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Making connections

We often hear about extreme cases of domestic violence in the news. Most recently, there was a homicide in Richmond where it was reported that “the death appears to be a case of domestic violence”.

We often hear about extreme cases of domestic violence in the news.  Most recently, there was a homicide in Richmond where it was reported that “the death appears to be a case of domestic violence”.  While these widely publicized events are tragic, there are many other cases of domestic violence that go unreported or even unnoticed.  Incidents of violence or abuse can happen once or many times during a relationship and after the relationship ends.


Most people associate domestic violence with physical abuse between intimate partners.  However, domestic violence also includes emotional abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, financial abuse, threats of abuse, harassment and/or spiritual abuse.  The abuse is used as a weapon of control and intimidation by an intimate partner.  Living with violence can leave physical as well as emotional bruises and scars.  While the physical wounds can heal, the emotional ones are much longer lasting. 


Victims of domestic violence may experience a wide range of emotions.  These may include shame, fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, depression, isolation, grief and others.  A sense of violation, betrayal, powerlessness and loss of trust are experienced by many victims.  Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem are also very common.  Continued exposure to abuse and living in a state of anxiety and fear significantly impacts women’s mental health.


Emotional distress can have other ill effects such as stomach aches, headaches, sleep disturbances or eating problems.  In some cases, victims who have experienced violence are labeled with a mental health diagnosis such as “depression”, “anxiety”, “bipolar” and “borderline personality disorder” rather than recognizing these symptoms of distress as a completely natural response to abuse.


For some, mental health symptoms result from their past and/or current experiences of violence and abuse may produce feelings that they want to suppress through the use of drugs and/or alcohol.  The use of substances may seem to be the only way for them to self-medicate against the symptoms and feelings arising from the abuse.  It has been well documented that drug use increases the risk of violence in relationships and violence in relationships increases the risk of substance use.  Physical and emotional safety is the first step in healing from violence.  Attending a support group can help victims understand their situation better and help alleviate some of the impacts of abuse.


Touchstone Family Association has partnered with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to offer a group to support women with experiences of violence, substance use and/or mental health concerns.  The “Making Connections” support group offers women an opportunity for women to develop their own knowledge and understanding about violence and of how substance use and/or mental health concerns can be responses connected to abuse.  Using a 12-week group model, women will be provided with an opportunity to share their experiences and explore the connections between women’s abuse, mental health concerns and substance abuse in a supportive, safe and non-judgmental environment.  The goal of the group is to be low-barrier and integrated.  It is a violence-informed, low-barrier, women-centered, harm reduction support group that reflects the interconnection of women’s lived experiences.  If you or someone you know is interested in attending this free group, please contact Touchstone Family Association at 604-279-5599.  Visit us at:

article written by Teresa Vozza, Clinical Counsellor, Touchstone Family Association