Good news

Starting over in a new city with new skills, thanks to a Victoria society for women with trauma

Bridges for Women provides skills to people who have experienced trauma

By Emily Fagan
September 3, 2021
Good news

Starting over in a new city with new skills, thanks to a Victoria society for women with trauma

Bridges for Women provides skills to people who have experienced trauma

By Emily Fagan
Sep 3, 2021
Patricia Rawson, Interim Executive Director of Bridges for Women. Photo: Andrea Walker Collins / Cedar Coast Photography (Submitted)
Good news

Starting over in a new city with new skills, thanks to a Victoria society for women with trauma

Bridges for Women provides skills to people who have experienced trauma

By Emily Fagan
September 3, 2021
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Starting over in a new city with new skills, thanks to a Victoria society for women with trauma
Patricia Rawson, Interim Executive Director of Bridges for Women. Photo: Andrea Walker Collins / Cedar Coast Photography (Submitted)

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Starting over in a new city is hard. Doing that as a single mother coping with trauma and depression, as Theresa Fraser did in 2009 when she moved to Victoria from Nova Scotia with her daughter, is even harder. 

But when Fraser entered Bridges for Women Society’s employment program soon after, it quickly became her second home. 


From her childhood in the foster care system, Fraser was instilled with the mindset that she had no value or skills to offer. As she engaged in the free, six-month employment program, the women around her helped to challenge that mentality and build her confidence. 

“I found the program [at a time when] I started being really down and depressed and really scared about my future,” she said. “When I graduated [the program], I had self esteem and I felt good about myself. They really make you feel like you are a worthwhile person that has gifts to offer people in the world.”

Fraser finally had the opportunity through Bridges’ programs to regain connection with her Miꞌkmaq culture, along with professional development skills that have allowed her to build a career, provide for her daughter, and mentor other people in the Bridges community.

“Bridges has truly changed me and changed my life for the better, because I finally met people who believe in me,” Fraser said.

For women, non-binary, and two-spirit people who have experienced abuse, trauma, or violence, this sense of community empowerment can be a crucial step towards healing—or even, as Fraser attests, life changing.

“​​Bridges for Women Society is an organization that provides support services for women who've experienced trauma,” said Patricia Rawson, Interim Executive Director of the Bridges for Women Society. “Also, it has this other component of helping women work towards self-sufficiency.”

Photo: Andrea Walker Collins / Cedar Coast Photography (Submitted)

Recovering from trauma

Since the organization was founded in 1988, it has helped women and nonbinary people who sought independence and healing after living with trauma and abuse. Rawson says the founders knew that financial issues often caused women to return to situations that were unsafe for them and their children, so they created programs with the intention of helping participants build a better future for themselves.

Bridges for Women Society has helped 378 people over the past year through 1085 counselling sessions and 13 program groups. Aside from counselling, there are four main services offered by the organization: an online education program, a mentorship program, an Indigenous program, and the employment program.

During the employment program, an instructor suggested to Fraser that she should look into the Indigenous family support worker program at Camosun College. She graduated in 10 months, and carried those skills forward into her career.

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The employment program isn’t just about providing skills and confidence for the workplace, according to Rawson. In the early stages of the program, participants explore the impacts of trauma, how to develop boundaries and assertiveness, and other tools for managing trauma. Then, they explore potential career options, learn practical skills for navigating the job market, and can even meet with potential employers.

All of Bridges’ programs aim to meet people where they are at—no matter their level of education, income, or anything else—and build them up from there. About 30% of the people Bridges supports are single parents, so the society provides childcare and transportation to help make their participation in programs possible.

Rawson says she is inspired by the community of program graduates who stay connected to the organization and reach out to uplift other women who come after them.

“They are doing that because they see—and I do see this too when I’m at Bridges—is that I'm here because of all the people who were here before me,” she said. “They know they're part of that whole continuum.”

More than a decade since she first enrolled in the employment program, Fraser is still part of the community at Bridges and recently completed the organization’s Indigenous program. Although she still struggles with her self esteem at times, she has gone on to mentor a woman who moved to Victoria with her daughters from Nigeria—a role that brought her full circle from her own first days at Bridges. 

“I really wish that there could be a Bridges in every city,” she said. “Because when a person comes from a place of trauma and dysfunction and negativity, to have a place like Bridges to go to really open up your eyes and see they really care and they want to see me be better and do better in my life... It's life changing.”

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