Dec. 8, 2015 – For decades, government programs and institutes have aided families in abusive situations with emergency shelters and healing programs.

Rowan House Emergency Shelter in High River has been serving and protecting women and children in the Foothills area for nine years.

According to the history information published on its website, Rowan House has admitted more than 600 women and children, and served over 400 clients through outreach programs.

“Domestic violence is one of those issues that nobody wants to admit is happening,” said Janna Bara, team lead at Rowan House.

“But it’s more common and more dangerous than most people realize.”

Bara explained that many people tend to view family violence strictly as physically abusive behaviour, but that it actually takes various forms, many of which are not physical at all.

“Abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviour,” says the Government of Alberta human services website.

“In families, an abusive person can use many tactics to gain power over another family member.”

The website lists examples of abuse. It includes verbal and emotional abuse, limiting access to finances, neglect, and damaging property in addition to more physical and threatening forms of violence.

Programming at Rowan House is intended to help women in all abusive situations gain footing in society and rebuild their lives financially, emotionally, and physically.

The current house, a new high-security building in northeast High River, opened its doors in 2012.

Government funding provides for women and children to stay at Rowan House for up to 30 days, though some stay for as little as two days and some have stayed for up to three months.

“The average is 21 days,” said Bara.

“At that time, most of our women have been able to secure safe housing, find a job, and get into a counselling routine to get them back on their feet.”

Women are engaged in programs to assess their personal and family goals, to gauge the level of danger their partner poses to them, and to gain the tools and skills necessary to get jobs and homes.

Children’s programing is also an important part of Rowan House. Behavioural issues are addressed, home schooling is offered when children are unable to attend regular school, and therapeutic child care is offered while moms attend meetings or job interviews.

Despite government assistance, Rowan House still greatly depends on the support of its local community.

Each year, the shelter runs charity golf tournaments and marathons to raise funds, in addition to their annual Hope and Healing Gala. Many local service groups also contribute to Rowan House.

“In a perfect world, we’d all like to think that abuse doesn’t happen, but the unfortunate reality is that it does, “said Robin Platz, president of the Kinette Club of High River.

“We think it’s important to support Rowan House and bring awareness to violence.”

The High River Kinettes have contributed over $2,000 to Rowan House in the past two years. A $1,500 donation came from the club’s annual Ladies Night Out event in 2012. The money was used to purchase computers and telephones for the media room at Rowan House.

The club mandate to serve women, children, and families in the Foothills area, so the High River Kinettes are eager to help institutions like Rowan House.

Rowan House gratefully accepts all contributions to its programming to provide peace, sanctuary, and privacy for women escaping abusive situations. These are all qualities of the Rowan tree for which the house is named.

As is stated on the shelter’s website, “The Rowan Tree symbolizes what we at Rowan House stand for.”