The Nanaimo Family Life Association’s “Vancouver Island Men’s Services” program is one of over 200 programs across BC receiving the Crime Prevention and Remediation Program Grant. 

The program centers around helping abusive men recognize and control their tendencies, unpack their trauma, and learn how to heal moving forward.

Debra Hollands, Executive Director of the Nanaimo Family Life Association, says it is an intensive and important educational program.

“This program really does focus on the perpetrator. There’s programs like this across the country and in the states, and there are certainly not enough programs. We know that to really target violence against women as an issue, and help to eradicate that issue, we need to work with boys and men.” 

Hollands says that they try to work with men, the younger the better, to help them understand and hopefully lessen violence towards women.

She states that when she was the counsellor for the program, she saw men wondering why they weren’t taught ‘these sorts of things’ in highschool. 

“I think that’s a really good question. [Schools] spend a lot of time teaching women how to be— I’m using air quotes around that— personally responsible for maintaining safety and not being a victim of violence. We don’t teach men and boys the importance of honoring and being in an equal relationship with them.”

The program has existed in Nanaimo for nearly two decades now, and Hollands states it’s helped hundreds of men take steps to deprogram their abusive tendencies.

Holland says one man’s story in particular stuck out to her. He took the program about ten years ago.

“Once you go through this group you have a lifetime membership, you can always come back if you need further support, so he went through the group and told the story of the group being so important to him that at times when he felt that he might you know be getting angry again or losing touch with his core values— which is to keep his family safe— that he would often just drive to the office. Just seeing the office was really important because it brought all of that experience back for him. It helped ground him and really help him reconnect to what his desires are for his family— which for most men is to have a safe family and to be safe within that family.”

With COVID-19 restrictions, the program cannot convene as it normally would, and efforts are being made to allow the program to be remote. The $30,000 from the grant will help keep the program going and to expand digital operations.

Anyone interested in the program can call the Nanaimo Family Life Association at 250-754-3331 or visit their website for more information.