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Warriors of Wellness - Envisioning a future with endless possibilities

Did you know, one in four women in Saskatchewan is abused? Many of abusive situations begin with emotional abuse and eventually lead to physical abuse. Envision was born in order to avoid, or at least minimize, these potentially harmful situations.
Eighty per cent of people who seek out Envision's services do so because they are being emotionally abused. "One of the girls in group [counselling] said it so clearly, 'physical [abuse] can leave scars on your body, but the emotional [abuse] can leave scars on your heart,'" says Patt Lenover-Adams. "This is so true."

Did you know, one in four women in Saskatchewan is abused?

Many of abusive situations begin with emotional abuse and eventually lead to physical abuse. Envision was born in order to avoid, or at least minimize, these potentially harmful situations.

Incorporated in 1994 as the "Intervention to Violence" program, the name was changed to Envision four years ago, in order to reflect the new programs it grew to offer since its inception - all of which are free to those in need.

"We started with three employees and we now have 24," says Envision's Executive Director Patt Lenover-Adams. "We have grown quite a bit in the 17 years we have been in existence. It was changed to Envision because we envisioned the future and the possibilities, and we've also expanded our programming."

"Eighty per cent of the clients who see us for abuse are in an emotionally abusive relationship," she continues, "not a physically abusive relationship. A lot of people, when it said 'violence intervention' thought they needed to get hit to get help. But, we want to get to those people before they start to get hit. This is why we changed the name."

At the same time as the program name changed, a needs assessment was conducted to determine how Envision could better assist the communities which it served. They found people living in Estevan and Weyburn - communities which have Envision offices - were knowledgeable about the program, but as they travelled into the outlaying rural communities, people's knowledge became less and less.

Envision, therefore, put together a binder filled with resources pertaining to the program and gave it to stakeholders within each community. This would help to ensure the information was available to those who may need it, when they need it.

"Ministers, doctors, [and] lawyers who do clinics can use it," explains Lenover-Adams. "Mental Health and Addictions [Counselling] uses it; the social workers in the schools have it, too, so they have access to information."

Once Envision put these resources within the rural communities, the number of people who requested services increased.

"Every year we are making new records every month for our client load," says Jodi, whose last name is withheld to protect her identity and that of her clients. "Since last September since we've had set outreach in the rural communities where we are offering our presentations, we have seen immediate referrals."

"We are growing in population, so we are seeing an increase in this happening," she continued, "but it's also that more people are using our services or getting the information."

Jodi is one of the counsellors at Envision. She also works half-time as an outreach worker.

"We [myself and other counsellors] meet with clients, depending on their needs but, usually weekly," Jodi explains. "The process can take up to a year. Generally, we'll try to move [the client] into a support group if it is a good fit."

"We are client-focused, so we work on whatever issues they feel are important," Jodi continues. "We have counselling homework, so they might have exercises, journalling, or books and articles they take home to read. As they progress through counselling, we may move to once every two weeks or once a month, depending on [their needs]. When they're at a place where they feel they are handling well, we usually end the counselling process."

The counselling process often lasts a full year because it takes time for a person to recover after being abused. This is also due to the fact that, by the time many women do seek help, they have already been in the abusive relationship for five or more years.

This is an improvement from when the program started in 1994, when the average was 10 years. As they continue with the outreach aspect of the program by speaking to teenagers, this number is inclined to continue decreasing.

Women who stay in an abusive relationship for a number of years require counselling to help redefine their self-worth, as often women in these situations become the person their abuser defines.

"We always say when you're in an abusive relationship, you become what the partner defines you - you're stupid, you're dumb, you're lazy, you can't make a decision; we could go on and on," says Lenover-Adams. "We work to build up their self-esteem and take them back to when they felt good about their lives, [when] they did have power, and when they had goals set for themselves. From there, they will decide about their relationships."

"We're not here to tell women to stay or to go," she continues. "We will do a risk assessment safety-wise at the beginning, and let them know we are concerned. We know, at the beginning of the [abusive] relationship, it's usually just throwing things. But then - we call it the escalating violence - after awhile if I take this coffee cup and throw it at the wall, you'll [cover yourself] and you'll stop what you're doing. But, if I do that all day long, eventually it will just go whizzing by your head and you're not going to think about it."

"So, then I have to step it up," continues Lenover-Adams, "I have to throw it and hit you. This will make you do what I want you to for another year, let's say. But then, after awhile when you get hit, you just take the hit. Then I have to start using my fists. After awhile, unfortunately you are just so beaten down, you just roll up in a ball and take the hits. So, he has to go to weapons now; he has to threaten with a gun, threaten your children or threaten to kill himself or you."

"Therefore, by the time we get to them, we have to look at safety," she says. "But, we're not there to make a decision about the relationship. We want the people that are being abused to recognize, they are worthy. We want to build up their self-esteem."

