March 8 may mark International Women’s Day, but for those working to help women escape violence, it’s an everyday reality.
Debby Rybchinski has been working at the women’s shelter in Yellowknife for over a decade, serving women and children from all 33 communities.
“Growing up in an abusive family. There was a lot of abuse and wanting to help but not having anywhere to go as a child or my mother to go anywhere,” says Rybchinski, who’s now a manager at YWCA, McAlester House. “So when I had the opportunity to work here I thought this was great. Getting to help everyone that walks through the door.”
Rybchinski says the north faces unique challenges that put women at risk such as limited transportation, isolation and lack of RCMP in all communities.
A report last year showed the Northwest Territories as having a higher rate of violence against women compared to the national average.
Still some things are improving, such as emergency protection orders which were introduced to the territories back in 2005.
“The emergency protection order is excellent because it is available 24/7,” said Rybchinski. “An emergency protection order is like a mini court over the phone with a woman and she gets to stay in her home. The woman or the man gets to stay in their home and the abuser is removed. ”
Those working in the north say education is key to ending violence against women.
“I think you need to start young. In order to change a generation you need to teach them when they are young – what is and isn’t a healthy relationship.”