New “Changing for Good” program offers help to spousal abusers who want to change

Spousal abuse program for the Lower Similkameen

Men prone to abusing their domestic partners will now have help available to them to change their behaviors, and transform the quality of their families lives.

“Early on in my work as the Keremeos-based RCMP Victim Services coordinator, I became aware of the need for this resource”, says Ron Shonk, who was hired by Lower Similkameen Community Services (LSCSS) in January 2009.  “Over 50 per cent of my clients are victims of domestic violence”, he says.  “The Victim Services Program offers emotional support and practical assistance to this predominately female population.  And counseling programs for abused women and for children who have witnessed abuse in their homes is also available.  But very little effort, this side of a jail cell, has been given to encourage and assist abusers to change their behaviors. So the ‘cycle of abuse’ often continues, and even escalates”, he reports.

The Keremeos RCMP detachment applied for funding last year to begin such a program, but was unsuccessful primarily because of the limited availability of funds and the relatively small population of the lower Similkameen area.  This year Ron carried his concern to neighboring communities, and encouraged a group appeal for funding through the South Okanagan/Similkameen Violence in Relationships Committee (VIR), comprised of over thirty health, justice and social services organizations throughout the region.  The provincial government has now provided a $20,000 grant to the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society (SOVAS), on behalf of VIR, to develop an intervention program focused on abusive partner behavior.  Ron serves on the VIR sub-committee to oversee its implementation. The Program’s resources will be available in Summerland, Penticton, Oliver, Osoyoos, Princeton, and Keremeos.

“The “Changing for Good” Program is the most recent step forward for PVPP (the lower Similkameen’s Proactive Violence Prevention Project)”, Ron says. Begun last year as a cooperative effort of LSCSS and Keremeos RCMP with the endorsement of nearly twenty local organizations including the Village of Keremeos and Similkameen Country, PVPP works through education, awareness, and action toward enhancing its motto:  “Safety in our Communities, Safety in our Homes”.   “We see the “Changing for Good” program as the second phase in our major effort to address domestic abuse in our neighborhoods”, Ron says.  “The first phase was (and is) the “MEN TOGETHER – Saying NO to Violence to Women and Children” initiative.  MEN TOGETHER unites the voices of local males age 16 and older to encourage abusive men to stop their abusive behavior.  Now we will be able to provide practical support to them to do so”, he says.  “We hope the new program will be up and running by mid to late autumn.  But men who are ready to face their abusive behaviors or tendencies can contact PVPP now, confidentially and anonymously, to discuss and explore behavior change options.”

For more information, visit the PVPP page at www.LSCSS.com.   In addition to domestic abuse, PVPP also addresses elder abuse, sexual assault and date rape, and bullying.  MEN TOGETHER now includes over one hundred male voices united in speaking out for the safety of women and children in our communities, and continues to grow.  If you are a male resident or worker in the Lower Similkameen age 16 or older,  join these men in reaching our goal of uniting “a few (hundred) good men, taking a stand for what’s just plain right!”  Call Ron Shonk this week to sign up:   250-499-5511

– Ron Shonk