A story brought me to tears last week.
A seemingly innocuous assignment to fill a blank space on page 6 of the Feb. 17 Low Down turned into a 152-word brief that shook me (“Chelsea women’s shelter gets $13,000”).
Like any brief, it started with a press release. Usually briefs are less than 250 words, don’t require lengthy interviews and can be slapped together in less than 20 minutes. This was different.
The story? A local politician announced $13,000 in federal funding for the women's shelter in Chelsea, Maison Libère-Elles. Good news, right? Yes, of course.
But it wasn’t the press release or the writing of the story that was powerful enough to move me.
While writing I realized that I had a general idea of what this women's shelter does, but I lacked specifics and I wanted to double check that my “general idea” was in fact fact.
On the shelter’s website, I found what I sought and more.
It opened its doors on Oct. 21, 1986, as Maison Vallée de la Gatineau and became Maison Libère-Elles in July 2000. It has more than 20 employees, more volunteers and numerous partners that make its work possible. Since 1986, it has helped countless people: women, girls, mothers, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren and more who were victims of violent abuse in their homes, had to leave and had nowhere else to go.
Despite my disgust and despair at the thought of so many people being abused regularly enough to necessitate the existence of a women's shelter, this didn’t well up my eyes — though maybe the fact that it didn’t says a lot about me and society.
However, what really hit this home for me was the small hyperlink always at the top right of each page of the website as I clicked around.
“Quitter rapidement ce site,” the minute maroon link reads in French or “Quickly leave this site,” in English.
I knew what the link did, but I didn’t understand why it did it. Websites spend fortunes attracting clicks, views and pairs of eyes, so why does this one do the opposite?
So, knowing what would happen, I clicked the link.
In less than a blink of an eye I was looking at the homepage of a local news website. As I sat there reading headlines and wondering, it hit me and the tears came. That link saves lives.
If an abuser caught a glimpse over the shoulder of their spouse researching a women's shelter to escape the prison their home had become, they may never leave.
Even the Women’s Shelter Canada website features a “hide this page” button that redirects the viewer to the local weather and makes it so the “go back” button won’t go back to its website.
If that doesn’t highlight the important work these shelters and organizations do, I don’t know what will.
There’s a link to donate on the homepage, maisonlibere-elles.ca.