Welcome to part two of our Inspirational Interview with Lesley Ackrill, one of three Executive Co-Directors at Interval House, Canada’s first shelter for abused women and their children.
Lesley has shared her expertise as an outspoken advocate for women’s rights through speaking engagements and commentary in the media.
All pictures are courtesy of Interval House.
6. What are some of the particular challenges Canada faces when tackling violence against women and how have organisations like Interval House addressed these challenges over the past few decades?
One of the number one challenges abused women face is, after leaving a shelter, is a lack of safe and affordable housing. And their greatest fear is being homeless and poor. So, Interval House started the Her Home Housing Project by forging a partnership with apartment owners, to give women rent-geared-to-income housing opportunities. I think that housing is one of the biggest challenges in tackling violence against women. Once they leave the shelter, there are virtually no homes they can afford.
Nationally, what we have faced is the death of missing and murdered indigenous women. Nationally, we have pushed and pushed and pushed for a national inquiry on this and now it is happening! So, those are two big areas—housing and the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women are the big challenges we have had.
7. What do you think men and boys can do to help end violence against women?
I think they can become allies. That is the biggest thing men and boys can do. Become an ally, an advocate, listen and believe, and encourage and support. What they should not do is try to take over the cause and it should not become about “them”.
Some men come out and say “sexism hurts us too,” but they do not realise that they have the resources, privilege and financial stability to deal with it. The system works in their favour. Everyone gets victimised by sexism, it is true, but frankly, Women of Colour are the ones who have been and continue to be the most victimised.
8. Tell us about Interval House’s plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?
Because Interval House believes in being a dynamic organization, we are constantly looking at our programmes and trying to make them better to more efficiently and effectively serve women and their children.
So, we have started our new and improved Building Economic Self-Sufficiency Program (BESS), which now has a counselling programme attached to it and meets the women wherever they are emotionally, psychologically, and practically after they leave an abusive relationship and when they leave the shelter. This is currently a major focus of ours.
We are also examining how to implement a more comprehensive Children’s Program with two full time Child & Youth Counselor Advocates. This program enhancement will better address the needs of teens from the ages of 12 to 18. Programme-wise, that is pretty much it for the next 5 years. We are doing more public education work, such as on social media and outreach.
9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters, fans, and followers support Interval House’s efforts to stop violence against women?
10. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?
That is a huge order.
I think equity is a big step forward in helping end violence against women. When women take their rightful place as leaders in all spheres of our lives and all dominions—corporate boardroom, government, family—when they take the 50/50 leadership on and share it equally with men, I think we will have a huge step forward in ending violence against women by men. That is on a macro level -on a big scale.
On a smaller, more individual scale, we need to push for people to get the help they need as fast as they can whether that be help getting out of abusive situations or help because of recognised abusive behavior within themselves. This means going to seek counselling help when you need it, admitting helplessness or wanting to do better as a person and a partner—wanting to be a better person and partner.
Work on yourself if you have low self-esteem, work on that and always have enough courage to ask yourself questions. What is it? What does it mean? Why can you only express yourself using violence? If we can all help ourselves, we can change and break down the cycle of abuse.