Linley McLean has worked at the Golden Women’s Resource Centre since 2009, currently serving in the role of executive director and outreach coordinator.
It’s a challenging position, but it’s one that continues to be immensely rewarding for her, as she is tasked with both administrative work as well as direct service to women who need it.
McLean says she enjoys the administrative stuff, which allows her to keep things organized while also getting creative with project development and grant applications.
“The other part of project development is just looking at our community and asking ‘how do we make things better for people?’,” she said.
Still, it’s the one on one service that provides her with a great deal of satisfaction.
“It’s providing support to women who are at risk of experiencing or have experienced violence in relationships, or abuse,” McLean said.
“It brings a lot of value to my job.”
The value is evident on the faces of the women who come into the office seeking help.
“There are a lot of times when people come into the office and they haven’t been believed…the messaging they’ve been getting is that they are doing something wrong and that no one will love them and no one will believe them. They come into my office and I think there’s a sense of relief sometimes,” she said.
McLean stresses that her job is not to tell people what to do, but to listen and help people understand the context of abuse and to understand what options they have available to them.
“The hope is that, based on that understanding, they can make decisions that lead to greater safety,” McLean said.
The solution isn’t always to be removed from the situation, McLean adds, as some women simply aren’t ready to leave.
“Sometimes it’s just safety planning…how do I stay safe within this relationship and how do I make sure that the people I care about are safe as well?” she said.
In her six-plus years on the job, McLean has learned that it is impossible to truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes, meaning that listening is perhaps the most important aspect of her job.
“I think, over time, you learn that people’s experiences are so varied…so I have to trust on some level that they are the expert in their situation and to respect that decision,” she said.
Curiously, McLean says that she always saw herself going into social work, although she didn’t always know it.
“I went to school for International Development and I loved my education, but I walked away feeling like change has to come from within and that grassroots is the most effective, so I felt a little lost after,” she said.
After moving to Golden to ski, she started to learn about grassroots projects within Canada and within the community, which felt like a natural fit for her.
And the need for the Women’s Centre is as real as it was when she began in her current position, as violence against women remains an ongoing issue.
“It’s happening, it’s very real, but people don’t necessarily talk about it because there’s stigma around it, people aren’t always believed when they try to reach out and there’s a lot of misconceptions about what people should do in certain situations. I think the biggest thing is just recognizing that it is an issue.”
The staff at the centre often hear a comment of surprise from the public when they find out that there is a strong need for this kind of resource in the community.
“We have lots of work. We’re not sitting there twiddling our thumbs. We’re busy,” McLean said.