Mitzi Dean

Community comes through for violence counselling for women

Vagina Monologue performances in Langford raise awareness, raise $15,000

Two performances and a raft of donated silent auction items raised $15,000 for a women’s abuse counselling program on the West Shore.

Langford’s inaugural Vagina Monologues project found broad support in the community in terms of volunteers, donations and attendance. The event well surpassed the aim of raising $10,000.

“It was a complete community effort and extraordinary silent auction support,” said Jennifer Harrison, one of the event producers. The monologues drew about 450 people over two nights at Isabelle Reader Theatre in Langford at the end of March.

Of the $15,000, more than $12,000 will go towards funding the Stopping the Violence, an overextended counselling program for abused women offered at Pacific Centre Family Services in Colwood.

The single counsellor at the centre sees about 60 women per year, and more are on a waiting list. The Pacific Centre fundraises through the year to subsidize group and individual counselling.

“There is not just financial benefit, there is also the awareness side,” Harrison said. “So many people found out about the program. There’s a better awareness that it exists on a tiny budget and needs to be supported.”

Specifically, the money will fund weekly drop-in group counselling for abused women, the only program of its kind in the Capital Region. The program costs $16,000 to $18,000 per year to run.

About eight to 12 women attend each week, and up to 60 over a year. Many will enter the group while waiting for an individual counsellor to become available.

“This is an open group for women in the community. They may be in an abusive relationship, they may have left an abusive relationship,” said Mitzi Dean, executive director for Pacific Centre and a performer in the monologues. “Some women are in the group and individual counselling. It adds value and helps them build relationships with other women.

“Some have been in domestic violence situations for 20 years. Some are young moms. It’s a diverse group. What we’d like to see is women empowered and establishing an informal network in the community.”

Dean said she was proud to be involved and proud of the West Shore community for supporting the cause.

“So many men and women stepped up to support the issue and fundraising,” she said. “(The fundraising) is so much more than we expected. I’m so proud of our community.”

Co-producer Neely Hourigan said the actresses who read Eve Ensler’s monologues, all inexperienced volunteers at the start, came off as seasoned pros.

“They made the stories their stories. The audience thought they were professional actresses,” said Hourigan, who has helped produce a number of Vagina Monologues performances in Victoria. The first time Hourigan saw a production of the monologues, she was compelled to get involved.

“When they asked how many women are affected by violence, 90 per cent stood up,” said Hourigan, a Metchosin resident. “To see that visual was astounding.”

The show may be over but organizers want to keep the message and fundraising alive, and are seeking ideas from the community.

“We want to keep up the momentum, we need to keep the message going until violence against women ends,” Harrison said.

To contact the West Shore V-Day organizers, email vdaylangford@gmail.com or see www.facebook.com/vdaylangford.

 

 

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