Questions and Answers

Do you have questions about Women’s Community House, how to find us, or about your safety? Here you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions. If you can’t find answers to your questions here, please contact us or give us a call at 519-642-3000, TTY 519-963-0427 or 1-800-265-1576.

What to Donate

Monetary donations and your time are most welcome at any time! Used clothing and small household items that are in good shape and working order may be dropped off at the Wellington Shelter (101 Wellington Road) Monday through Friday during business hours.

Safety and Security

All Women’s Community House locations are equipped with security cameras and systems to ensure the safety and confidentiality of residents and tenants. Staff are trained in safety planning and will assist in planning for individuals and families specific to their situation. Safety planning can be completed over the phone on the Abused Women’s Helpline or in person at either of the shelters. An assessment of safety needs can also be done with a Transitional Outreach Counsellor out in the community at a convenient, safe location.

Service and Community

We acknowledge and value the integrated and collaborative response necessary to end violence against women. Our strength in community partnerships, our diversity in staff and our student placement opportunities all serve to demonstrate this. In partnering with academic institutions, we share the belief that Service Learning and Co-operative Placement programs, especially experiential learning, contribute significantly to the balanced success of all students. We support our students’ learning endeavours in an environment that promotes equity, respect, responsibility, curiosity, collaboration, flexibility, risk-taking, creativity and one that fosters learning!

Life at a Shelter

Q: How long can I stay? A: The length of stay is based on an assessment of the needs of each woman or family. Typically, stays are limited to six weeks. Q: How much does it cost to stay and who pays for my stay? A: There is no charge to you for your stay at either of Women’s Community House’s shelters. Women’s Community House has a variety of funders, including the provincial government, private donors, community groups and corporations. Q: What kind of rooms are available? A: Family-size rooms are available so your children can stay with you. Sometimes you may have to share your room with another single family or woman. At the Clarke shelter, your room will be part of a residential unit with two other rooms and a shared kitchenette and livingroom. Q: Do I have to participate in all of the programs? A: You do not have to attend the programs; however, it’s a good idea to get involved in as many programs as you think will benefit you. Shelters and their programs have been designed to help you. Many women find meeting with other women and counsellors helpful. Q: Can I continue to work while living at Women’s Community House? A: Yes, you can continue to work. You will have to plan for safe travel, arrange safe child care, and any other individual issues. Women’s Community House staff will help you to create a safety plan that will include your work routines. You may want to alert your supervisor or human resources personnel in case you need to make alternate arrangements to avoid contact with your abuser. For instance, you may not want your partner to be allowed on the property to pick  you or your children up. Q: I’m on a special diet. Can WCH meet my dietary needs? A: Every effort will be made to accommodate special dietary and cultural needs. Please let staff members know about any dietary requirements you or your children have. Q: Does the shelter staff have specialized training? A: In addition to academic and professional qualifications, shelter staff also receive ongoing, on-the-job training such as dealing with women who have experienced violence, the effects of violence on child witnesses to woman abuse, risk assessment, Harm Reduction, legislation updates, first aid and crisis intervention prevention. Q: What kinds of programs does WCH offer? A: WCH offers counselling sessions for you and your children to help you understand the impact of the abuse you have experienced and to offer suggestions, information, referrals and support as you make decisions for future plans. Shelter staff will help you prepare an ongoing safety plan to help you respond to different situations in the future, like getting help. Q: Are pets allowed? A: Your family pet cannot stay with you in the shelter, but WCH will help you get your pet to a safe place. Service animals are permitted to be with you at all times during your stay. Food and water will be provided to service animals and other needs can be met following a discussion of your needs. Q: Does Women’s Community House accept lesbians? A: Yes. Lesbians, bisexual and transgendered women who have been abused are welcome. Q: Can I ever come back? A: Yes. You can return to the shelter if your need for safety requires a return. Q: I don’t speak English very well. Does Women’s Community House have interpreters? A: Cultural Interpreters are available 24 hours a day through a partnership with Across Languages. As well, many staff members speak more than one language. Q: Is Women's Community House accessible for a person with a disability? A: Women’s Community House has a comprehensive Customer Service Policy consistent with the Accessibility Ontarians with Disabilities Act and is equipped to help women and children with disabilities. Communication using TTY or other assistive devices is available. Service animals and support persons are permitted at no cost and staff are trained in customer service. The Customer Service (AODA) Policy is available for you to read (also available in an alternate format upon request). Q: What happens after I leave the shelter – is there any follow up? A: Women's Community House has transitional support workers to help you, and you can call the Abused Women's Helpline for support through a crisis, for information and for referrals.

