According to a recent Statistics Canada report, Manitoba had the second-highest rate of domestic violence in the country in 2011.
A survivor, Shannon Buck is dedicated to breaking the cycle of domestic violence against women in Manitoba, particularly aboriginal women. And she’s about to receive a lot of help.
On Nov. 1, MTS announced it would put $150,000 over three years into the Red Road to Healing and Traditional Teachings (RRHTT) program. Created by Buck, the program delivers culturally-based support to aboriginal women dealing with the effects of domestic violence.
In addition to counselling, women in the RRHTT program are exposed to such things as sharing circles and sweat lodge ceremonies over a 10-week time period.
"The traditional part of it is vital, because the core of who we are is the spirit," said Buck, who started the program three years ago at West Central Women’s Resource Centre, where she’s the director of programs and human resources.
"In order for us to really heal and be able to make long-lasting change for ourselves, we need to deal with those wounded parts of our spirit and we need to find ways to feed our spirit."
Buck says many of the women she helps have become disconnected from their culture.
"A lot of them have never seen or participated in ceremony, but there’s a part of us, they talk about that blood memory, there’s a part of us that knows those things," Buck said. "When it’s introduced in a respectful way and in a way that honours where that person is at, people are more open to it. They start to see the value in it. It helps them to remember who they are."
Buck will deliver RRHTT through the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre (221 Austin St. N). Christie Paul, neighbourhood resource co-ordinator at the centre, says it’s important to recognize that the domestic violence that occurs in the aboriginal community isn’t part of its tradition.
"Connecting people, women in particular, with what their traditional roles were in their First Nations communities, positions of respect and honour and in lots of cases, authority, can really be an empowering tool for women," Paul said.
The RRHTT program will be offered at North Point Douglas Women’s Centre in early 2014. Also, the money provided by MTS will also be used for a number of "train the trainer" opportunities in rural and northern Manitoba, so others can be taught how to deliver the program.
"This particular program is a little different than things we’ve done in the past to be sure, but it fits with what we want to do, which is to support work at the community level," said MTS President Kelvin Shepherd.
"This is about sponsoring people who are going to do real work on the ground with real people who have issues, which will hopefully result in real and sustainable improvements."
Improvement is the key according to Buck, as the effects of domestic violence can’t be totally eliminated.
"It’s not the cure-all, because healing is a lifelong journey, but it gets people on that path," Buck said. "I’ve seen some pretty incredible things happen in the lives of women that take that first step and keep walking. That’s what it’s all about."