Transition house marks 20th anniversary

Staff ~ The Truro Daily News
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TRURO - Sandra Falle smiles and chuckles ever so slightly as she begins to recount one of her favourite tales.
After more than two decades of dealing with battered and abused women and their children, many of her recollections are not so pleasant. But for the executive director of the Third Place Transition House women's shelter, the wide-eyed expression of one little face still comes to mind above all else.
"I have one great memory that stands out," Falle said, while looking back over the 20-year history of the shelter, following a celebration held there on Tuesday in conjunction with their Christmas luncheon.
It was near Christmas that year and Santa Claus had made a surprise visit to the centre, then located in Bible Hill. There were four children in the room - two shy four-year-old boys who hid behind their mom, a guarded nine-year-old boy who took refuge under a coffee table and a six-year-old girl who stood facing the big-bellied, bearded man in the bright, red suit.
"Their eyes were just like saucers. It was wonderful to see," Falle said.
Invited to sit on Santa's knee, the girl "...was just staring at him. It was like she could not believe that he was really here, you know. And he says to her: 'I bet you're thinking that my beard's not real.' And she said 'yeah.' So, he said, 'would you like to pull it?'"
She tugged, but the beard didn't come off as expected. Shortly after, when Santa had departed for the North Pole, the girl was heading out of the room when Falle heard her addressing her little brother.
"See, I told you he was real," Falle recalled of the girl's excited expression.
In a perfect world, Falle knows there would be no need for women's shelters or helplines to guard against things as domestic violence. But, just as Santa continues to live on through the ages, so too, does domestic violence.
Despite the increased awareness and resources now available within today's society to educate and help people escape from and deal with domestic abuse, little else has changed in the two decades since Third Place Transition House came into being, Falle believes.
"I think that for an abused woman the situation is the same now as it was then. There's still that fear," she said. "The fact that there are additional services doesn't negate that fear, that's still there."
A lot of women still tend to minimize the danger they are in, Falle said. "They try to rationalize it ... (by blaming it on other stresses in their partner's day)... They have no idea of the exact danger until they have had an opportunity to talk with staff."
And neither has the basis for the issue of domestic violence changed, she believes.
While some males now do understand that domestic violence is wrong, others still need help to realize it.
"For most of the men (she has dealt with) ... it's an issue of power and control. And I think for a lot of men, having a partner means everything and being able to control that partner in all aspects of their life gives them that power - a feeling that they have control over their lives. And when they feel that they are losing that, sometimes that's when the violence comes out, because they don't know any other way to handle that loss of control."
And that won't change, she feels, until men and women alike can learn there are other ways to express anger and that one human cannot control another. "That everybody has rights and wishes and needs and that they have to be respected for that," she said.
"So, there are some men that aren't going to get the fact that violence against women is wrong. There are some women that aren't going to realize that they deserve not to be beaten and they're going to continue to stay in that sort of a situation," said Falle. "If they need to make a change they need to make a change but they really need to take responsibility for themselves. And it's not just the men it's the women as well...
"Reasonable, responsible adults have to accept that they have a role to play in being a good, honest person in society."
Call it, if you will, keeping Santa Claus real.

Organizations: Third Place Transition House

Geographic location: Bible Hill, North Pole

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