Woman Abuse

Q: How do I know if I'm abused? A: Woman abuse is any action or behaviour including verbal threats, intimidation or physical force used to create fear and control over what you do. The abuser is always the one responsible for his or her behaviour. Abusers often use alcohol or drugs as an excuse. Abuse can be situational, infrequent or an escalating pattern of abuse. Research has found that there is a significant overlap between woman abuse and child abuse. The associated risk of serious injury or death is often predictable and safety planning can be preventative.  Risk assessment can begin with a call to the Abused Women’s Helpline. Some common signs of an abusive relationship include, but are not limited to, the following. (Adapted from information provided by Education Wife Assault and National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Internal House, Hamilton, Ontario and North York Public Health Department .) Do you feel:
  • like you have to “walk on eggshells” to keep your partner from getting angry?
  • frightened by his/her temper?
  • you can’t live without him/her?
  • you should stop seeing other friends or family, or give up activities you enjoy because he/she doesn’t like them?
  • afraid to tell him/her your worries and feelings about the relationship?
  • you should comply because you are afraid to hurt his/her feelings; and have the urge to “rescue” him/her when he/she is troubled?
  • you are the only one who can help him/her and that you should try to “reform” him/her?
Do you believe:
  • you must stay because you feel he/she will harm or kill himself/herself if you leave?
  • jealousy is a sign of love?
  • the critical things he/she says to make you feel bad about yourself?
  • there is something wrong with you if you don't enjoy the sexual things he/she makes you do?
  • in the traditional ideas of what a man and a woman should be and do -- that the man makes the decisions and the woman pleases him?
Have you:
  • found yourself making excuses to yourself or others for your partner’s behaviour when you are treated badly?
  • stopped expressing opinions if he/she doesn’t agree with them?
  • been kicked, hit, shoved, or had things thrown at you by him/her when he/she was jealous or angry?
Q: Are there different kinds of woman abuse? A: You can be abused in many different ways. The following are just some examples:
Physical abuse
  • Slapping or or biting you, or pulling your hair
  • Destroying your property
  • Abusing your loved ones such as children, siblings, parents or pets
  • “Caring” for you in a controlling way. This can include things like giving you too much medication or keeping you confined.
  • Using a weapon or other objects to threaten, hurt or kill you
Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Threatening to take your children away from you
  • Threatening to put you in an institution
  • Threatening to commit suicide/homicide
  • Threatening to withdraw immigration sponsorship, or to have you deported
  • Following you
  • Watching you
  • Harassing you
  • Controlling your time, what you can do, how you dress and how you wear your hair
  • Putting limits on whom you can visit or talk to on the phone
  • Keeping you away from friends and relatives. This is also called, "isolation."
  • Not respecting your privacy
  • Denying sex, affection or personal care
Verbal abuse:
  • Putting you down and calling you names all the time
  • Calling you stupid, crazy or irrational
  • Accusing you of cheating
  • Attacking your self-esteem in other ways
Sexual abuse:
  • Touching or acting sexual in any way that you don’t want
  • Forcing or pressuring you into sexual acts
  • Forcing you to be a prostitute
  • Not letting you have information and education about sexuality
  • Forcing you to get pregnant, have an abortion, or have an operation so that you can’t have children
  • Infecting you with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases
Neglect and isolation:
  • Not letting you see a doctor or dentist
  • Taking away TTY, hearing aids or guide dogs
  • Locking you in the house without a phone
  • Not allowing you to see friends or family members
  • Not letting you work outside of the home
  • Not allowing you to take courses in ESL (English as a Second Language)
Financial abuse or exploitation:
  • Controlling how you spend money, where you work and what property you buy
  • Spending all family income, including your money and savings
  • Using credit cards without your permission; destroying your credit rating
  • Forcing you to turn over your benefit payment to the abuser
Spiritual abuse:
  • Putting you down or attacking your spiritual beliefs
  • Not allowing you to attend the church, synagogue, mosque or temple of your choice
  • Forcing you to join or stay in a cult.
Q: How can woman abuse affect me? A: The effects of abuse do not stop once the hitting, yelling or put-downs stop. Here are some of the results of woman abuse:
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of helplessness
  • Self blame and guilt
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Long term health issues
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Anxiety/Stress
  • Difficulty sleeping or eating.
Q: How can woman abuse affect my children? A: Everyone is affected by woman abuse - neighbourhoods, families, work places. According to a 1999 survey on family violence, more than 461, 000 Canadian children had witnessed violence between family members in the five previous years. Other research shows that boys often react to witnessing violence by becoming more hostile and aggressive while girls often become depressed, anxious and complain of physical pain. A large portion of children exposed to abuse continue the cycle in their intimate relationships as adults.

