[ Centre Victoria pour femmes in Sudbury is an agency of the Ministry of Community and Social Services which provides services to francophone women victims of family violence.

The Ministry of Community and Social Services provides $136 million annually to support programs throughout Ontario that help reduce domestic violence. ]

Gaëtane Pharand, Founder and Executive Director, Le Centre Victoria pour femmes: We have a key phrase that we’ve been using since the beginning: “Supporting Francophone women in the fight against violence.”

We really wanted to recognize the fact that we’re committed to offering services in French.

It was fundamental to us as an organization.

Initially, when we began in Sudbury, the idea was to offer services regarding sexual assault for women who suffered a form of sexual abuse. That was our primary mandate. But we rapidly grew to include all forms of violence; all types — other than shelter — to offer all other types of supports.

So we greet women, validate their experience through individual intervention, analyzing their reality and their needs. And from that, we identy their primary need.

What we advertise is: “For all women 16 years and older”, but we meet with very young women, up to — we’ve had women over 75.

It’s clear that women living in violent conditions will go through, on average, 35 violent incidents before deciding to leave the situation.

[ In 2008-09, Centre Victoria pour femmes received more than a quarter million dollars from the Ministry of Community and Social Services in base funding for the crisis line service, FEM-AIDE. ]

Receptionist: Hello, FEM-AIDE!

Gaëtane Pharand: For us, the Helpline is the gateway. It’s a provincial service.

So there’s one number: 1-877-FEM-AIDE.

The calls come through that line and are redirected in the three regions of the province based on area codes.

We really want this helpline to become the primary way people access the services.

If it’s not a woman who urgently needs shelter, it’s not the centre that will be able to provide for her, but we will be able to immediately direct her to local shelter in or near her community.

[ Vivian lost her mother as a young child and was raised by her father. She was sexually assaulted, physically and psychologically abused in her childhood. She was referred to Centre Victoria pour femmes and has been receiving services for the past 12 months.

Though initially she could not speak of her past abuse, today she has outgrown much of her grief. Vivian is working on her MA in Psychology and is applying for the doctorate program. ]

Vivian’s voice: “I came to the Victoria Centre for Women because my aunt referred me.

“The services I received at the centre included counselling.

“I took a self-defence course.

I also did the Impact Therapy to help me cope with mourning my mother.”

Gaëtane Pharand: We do Art Therapy, we also do Self-Defence.

It’s not only techniques, it goes beyond that.

Finding that inner strength, recognizing it and to be able to use it.

Vivian’s voice: “I developed new objectives for my life, my career.

“My goal is to get my Maters and Doctorate.

“I am more confident about how my past has affected my life.

“I can also establish my limits and I feel less guilt.

“I feel comfortable with who I am.”

Gaëtane Pharand: The transitory support is the transition between an abusive relationship to an independent, safe life with proper tools.