Each year, hundreds of women and children leave situations of domestic violence and come to Discovery House to start rebuilding their lives. Here, they find a safe place to call home, services to help them heal, and most importantly, hope for a better future.
Domestic violence does not discriminate, and women, children and youth of all ethnicities, races, cultures, and religions deserve an inclusive environment where they can reach their full potential. The diversity of families within the walls of our shelter, and in our care in the community, has led us to prioritize work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in our programming and services.
More than 80% of our clients come from racially marginalized backgrounds, with the largest numbers being Indigenous. We have relaunched our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to provide the Indigenous and non-Indigenous families we serve with cultural learning and healing opportunities. Working closely with Elder Pam Heavy Head, the Discovery House Indigenous committee is excited to transform an underutilized computer room into a new cultural healing space in the heart of our shelter.
From smudging, to ceremonies, to prayer mats, this space will give families the gift of cross-cultural understanding and appreciation which will strengthen both families and communities. Most importantly, when children and their mothers walk through our door – no matter their background – they don't even need to be told that they are welcome, and that they are valued. They can see it; they can smell it from the medicines there; and they can really feel like this is the place where they can safely rebuild their lives. Families can gather in circle formation for programming, decision making or prayer, rest, and reflection.
“After learning more about my culture, the medicines, and traditions used by my people, I feel stronger. I can be a better mom to my two daughters.” - Discovery House client and mother of two
Key features include:
- Star blanket and ribbon skirt inspiration on a feature wall
- Hints of the natural world such as leather and sunshine, and symbolic elements such as rounded edges
- New doorway access with improved visibility into the courtyard, bringing more natural light into the space
- Cultural tools such as prayer mats from different countries, medicines, drums from Egypt and Somalia as well as Indigenous-made drums
Who Will it Benefit?
About 600 women and children walk through our doors each year. 65% of them have experienced physical abuse, and 75% reported emotional, psychological, or verbal abuse. In addition, 52% of the women who came to Discovery House last year were at severe or extreme risk of homicide.
Sadly, most of our clients are children. In fact, last year we served 300 kids, 220 of them aged 8 or younger. Unaddressed, childhood trauma can cause social, behavioural, cognitive, and even health problems, like obesity, heart disease, anxiety, and depression. Children who witness violence are also much more likely to enter violent relationships as adults. The Discovery House team understand the effects of trauma, abuse, and neglect on the developing brain and all our programs and services are designed to mitigate those effects.
All families supported by Discovery House (whether housed in our high-security shelter or in the community) will benefit from the Cultural Healing Space, and it will have the greatest impact on the 80% of clients who are Indigenous, racial minorities, and new immigrants to Canada. Race and culture impact how domestic violence is experienced and can exacerbate the problem. When these individuals face discrimination and injustice, their stress and trauma is even worse. At a time in their lives when connecting to cultural teachings and enhancing their confidence and understanding of cultural approaches to wellness is crucial, this space will help Discovery House effectively support marginalized families as they heal from the trauma of domestic violence.
The overrepresentation of Indigenous people within the domestic violence sector is related to intergenerational trauma caused by colonization, residential schools, and the 60’s Scoop. We can prevent future generations of domestic violence by following the lead of Elders, reconnecting individuals to their culture and healing in a way that’s meaningful to each person and family.