Finding Help

Q: When are the shelters open? A: Women’s Community House shelters are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There is always somebody to answer your phone call or let you into the shelter. Q: Should I call first? A: It’s a good idea if you can call first; however, if you believe your personal safety is at risk should you remain in your home, come to one of the shelters immediately or go to the nearest police station. Q What do I need to bring with me? A: Depending on how much time and opportunity you have to gather things, you might want to consider bringing along as many of the following items as you can, but do not delay leaving if danger is imminent:
  • Identification
  • Birth Certificate for you and your children
  • Health cards
  • SIN (Social Insurance Number) cards
  • School and medical records, including the telephone numbers of the school and your family doctor or clinic
  • Money, bankbooks, cheque  book and credit cards
  • Keys - house, car, office
  • Drivers licence and car registration documents
  • Prescribed medication and vitamin supplements
  • Court orders
  • Social assistance documents
  • Passports, visas and work permits, immigration papers
  • Mortgage details or lease and rental agreements
  • Current unpaid bills
  • Insurance documents
  • Address book
  • Family photographs, your diary, jewellery, small items of sentimental value
  • Your children’s favourite items of clothing and small toys
  • Toiletries and clothes for you and your children.
Q: How will I find the shelter’s location? A: You can call us at 519-642-3000 or 1-800-265-1576, and we will give you directions. If you cannot safely make a call, police officers and taxi drivers generally know our location. Q: What if the shelters are full? A: Shelter staff will work together to find space for you at a nearby shelter at no cost to you or, if you choose, you may stay in another safe place. Transportation may be arranged, if needed. Q: Are there community resources available if I decide I don’t need to use a shelter? A: The WCH Transitional Outreach Program can work closely with you to plan to leave an abusive relationship safely without coming into shelter. The necessary paperwork can happen anywhere it is safe to meet, such as a coffee shop or school, etc.  In our community, there are many other resources such as police, lawyers and health care. Women’s Community House can help you to learn more about what is available. For a listing of some of these resources, check out the Resources Page on this website. Q: I’m not being abused, but I know someone who is. How can I help? A: There are a number of ways you can help:
  • Give her the Abused Women’s Helpline telephone number 519-642-3000 or 1-800-265-1576 or and encourage her to contact us
  • Check out the Neighbours, Friends & Families (NFF) website for more information on how you can help. Provide her with brochures about Women’s Community House
  • Offer to drive her to one of the shelters if it’s safe for her and you
  • Assure her the abuse is not her fault and that she doesn’t deserve it
  • Offer to keep an emergency bag (copies of important papers, keys, etc.) for her
  • Listen and believe her, but do not pressure her to take action.

Shelters and Your Children

Q: Will my children be welcome? A: Male and female children can stay with you. There is no age restriction for any dependent children. Accommodation may be found for older (over 18) males. Q: Can my children continue in their own schools? A: Every effort will be made to keep the children in their normal routine, including attending their own school. However, if you fear for their safety there, alternate confidential arrangements may be made. Both the Thames Valley and Catholic School Boards are partners in a Safe Schools Protocol to ensure safety for children, including transportation. Q: Who will look after my children when I have appointments? A: Women’s Community House provides limited childcare at specific times. Women are encouraged to arrange child care with our other residents if possible, and Merrymount children’s services may be available. Q: Will going to a shelter affect my custody rights? A: Your rights may not be affected by going to a shelter. For more information on custody and other legal matters, we suggest you look at the Ontario Women’s Justice Network website or view the VIOLET website.

Finding Safety

Q: Will my partner be able to find me? A: Women’s Community House has a lot of built-in security measures and safety practices in place to ensure your safety. For example, staff will not talk to anyone without your permission. We also have trained staff and community partners, secure facilities and protocols to make sure you will not be harassed by your partner. Q: What’s a safety plan? A: Safety plans involve identifying specific action steps to increase your safety and helps to prepare you in advance for the possibility of further violence. We can help you develop a safety plan. Q: How safe will my children and I be at the shelter? A: Our shelters are secured by steel doors and power locks and are monitored by security cameras. Staff members, residents and visitors are all screened before being allowed inside. You will be in a secure facility and have access to trained staff and volunteers. Only those people with whom you want contact with will be allowed to see or speak to you. If at any point you would like to speak with one of our counsellors about your situation, please contact us at 519-642-3000, TTY 519-963-0427 or 1-800-265-1576.