Toronto Star

June 26, 2000

Centre offers refuge for victims of abuse

Women `come and tell their secrets and fears'

By Bob Mitchell
Toronto Star Peel/Halton Bureau Chief

After enduring abuse where every breath is caught in their throat, women who come to Chantel's Place can finally exhale.

``Chantel's Place offers women a place to come and tell their secrets and fears. It's a place where victims are treated with dignity and respect,'' says Peel Sergeant Gavin Francis, who created the centre with Diane Reynolds, its nursing co-ordinator.

The Mississauga facility is an innovative home-like centre where victims of rape and abuse can be interviewed and counselled in a supportive atmosphere.

Nearly 400 women and children have visited the internationally recognized Chantel's Place, located in the Trillium Health Centre, since it opened Nov. 17, 1998.

The need for centres for victims of domestic abuse has been underscored in recent weeks by the shooting death June 20 of Gillian Hadley, 35, of Pickering by her estranged husband and the stabbing death June 13 of Harjaap ``Jay'' Bolla, 29, of Mississauga by her former fiancé.

Chantel's Place is the only centre of its kind in Ontario, although several cities are looking at creating similar models, including Burlington where Nina's Place, named after Nina DeVilliers, who was murdered in 1991, is being planned for Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.

Almost $3,000 was raised for Chantel's Place on Friday at the 13th annual Peel Region Police community pancake breakfast.

``I don't know the history of these two women who were murdered,'' said Reynolds. ``But it's rare the only act of violence is death. On the average, a woman is assaulted 33 times before they actually leave a relationship.

``If they (Hadley and Bolla) had showed up at my door, they wouldn't have been turned away.''

Chantel's Place was named after Chantel Paquette, a 33-year-old Mississauga woman who was murdered in 1992 by her boyfriend.

``She slipped through the cracks,'' said Francis. ``We didn't want her to be forgotten.

``Having a place like Chantel's Place isn't going to prevent what happened to these two women. There are always going to be guys who are going to do that and unless you hold them in custody until their trial, you can't prevent something like this from happening.''

Francis got the idea for the centre when he saw how women who had been raped or beaten had to endure chaotic, sterile and intimidating emergency rooms, often waiting up to six hours to be treated by a doctor before being taken to a police station to be interviewed.

With Reynolds' help, they asked victims what they needed and, with $100,000 raised by corporate and service clubs, opened Chantel's Place.

Aromatherapy chases alcohol smell on attacker's breath

At the centre, women get aromatherapy to chase away the smell of alcohol from their attacker's breath. They have showers, a change of clothing, comfortable couches, soft music and art and travel magazines to read.

``Having travel and art books is important,'' Francis said. ``Most doctors' offices have fashion and other magazines telling women how to please their man. But they've just been raped or beaten and that's the last thing they want to read.''

Reynolds said 13 nurses are on call 24 hours, seven days a week.

``We average one case every 36 hours.''

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