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Domestic violence support group reveals "it's complicated"

New 10-week group for women in unsafe relationships to provide non-judgmental support

It is the pesky pebble in your shoe that bites with every step, but no one else can see the pain wearing slowly away at your sole.

Not a perfect metaphor, but Lisa Riley, an outreach worker with the Jessica Martel Foundation, said experiencing domestic violence is similar to having a pebble stuck in your shoe – the invisible pain.

That pain can become less of an invisible affliction with the kickoff of a new support group for women to talk about healthy relationships in a safe environment.

“You are not alone, and there's help out there,” said Riley about what she hopes women’s main takeaway from the group is.

The 10-week support group, called “It’s Complicated,” is being offered through a partnership between the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation and Stop Abuse in Families, with the first meeting set for Thursday evening in Redwater. It is being offered thanks to a $17,000 grant from the province’s Family and Community Safety Program.

Riley said the support group will provide a peer-support situation in which women can connect over some of their similar experiences.

“We're totally non-judgmental; we're there to support the ladies and there's strict confidentiality agreements they have to sign,” she said. The group will have information on whatever services and support the women need readily available, including counselling services and financial support.

Some women may not even recognize what a healthy relationship looks like, Riley said, if they have grown up in an abusive household. The group will help women recognize what they are missing from their relationships and support them wherever they are at in their journey.

Misconceptions around domestic violence will also be a feature of the group, and specifically hitting on the question, ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’

“First of all, it's not that easy. Sometimes they don't have financial means,” Riley said. “They're scared they're going to lose their children. They might be moving out of a community where they have social support.”

The foundation tried holding a similar session last fall in Gibbons, but Riley said after eight ladies signed up only two showed up. Learning from the experience, she said there is a possibility of providing childcare and gas cards.

Currently, six women are signed up, and Riley said there is space for six more. Prospective attendees must sign up ahead of time and go through screening with Riley, which can be done by calling 587-879-6125.

“It's very hard to talk about because you do get judged and this is so complex; unless you've been in something similar, it's so difficult to understand,” Riley said. “And it's very subtle – a lot of the abuse is very subtle ... and it wears on you.”

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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