On the surface, Tianna Richards has it all—a growing career as a doula, beginning her education in the midwifery program at the University of British Columbia, a great social life and community roots.
It wasn’t always like this for Tianna. Two years ago, at the age of 24, she was desperate. “I was stuck in an abusive relationship with my ex-partner. Little things became big things, and I didn’t realize how dangerous it was getting until it was almost too late.”
It didn’t start off that bad – just small insults, verbal abuse and mean jabs – until her partner convinced Tianna to move to Vancouver with him, away from her home, family and friends. She left college, sure that a move to British Columbia would change her life for the better. “I didn’t realize that was part of the cycle of abuse – to be isolated with your partner in a strange city without support, friends, money or a place to live. You’re helpless. I was terrified.”
Tianna was unaware at the time, but she had become deeply entrenched in the cycle of domestic violence. She had to get out before it was too late. The verbal insults turned to physical violence in short order. “I realized I was in real trouble, that I had to save my life.” Tianna reached out to Covenant House in Vancouver, homeless and frightened. Covenant House provides a safe haven for street-involved youth between the ages of 16 and 24 years. They sheltered her and protected her, in case her abusive partner tried to find her again.
Leaving a domestic violence situation is one of the most high-risk situations for a woman. Almost 60% of all dating violence happens after the relationship has ended.
“Covenant House helped me and put me in touch with Dr. Steve. He understood, he cared and he truly saw what I needed.” What Tianna needed was a chance to regain her life, herself, her freedom and her independence.
Dr. Steve Mathias is a medical director and founder of the Inner City Youth Program and ‘Foundry,’ based off the successful Inner City Youth Program at Granville Youth Health Centre. Foundry recently announced its Kelowna location, and is in the process of expanding to sites throughout B.C. at the North Shore, Abbotsford, Campbell River, and Prince George. Foundry sites will offer a range of services in one convenient location, for young people to access primary care, mental-health supports and social services in a friendly, accessible way.
With Dr. Steve’s help, Tianna received psychiatric care and trauma counselling to help address the damages of the violence she had faced. At the same time, Dr. Steve was creating the Inner City Youth Program. He introduced Tianna to it, so she could gain even more support in rebuilding her life.
“I started going to the Inner City Youth Program a lot, and they were so good – not at all like a typical sterile, intimidating ‘one visit and goodbye’ type of clinic or something. They helped me find stable housing and we talked about my career or school options. From that, I decided I wanted to go back to school, eventually taking the one-year Doula program with Douglas College, and then moving on to learn to practice midwifery, with an eye to specialize in providing midwifery to women with hearing impairment.”
The Inner City Youth Program also connected Tianna with a social network, supports and most importantly, companionship. “Every Friday there was something fun going on. I went bowling, kayaking, skating and it kept me from wanting to go back to my ex-partner for support, housing and companionship. I had what I needed with the program – a great social circle and friends to do things with.”
During the holiday season, youth facing tough situations with limited choices may start to feel isolated and lonely. Tianna always recommends touching base with a trusted support network or care provider. She reached out to the Inner City Youth Program for help – a place to bounce ideas off of and feel more connected to other young people. “Find them and talk to them. They are always there with a friendly smile, and even when they don’t work directly with you, they know who you are. They care.”
“Dr. Steve made a huge impression on me. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him and his support. I had lost myself in my abusive relationship and it was a long process to re-learn who I am, that I am a person of value and worthy of love.”
The holiday season is that much brighter for Tianna, who has her entire future ahead of her thanks in part to the hard work of the Inner City Youth Program and Dr. Steve Mathias.
Domestic violence is not just about physical abuse. It includes any form of violence within a relationship (marriage, common law or dating) – sexual, emotional, financial and psychological, including threats and it may escalate. It is impossible to predict whether someone will be violent or when they will escalate their violence. Examples of abusive behaviour include:
- physical violence;
- insulting or degrading comments;
- destroying property; or,
- extreme jealousy.
Help is available:
- For immediate help in a domestic violence situation, dial 911.
- Otherwise, VictimLinkBC is a toll-free, confidential, multilingual telephone service available throughout British Columbia and the Yukon 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1 800 563-0808, text to 604 836-6381 or email: VictimLinkBC@bc211.ca
Learn More at:
Visit the Inner City Youth Program at: www.innercityyouth.ca/
For more information on Foundry: www.foundrybc.ca
For more information on Covenant House: www.covenanthousebc.org/
Services for victims of domestic violence available at: endingviolence.org/need-help/
The Provincial Office of Domestic Violence: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/public-safety/domestic-violence/provincial-office-of-domestic-violence