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Regina Transition House

“He tried to run over me with his car. It was just not a relationship I wanted to be in, and still I didn’t want to let it go because he was the father of my children.”


It was 1972, and 19 year old Doreen Topp married. She never imagined only months later, she would be abused by her husband.

Topp recounted the five years of abuse where, at one point, she was beaten so badly she was hospitalized. Just thinking about it, she said “it’s bringing back a lot of bad memories.”


In 1978, Doreen, Wayne, and their three children moved to Edmonton, Alberta where the abuse continued, only this time, Doreen was all alone. For two months, the family stayed in the mountainous province, but after three weeks without food, Doreen had enough.


“I managed to feed my kids but I wasn’t eating. I was the weight of a little child.”


Topp called social services and they helped her move back to Regina with her children. She immediately went into a transition house to try and rebuild her life.


“I took (my children) away from it because I couldn't let them see all the hurt that it was causing … I just couldn't do it anymore. It was too hurtful and too hard on my kids.”


At first, Topp was afraid of going to a transition house, but she is grateful today.  


“I needed a lot of counselling, I was really messed up when I came back.”  


Now, at age 62, Topp is raising six of her grandchildren and said she’s “doing something right” as she helps the children who come to her. 


Topp is certainly not the only woman in Saskatchewan to use a transition house, and she won’t be the last. In 2011 alone, 2,349 women stayed in domestic violence shelters in Saskatchewan, according to Statistics Canada. Carla Beck, the Assistant Executive Director at the Regina Transition House, said in 2014 98 women and 111 children stayed in the shelter with over 1,000 on the waitlist.   


“Even though we increased our capacity in the shelter recently within the last three years, our ability to help the portion of women from our waitlist has decreased,” said Beck.           


On average, women are staying 26.6 days which explains this decrease.    


Still, transition houses across the province are making an impact on women who have nowhere else to turn for help.     


“It's a really good way to be able to collect yourself and have a bit of a break and get some support and get on your feet,” said Crystal Giesbrecht, the Director of Member Programs and Services for Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS).  


There are many programs available for women in these houses, but specific programs vary. Doreen Topp used counselling, which is a staple in transition houses. At the Regina Transition House, Beck said the house offers safe shelter, supportive counselling, safety planning, housing planning, advocacy, children’s programming, a nutrition program, and community education.               


“I go out fairly frequently and speak with the cadets at the RCMP about how to respond effectively when they're dealing with domestic violence calls,” said Beck.   


Children’s programming is becoming especially important in transition houses.         


“They get some positive interaction from the volunteers and staff. They might get attention, they might get some skill building or some learning, or just some love and support,”Giesbrecht said.             


“One of the things I started thinking about was the impact of children seeing their mothers respected,” said Beck. “I think that's powerful. Often they haven't seen that. Their moms have been disrespected and disempowered and they see their moms being treated the way that they should be treated … I think that's where we change things not only today but that changes things in the future as well.”        


However, there is still a lack of housing in the north and on reserves. Women experiencing domestic violence in locations past La Ronge have no transition houses or second-stage housing available.            


“If you have to flee from own community you've lost family, friends, cultural community, emotional support, and now you have to go somewhere and start over. It's really unfair,” said Giesbrecht.          


A report released by Statistics Canada on Jan. 15, 2015 stated 48 per cent of all victims of family violence were victimized by a current or former spouse. Seven in 10 of these victims were female. Saskatchewan had the highest police-reported family violence rates in 2013 (489.4 per 100,000 population).             


Although Saskatchewan has good transition houses, Beck said this doesn’t mean much.  


“Women come to us when the violence have already happened,” she said.      


Prevention is key and the best way to do that is educating the public before the violence occurs.       


“When we look at how the stigma has been reduced, the public awareness that has increased, the array of victim services programs and shelters and all of these things that weren't there 30-40 years ago, this is a good thing,” said Geisbrecht.       


“Maybe we've become complacent and we just assume that these levels are going to keep dropping and dropping and I think we need to look at the evidence that maybe isn't going to happen,” said Beck. “Are we going to make it an issue? Are we going to have supports available? I think the ball's in our court.”             


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the Saskatchewan 24 hour crisis line found on