Those who seek help with Rankin Inlet’s spousal abuse counselling program find a compassionate ear and shoulder to lean on for their challenges.
“I find a lot of women just need someone to talk to, and they realize they are understood, and then we try and build them up,” said Donna Adams, assistant counsellor in the program.
“They just needed to vent, or they’re at the end of their rope, and that’s all I can do. My hands are so tied. I can’t tell them, ‘Here’s another shelter you can go to, here’s an escape plan you can apply.’ There’s only so much out there.”
Rankin Inlet has a number of programs and services that offer help for those in need, but the options are lower for those in other communities in the Kivalliq.
Even still, lack of housing, responsibilities to children and other challenges of the North force many people who need help to stay put because of their circumstances.
“There are not women’s shelters in every community,” said Adams. “And to boot, society – the traditional mindset on that – is that it’s shunned. They don’t really accept shelters. They just think do or die. In the olden days, you stayed married. You didn’t leave the person.”
But that is changing, she added, and many of the people she sees are younger or middle aged. There is increasing acceptance in using shelters, but still some stigma attached. And everyone is already so loaded down with responsibilities and their own healing journey that finding a safety plan in the event of domestic abuse can feel impossible or overwhelming.
Adams has been working in her current role since last summer but had extensive experience interpreting in the court system before. From that experience, she knows just how much violence is happening in homes around the territory, mostly alcohol related.
“It’s a huge, huge number of assaults happening everywhere, all the time,” she said.
Though the court system doesn’t recognize it in the same way, psychological and verbal abuse can be just as bad, she added.
That’s why Rankin Inlet’s spousal abuse counselling program is so valuable.
It was started by Emiline Kowmuk and Mary Fredlund about 20 years ago. It offers individual counselling and also serves court-mandated appointments, where people must complete a 10-module program as directed by the justice system.
Adams sees a fairly even mix of court-mandated clients and people who voluntarily walk in for help, with more of the latter over time.
The big difference is the court-mandated clients’ relationships are clearly over and are not in a place of reconciliation, whereas the walk-in clients are usually in a relationship and want to break the cycle they’re stuck in.
For all clients, Adams tries to drill down to root causes of issues, which often stem from traumatic upbringings. Past pain can easily resurface in people’s adult life, she said.
“So many more people nowadays want to get out of the cycle,” said Adams. “They want to break the cycle and get help to overcome their addictions.”
The Rankin Inlet program can be reached at 867-645-3785.