The Central Alberta Women's Emergency Shelter (CAWES) is hoping to encourage rural residents to become aware of supports for those experiencing domestic violence in their community. 

Intensive Case Manager with CAWES Nadine Posterski said she's working to get their message out to rural communities, including Lacombe, Bentley, Sylvan Lake, Alix, Clive, and other surrounding communities. 

"I want women to be able to make the decision for themselves, but if I can open that door for them and build that relationship, then that is a big step," said Posterski. 

She said there are particular challenges that come with addressing and preventing domestic violence (DV) in rural communities. These issues include having close-knit communities where gossip might spread, a lack of education on resources, or a lack of understanding of what domestic violence entails. 

Physical and verbal abuse are only a few of the many forms domestic violence can take. Financial control, limiting social or family access, bullying and gaslighting are other common forms of DV that some partners don’t even realize is happening or don’t count as abuse. 

Limitations imposed on a person through emotional manipulation or even spiritual practice are also forms of abuse.

“Gaslighting is huge. It can be very sinister, or it can be typical. An example of something common is your partner saying, “No I didn’t say that” when you know they did. You know they said something to you, and you want to talk about it because it hurt you, but the abuser will deny they said it,” Posterski explained. 

“After a few years of that happening to you, you really begin to doubt yourself. Women think, “Am I exaggerating? Am I being too particular here?”. That’s where you start to lose yourself. Gaslighting is very, very big because it’s the start of grooming you to not trust your own mind anymore.”

Posterski said she wants people to realize first, DV is an issue in every community and secondly, that there are supports in place to help victims. 

She said CAWES is a place that women can access, even if they aren't ready to necessarily address an issue of domestic violence. CAWES also provides things like parenting skills programs, women's support groups and connections to other community organizations. 

“It’s hard when it is a small circle of people, and you don’t want everyone to know. People are frightened of the gossip and that people are going to judge them,” Posterski said, adding that this is a challenge in larger communities, too, but is more common in smaller communities. 

CAWES wants to work with local agencies in small communities, such as Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), schools, police detachments, health facilities - anywhere that might be a place for people to reach out if they are struggling. 

Posterski said they are able to do presentations on things like healthy parenting, financial planning, safety planning and more, not just specifically discussions on DV. 

She said she hopes people will reach out to CAWES, even if they may not need immediate support, but to establish relationships in the event that care is needed.

"If you are experiencing domestic violence, you are not alone, we are here to help," Posterski said.

She said people can reach CAWES 24/7 at: Toll-Free:1-888-346-5643 | Crisis Textline: 403-506-0485.