The Big Hill Haven Women's Shelter is launching a series of online workshops to provide training resources to informal supporters throughout the community.

Joy Steppacher is a board member with Big Hill Haven and she says that domestic violence has escalated over the course of the pandemic. She says that sadly they have noticed a trend - when COVID restrictions become tighter, the demand for their services increases.

"A way to build our capacity in this community and have a response when these increases will come again is by giving informal supporters the capacity, the education and knowledge so they can properly respond, recognize and then refer these victims to the appropriate resources," explains Steppacher.

She says that most victims of domestic violence will confide in a friend, family member, neighbour or even a casual acquaintance before seeking professional help.

"Victims of domestic violence usually will go to an informal supporter about 80 per cent [of the time] before they seek help from formal support like the police or a shelter," says Steppacher.

New research shows that leveraging informal support has proven to be an effective tool in helping victims of domestic violence.

Steppacher says a lot of power lies in an informal support system. She believes that equipping community members with the proper tools to better understand and respond to someone seeking help, could make the difference between encouraging them to seek further help or deterring them.

"Supporting the Supporters" is a free five-session online course, open to anyone and everyone throughout the Cochrane community. Steppacher says that they're even receiving interest from high school students.

"We were actually approached recently by a grade 10 teacher here in Cochrane," says Steppacher. "She said that her grade tens want to all participate and join this because they want to know how to help."

There will be 100 spots available for each of the online workshops, and participants need to pre-register. Upon completion of all five workshops, participants will be provided with a certificate.

You can visit or email to secure your spot.


  • May 5, 2021, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Recognizing Domestic Violence Presented by Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
  • May 12, 2021, 5:30 to 7 p.m.  Responding to Disclosures of Domestic Violence Presented by Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
  • May 19, 2021, 5:30 to 7 p.m.  Referring to Local Resources (Presented by Cochrane Family and Community Support Services and Cochrane Family Resource Centre)
  • May 26, 2021, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Unpacking Masculinity and Engaging Men & Boys (Presented by Centre for Sexuality)
  • June 2, 2021, 5:30 to 7 p.m. What Happens once RCMP has been called? (Presented by Cochrane and Area RCMP and Cochrane and Area Victim Services)