Thompson, the Eastman area, Portage la Prairie, the Norman Region, Parklands and Swan Valley.

Paulette Fortier, acting director for family violence prevention program for the province said the new information for employers is targeted to be available by spring.

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