In 1995, after learning that spousal abuse was a significant problem in our society; five women in Vancouver decided to meet every month over a cup of coffee to discuss this concern. They wanted to form a Christian society to assist victims and their children. These women from varying walks of life: a librarian, a counselor, a homemaker, a retired nurse and a banker – became the founding members of Our Lady of Good Counsel Society. Under the auspices of the Catholic Women’s League in Vancouver, Our Lady of Good Counsel Society became a reality. The first chairperson was the librarian, who had done a lot of the groundwork – researching statistics and acquiring resource books from transition societies; she also prepared all the official paperwork that was needed. Some years later, it came to light that she was a victim of domestic abuse and had to leave the country to find safety. The next chairperson was very knowledgeable, ran a group home for special needs children and knew a great deal about violence and abuse. Fr. Craig Scott, as Spiritual Advisor, was a wise guide and his constant theme was safety; safety for the victims and their children and safety for the volunteers. His experience as a former police officer was a great asset.
Others joined the steering committee as an expansion was made in 1996 to include telephone operators, educators, public relations personnel, regional resource workers, safe home operators and a team of priests who supported the society’s vision and could counsel the victims.
In order to have the Society name reflect more clearly its mission, a motion was passed at the 2004 Annual General Meeting to change the name of the Society to Domestic Abuse Services – Our Lady of Good Counsel Society. In 2004, an office was established within St. Patrick’s Parish and a part-time secretary was hired to run the office. The next year, a website was developed to further communicate the mission of the Society: www.domesticabuseservices.ca. In May 2012 office was moved to Surrey where we can provide better service to our clients and board members. In 2013 WOW (Women of Worth) support group was also formed to provide women that have or are currently experiencing domestic abuse help in developing self confidence, safe environment for healing and education about respectful relationships.
In 1996, Domestic Abuse Services began providing in-service training for board members and courses for volunteers. The volunteer training course was developed by professional counselors and social workers; all volunteers are required to take this training session before they can volunteer. The training sessions ensure that volunteer and Society Board members are equipped with the necessary skills to respond to and assist those who are experiencing domestic abuse. Trained volunteers provide direct service by means of the telephone help line, individual support, and access to spiritual, legal, financial and psychological resources. Throughout the years, the training course has evolved and new resources and technology have been implemented into the program.
Society has a very active Education Committee which operates the volunteer training program described above. Along with the Direct Services Coordinator, the education department provides training for Regional Resource Workers who deal more directly with clients.
Since 1999, Our Lady of Good Counsel Society has been giving workshops at high schools about identifying and dealing with abusive relationships.
The Speakers’ Bureau training course, which has been running since the year 2000, ensures that volunteers have the skills and confidence to speak on domestic violence to various groups. The Speakers’ Bureau team gives presentations at parishes, school workshops and the Archdiocesan Marriage Preparation Course.
In 2001, Domestic Abuse Services was invited by the Archdiocese to address couples taking the Marriage Preparation Course and has continued to do so over the years.
In 1998, 1999 and 2003 Golf Tournaments were organized and were very successful. In 2000 and 2001, a concentrated fundraising drive was undertaken using an internet program called MetaSoft. This process required writing letters to all people and firms that had contributed to charities who provided services to domestic abuse victims. Although the financial results were not as impressive as anticipated, the Society did become more well-known as a result of these efforts. In 2012 Society organized a fashion show and in 2013 we had a walkathon which generated lots of funds that we used for the needs of Eva’s House.
The Society continues to solicit funds from foundations and charities. In recent years Domestic Abuse Services has been supported by several foundations including Face the World Foundation.
The Pathway to Hope, a ‘buy a brick’ fundraiser, is an ongoing fundraising program. A single brick costs $25, a family or group brick is $100. The bricks have been given as presents, in memoriam or for all kinds of occasions. This fundraiser was initially begun to provide funding to purchase a safe house for victims of abuse. The Pathway to Hope campaign continues, since funds are still required to keep the house operating and to support the residents of the house as they rebuild their lives.
As a charitable organization, DAS-OLGCS has always been dependent on the generosity of its donors. Every donation, whether large or small, makes a difference in serving the needs of domestic abuse victims. The Society is grateful to its regular contributors such as the Catholic Women’s League and the Knights of Columbus who have been faithful supporters over the years.
Helpline was formed in December 1995 to offer immediate support to victims of abuse. If you or anyone that you know is in danger and needs help please call confidentially at 604-640-7549 or 1 888 833 7733 (out of town)
In May of 2008, with the combination of the ‘brick’ money, funds received from years of fundraising efforts and a large donation received from a generous benefactor (the name of the benefactor?), Domestic Abuse Services was able to purchase a house. Eva’s House, named after our benefactor, is being used as a second-stage transition house for women and their children. The house is located in the Lower Mainland and has four independent units: two three-bedroom suites, one two-bedroom suite and a one-bedroom suite. The Society provides the residents with a safe home environment to heal, to learn, to be independent and to break the cycle of violence in their lives.
WOW (Women of Worth) support group
In 2013 WOW support group started with a 10 week program at the office. This program is designed to provide women with the tools to build their self-esteem, education about healthy relationships and offer safe environment where they can talk about their life experiences without a fear of being judged.