Roughly 150 women and 300 children stay at the YWCA Westman Women’s Shelter to escape domestic violence every year.
Another 500 women seek out non-residential services such as counselling and other programs to deal with crisis situations.
"It’s a big issue anywhere," said YWCA Brandon executive director Karen Peto. "I don’t think that we are any different than anywhere else and it’s a problem that affects all socioeconomic groups."
On any given day in Canada, more than 3,000 women and 2,500 children are living in emergency shelters. Each year, more than 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence — that’s about 12 per cent of all violent crime in Canada, according the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
"One thing that we know, absolutely, is that domestic violence is under-reported," said Kim Iwasiuk, a domestic violence counsellor at the Women’s Resource Centre. "When we’re looking at those really big numbers, we do know that there are many, many more women who have not reported."
November is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Iwasiuk hopes to get the message out that there are ways people can take action.
"People not sitting on the sidelines, helping people … finding out what they can do to be supportive," she said. "Domestic violence is often behind closed doors. We don’t know what’s going on and yet sometimes there are little inklings … so we need to talk about it."
There are many ways people can seek help in Brandon. The YWCA offers a whole array of services for women and children including counselling and a crisis line.
"If someone needs for safety, to flee the situation, that woman and her children can stay at the shelter for a period of time," Peto said. "Try and regroup and figure out what she wants to do, whether she wants to leave the situation and if she does, what steps she might have to take."
The Women’s Resource Centre also offers counselling and resources, and has displays set up this entire month. Iwasiuk encourages women to come by.
"We really just want to open our doors and help people understand what’s going on in all communities," Iwasiuk said.
Many women stay in an abusive relationship for a long period of time and unfortunately some never leave.
"They spend their whole lives in a situation that is not too nice or ideal, or can be quite ugly," Peto said.
Iwasiuk said the bulk of the domestic violence victims are between the ages of 16 and 24.
"That just shows us that we’re not bringing enough awareness to young women," Iwasiuk said. "What’s a healthy relationship and where to go for help. So that really needs to come to the forefront around awareness … We need to be really open with them as mothers, sisters, as aunts, as teachers because that’s going to make some differences for young women."
To get help, call the domestic violence crisis line at 1-877-977-0007.