The average woman leaves seven- to 10 times before leaving for good. Envision Counsellors often work with clients who leave their partners three or four times during the course of their counselling, and as much as counsellors may want to encourage their clients - one way or another - the decision to leave must ultimately come from the woman.

"If after counselling, they are feeling better about themselves and they decide they no longer want the relationship, that decision has to come from them," Jodi explains.

But, most of the people who seek help from Envision want to keep their family together. They want to find ways to help themselves, their children and their partner, so they can live a happier life.

"Most of the women want to keep the family together, and obviously we want to support that," says Lenover-Adams. "They are looking at what help they can get, what help their children can get, and what the [abusive] partner can get."

Counsellors will work with the victim, which includes the children, and will provide advice as to where the abuser can seek help. There are programs in place for the abusers in Southeast Saskatchewan.

In addition to one-on-one counselling, Envision offers various group counselling and workshops throughout the year. These vary depending on the needs of their clients or a need Envision sees within the community. Anyone can participate in a workshop, however, there must be a history of abuse to participate in the group counselling, due to the intimate nature of the groups.

A 1-800 number was established to meet, yet another, need in the area. It receives about 500 calls every year. About 30 volunteers give their time to being available for calls made to the line.

"We love the 1-800 number because it allows people to talk to someone after hours," says Lenover-Adams. "It allows them to talk to someone non-partial. They don't have to give their name; they can basically just talk about what is going on."

The 1-800 number assists a slightly different demographic than the counselling, as more men tend to call the crisis line, as do people who just experienced a sexual assault.

"The volunteers on the line are specially-trained, and will go to the police station or hospital [with an assault victim] if it's needed," says Lenover-Adams.

Jodi's position as an outreach coordinator is something new to Envision, and is another way the program assists those in need.

She offers a wide variety of presentations covering topics including: a program overview of Envision; abuse, sexual assault; health respectful relationships; parenting; stalking; assertiveness/communication; boundaries; self-esteem; workplace harassment; marriage preparation; and healthy expressions of feelings.

Jodi speaks to high schools, professionals, service groups, organizations, church groups, parents, businesses or any group looking for information on these topics.

"The one that I do the most often is dating violence," Jodi explains. "It's geared for grade seven to 12."

She works alongside counsellors within schools, and her eventual goal is for three days with Envision to become mandatory for all grade 9 health classes. Since the subject material is quite sensitive, three days is needed to ensure the information is properly understood. By the third day, students become more comfortable with what they are learning and are more apt to ask questions or seek advice, if needed.

"We want to get to the children and to the families sooner than later," Lenover-Adams explains. "The outreach is a really important part. A lot of us would still like to believe [abuse] doesn't happen within our communities, but it does. The reason Saskatchewan matches the national statistics for abuse - one in four women are abused - is because there is [limited] access to services. Here, if you're in an abusive relationship and you're living on a farm, police response is slower. In downtown Toronto, I think the response time is 4.8 minutes. And, you just can't get that here because of our big geographical area."

"The other thing is, when you're living on a farm, no one hears [the abuse], whereas, if you're living in an apartment in Regina, someone will hear next door and hopefully call [police]. Here, who's going to hear you? And, you can't wait an hour or a half-an-hour with being beaten."

"So, we want to get out there and we want to provide information," she continued. "We want to let people know about our services."

Envision is funded primarily through the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Justice. Additional funding for the 24-Hour Support Line is provided by United Way. Donations from private groups and organizations are always gratefully accepted, as they enable Envision to move forward with additional work, and maintain the volunteer and public education programs.

Envision has offices located in Estevan and Weyburn, but its services are available to anyone in the Southeast area.

"We recognize being in a rural area complicates the situation, so we try to accommodate as best we can," explains Lenover-Adams. "We will work on counselling with clients over the phone. Some people only come in once a month because they just can't get in, but we we also do phone counselling. The one thing we can't do is go to clients."

People can also contact Envision through email, a service that has proved to work well. Last year, a man from a country located overseas contacted Envision through email because he was worried about his sister who was living in Southeast Saskatchewan. He thought she may be in an abusive relationship and may need assistance. By receiving this email, Envision was able to assist the woman.

"We are really proud of what we have done," says Lenover-Adams. "I think people are familiar with the services and we have a steadfast reputation in the community, which helps people who require our services."

Envision Counselling Centre is a free service for victims, and their supporters, of family violence, dating violence, older person abuse, adult survivors of childhood abuse, and sexual assault. Anyone who needs information can contact Envision in Estevan at 637-4004 or in Weyburn at 842-8821. People can contact the 24-Hour Abuse/Sexual Assault Support Line at 1-800-214-7083. Additional information is available on Envision's website at

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