Pubdate: Thu, 29 Nov 2012
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Janice Abbott


Re: More Harm Than Good?, Meghan MacIver, Nov. 28.

Atira Women's Resource Society is feminist identified, works within 
an anti-oppression framework and applies harm reduction principles in 
our day-to-day practice. With the possible exception of our feminist 
identity, these principles - anti-oppression and harm reduction - are 
widely embraced in our kind of work and are not unique to Atira.

We reject the notion that the consequences of being assaulted or 
raped rests inside women's heads, to be "fixed" by professionals. We 
believe women with lived experience and women who reflect the 
diversity of the women who live with us are best suited to support 
women victims of violence. We do not refer to our women as "clients."

There is no question our training budgets have been impacted as 
funding has become stagnant. That said, we continue to offer 
quarterly all-day staff training days, most recently facilitated by 
Dr. Teresa Howell, a registered psychologist, who lectured on and 
facilitated a discussion about aboriginal women and substance use. We 
also understand we do not need to be everything to all women.

We work with many agencies and individuals who do brilliant and 
inspiring work and we refer women to these agencies and individuals 
for specialized service, if and when they ask. We are housing 
providers. We do not know everything.

The myth that Atira does not work with the police has become larger 
than life. While we work hard to balance women's rights with their 
safety, we could not do our jobs or support women to keep themselves 
safe without the support of the police. This past weekend alone I 
reviewed two critical incident reports (staff are required to 
complete these reports whenever fire, ambulance or police are called) 
in which police were called by staff to assist with unwanted guests 
in two of our Downtown Eastside buildings.

Definitely we do a needle exchange, definitely women bring their 
dates in, which is not a statement to us on sex work - it's a 
statement on safety and harm reduction."

Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women's Resource Society, Vancouver.
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