As I think back on the past year I am even more impressed with the resilience and commitment of the staff and members of the Board of Directors of Counterpoint for their ability to stand strong in the face of volatility and uncertainty. Each year we face more and more significant challenges, however, this year has seen a new level of funding uncertainty and confusion. Just surviving- continuing to function and provide the urgently needed and high quality programming for both male abusers and women survivors demonstrates the amazing strength and commitment of our staff and Board of Directors.
This past year saw Counterpoint continue to provide quality services and programming in both English and Spanish, to increase safety for women by providing educational groups for men who have been abusive in their intimate relationships, offering individual and group support to women survivors of intimate partner violence, and participating in community wide coordination, research and community education related to prevention of violence against women. Highlights of this year included:
• Refining our men’s programming and dealing with the ongoing challenges of the limits of a shortened program. Counterpoint staff are increasingly delving into the complexities of abusive behaviour and are exploring the relationship between addictive behaviours and abuse. Within the limitations of a 12 week program, staff are exploring new ways of confronting these inter-relationships within PAR Programs.
• Offering unique expressive arts groups for women survivors where women explore their complex feelings, share their experiences with others in a supportive and safe space, recognize their strengths and build support networks.
• Playing a strong role in the community network of PAR program providers across Toronto and with our criminal justice partners with the goal of improving the effectiveness and safety of the community response to intimate partner abuse. Important challenges to accountability are confronted regularly as we attempt to work within a criminal justice system that itself has increasing limitations.
• Leading community education initiatives locally and internationally to increase awareness of the impact of violence against women and the need for accountable and effective intervention programs for abusers.
Counterpoint has a uniquely important place within the community network of supports and services to end violence against women. Many services support women survivors during and/ or after an abusive relationship, however, as a Partner Abuse Response (PAR) Program, Counterpoint is one of the very small group of programs intervening directly with male abusers to stop and prevent abuse. For many years, PAR programs received relatively little attention within the larger network of violence against women related programs.
During the past year PAR programs across Ontario experienced momentous support when they were granted an increase in our base funding from the government of the day. For Counterpoint this was the first increase in funding in 20 years It is difficult to fully express the extent of the positive impact that this increase had on both staff members and Board members. The increase in funding served both as a recognition of the importance of our work, as well as a recognition of the level of complexity and high risk nature of this work.Staff members and Board felt vindicated, appreciated, hopeful and optimistic.
However, in our volatile world- no sooner however, had we been able to provide staff with increases and stabilizing our financial situation- a new government come into power and put a hold on moving forward with the increase. The budget returned to the previous level and we are left with no idea as to what our level of funding will be in the future. This disruption has been difficult to say the least, as we have been left in limbo regarding future increases, funding etc.
Within all of this confusion and concern about the future, however, – our intrepid and dedicated staff continue to do their daily work, confront misogyny and effectively engage men to change their abusive behaviours. I truly believe that it takes rare individuals with intense commitment to be able to carry on and we have been honored and blessed to have an amazing group of such individuals who make up the Counterpoint staff team.
This situation cannot continue endlessly. We have always had much work to do in our society, with our funders and community partners, however, the current reality feels increasingly urgent. Change must come – change that recognizes the critical nature of our work and allows Counterpoint to provide our staff with decent wages and enables Counterpoint to plan for a sustainable future.
Looking to the New Year we will continue the successful fundraising initiatives that we started this past year. Our exceptional musical event Sing out for held last spring has become an annual event and we are confident it will grow every year !
We will continue to explore and develop new programming in response to needs identified by our group facilitators such as programming that deals with addictive personalities and mental health issues. WE will continue to work with our community partners and our partners in the criminal justice system to make systemic changes that will protect the safety of women and hold abusers accountable in an effective way.
Most significantly, however, we look forward to a vigorous campaign that will speak to the need for sustained support from the provincial government enabling PAR programs across the province to attain adequate levels of funding and support so that we are confident in being able to offer these critically needed programs in the long term.
I want to close with thanks to all of those who make this work possible – Counterpoints’ group facilitators, partner contact staff, administrative and support staff and our exceptional Executive Director as well as our hard working and inspiring Board of Directors.