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SAIF's work is never done

For 30 years, Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) has been serving to help people who have been facing abuse and violence with their domestic partners and family members. Its work is undoubtedly valuable. Its work is also never-ending.

STATS

- 67% of Canadians report having experienced some form of domestic abuse

- An estimated 362,000 children experience or witness family violence in Canada every year

- The highest rate of dating violence is reported among women aged 15 to 24

- SAIF has been in operation since 1989

- Approximately 60 per cent of SAIF's clients come from St. Albert with the rest from surrounding areas, excluding Edmonton

- Its annual operating budget is approximately $500,000 with only 27 per cent of that funding coming from the City of St. Albert. With this, it is able to offer support to approximately 500 families, offers 35 to 50 presentations to school and youth groups (ages 10-18) to educate between 700 to 1,000 young people on bullying (including cyber bullying), healthy dating and healthy relationships, during a year.

- SAIF provides more than 3,000 free hours of counseling annually

- SAIF expects it will easily exceed 500 phone consults and intakes altogether by the end of the year

Courtesy of St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families

For 30 years, Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) has been serving to help people who have been facing abuse and violence with their domestic partners and family members. It does this through a wide variety of free programming including professional counselling and educational presentations.

Its work is undoubtedly valuable. Its work is also never-ending.

“There's definitely an increase in need,” explained executive director Areni Kelleppan.

“The way we're currently running, we're going to easily exceed 500 phone consults and intakes combined by the end of the year.”

SAIF constantly works toward the goal of establishing a community completely free of domestic violence and abuse. It offers individual and group counselling sessions for adults and youths. It’s also working toward establishing a pilot project of counselling for children. It also counsels the perpetrators of the abuse, too, and for very good reasons.

You can't counsel just those who have experienced abuse, she explained. The abusers need help too.

“A lot of people who have experienced abuse are ones that become abusers. You either become a victim or you become an abuser. It's how you translate that experience into your own life. There are people who take that and don't know how to manage or self-regulate and what they saw is how they conduct themselves,” she continued.

“To us, all of our counselling and all of our programs, education and advocacy are all around how do we break those cycles. If you can do it in one generation, the next generation then gets the benefit of that. That's the goal and mission of SAIF: it doesn't matter if you’re man or woman, trans, non-binary, whatever. If you want to come and work on something, we're willing to help you get past that.”

Kelleppan elaborated that the work SAIF does is very different from that of a shelter. Shelters are crisis organizations, she said, because they work during emergency situations when people are fleeing violence, often with their children. These are people who need help in dire situations with few if any other options. Shelters are necessary in those times.

But that’s not what SAIF does.

“You have to choose to leave in order to access those services. The statistics prove that the most dangerous time for a person is when they choose to leave. That's when they get killed, strangled or beaten to a point that's very extreme that hospitalizes them,” she continued, noting that the average number of times an Alberta woman attempts to leave an abusive relationship before she is successful is between 9 and 13 tries. Frequently, they return to the relationship for various reasons.

“I say that's 9 to 13 chances for her to get killed.”

Men, she explicated, don’t leave abusive relationships in the vast majority of cases. Abuse is always about power and control, and that can be done through psychological, emotional, or financial methods. All victims need counselling and that’s not something you will find at a shelter.

“I like to say for those who are fleeing, there are shelters. For everyone else, there’s SAIF.”

If you are still in your abusive relationship, then SAIF’s counsellors can coach you on a safety plan to help you leave it by minimizing the risk that comes during that dangerous time. SAIF can help you to build boundaries and make better choices for yourself if you’ve become psychologically isolated by your abusive partner. This is why she prefers to call her organization a ‘hand up’ charity as contrasted with the ‘handout’ shelter. SAIF works to build the people up over the long run.

“I say we're a hand-up charity. The handout is absolutely necessary. For the hand-up organizations like us, if you're giving people that hand up, you're building resiliency. You're building capacity. Our mission is to break the cycles of abuse and how else do you break the cycles of abuse than working with people to break what's happening in their own lives in order to break why they're being abused or why they abused?”


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.
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