History of CWAV Society

CWAV Society was started by a group of women in the Cowichan region who wanted to create a local rape crisis centre. Though none of them had training in this kind of work, they forged ahead, looking for grant money, facilities and educating themselves on the issue of violence against women. Even before they could open their first centre in the ‘Bird House’  behind Mental Health, women began calling them at their homes for help. 

In December 1980 with a grant from Employment and Immigration, the founders hired their first staff to help them operate a limited crisis line. Women started coming to the centre for help, and by the next year, trained volunteers were responding to callers 24 hours a day. Since those early years CWAV Society has grown to providing support to approximately 1000 women and their children per year. CWAV is also involved in many community based initiatives and committees.  

CWAVS opened Somenos House in 1986 and it has provided a refuge for women and children escaping abusive relationships ever since. Stopping the Violence (STV) long-term counselling was added in the early 1990s. The Children Who Witness Abuse (CWWA) program for children who have witnessed violence in their homes was added in the 90’s. 

Horizons Pre-Employment program, which helps women who have been impacted by abuse explore their capacities for entering or returning to the work force. (1995) View news article on the original opening of the “Job Program” called Horizons. 

The Safer Futures program began in the late 90’s as a series of pilot partnership projects with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), examining women’s safety in communities in the Cowichan Valley. Safer Futures officially became a CWAV Society program in 2000, and has since carried out several multi-year initiatives. In 2003, Safer Futures received an award for its work from Women in Cities International. 

A Board of dedicated women governs the organization. Over the years, the society has acquired sufficient revenue to retire the mortgage on Somenos House and to fund the programs that have been added over the years. The organization has a dedicated staff that includes an executive director, counselling staff and support staff for Somenos House. The Society is affiliated with the BC Society of Transition Houses, Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC). 

CWAVS has been a continuous part of the Cowichan Valley for 45 years. In 2019, we’ll be celebrating 39 years as an incorporated society and 33 years of Somenos House, 27 of those in its current location.