The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) is an emergency shelter for women fleeing violence. We support women in processing the impact that violence had on their lives and help to take the first steps to launch a safer future. Women seeking shelter and support in the transition house often come with children. These children need support too. That is why we developed a special support program for children staying in our shelter. We named it Safe Space. The program includes seven units and teaches about feelings, abuse, and safety planning. The content is age specific for every child. This is the story of one little boy’s experience in Safe Space.
Dylan was 8 years old when he arrived at CTHW with his mother. He did not want to talk to anyone preferring to escape into the world of video games on his mom’s tablet. This is a coping mechanism, and it had served him well in the chaos and fear created in his home by his father’s rages. The Child and Youth Care (CYC) staff at CTHW slowly started getting his attention and drawing him away from the screen with fun activities involving all the children in the house. Dylan even went with the group for the afternoon bowling and ice cream! As he became more comfortable being with the CYC staff, they offered his mom a chance to sign Dylan up for the Safe Space Program and the way it could benefit him.
Every Wednesday after school, Dylan spent an hour with CYC staff going through the Safe Space activities, books, and short videos. Dylan began asking the questions that had been too hard to ask in the past. “Why did we have to come here?” “Why can no one know where we are living?”
The program helped him to understand the difficult stuff and how to work with his big feelings. As Wednesdays went by, Dylan became excited to spend a Safe Space hour with the CYC staff. He worked hard on his safety plan workbook drawing 5 places in his life where he feels safe, carefully writing down important phone numbers and drawing pictures of the safe people he can talk to if he feels scared.
At the end of the seventh unit, Dylan was confident about three things regarding the abuse he had witnessed:
- It’s not Dylan’s fault
- Don’t get caught in the middle
- He is not alone
These are the three messages of the Safe Space Program and the most important things children need to learn about how to stay safe and resilient. Thank you to Dylan and his mom and to the hundreds of women and children who come through the doors of CTHW and teach us every day how important a safe space is in their lives.
Marlene Goley, Manager of The Cridge Transition House for Women