Our 50-year Journey
A leader in the women’s movement since 1973, Interval House has played a critical role in empowering women and bringing the issue of intimate partner violence to the forefront.
Launching a Movement
In the early 1970s
Feminists across Canada were joining forces to mobilize on issues like daycare, reproductive rights, maternity leave, equal pay and opportunities for education.
At The Women’s Place in Toronto, a group of feminists noticed a new issue bubbling to the surface: women were trying to escape abuse at home, but had no job, no income and no place to go. The group formed a collective, secured start-up funding to help with rent and wages and on April 1st, 1973, they opened the doors to Interval House – Canada’s first shelter for abused women and their children.
Our impact was huge
Interval House offered abused women and their children a safe home where they could access the resources and support they needed to plan the next chapter of their lives, free from violence. As the collective educated the media on the violence their clients encountered and its impact, the formerly silent issue of “battered wives” rippled through headlines and into public discourse.
Interview: Lynn Zimmer
Lynn wasn’t planning on making history or launching a 47-year career devoted to preventing violence against women in 1972. After working as a women’s page reporter for the Peterborough Examiner…
Events in the 70s
Interval House hopes to provide a supportive environment for sound decision-making – the women who live there will be each other’s greatest resource.
Members of the Interval House Collective receive funding and prepare to openLearn More
It’s not a class issue, it’s not an immigrant issue. It’s our issue. – Margo Goodhand
The pioneering women who fought to build Canada’s first women’s shelters.Learn More
The founders of Toronto’s Interval House had to fight for everything they gained and laid the groundwork for the problem of violence against women to be brought to light.
Interval House opens its doors April 1, 1973Learn More
Before the days of women’s liberation many of those women did not leave home
The rising wave of runaway wivesLearn More
Leading the Way
There were 63 women’s shelters in Canada. By 1987, there were 264.
As the shelter movement grew, so did public awareness of the issue of “domestic violence.” It was no longer “a private family affair” that could be ignored – it was a significant issue impacting all of society.
Supporting the kids at Interval House
In 1980, Interval House becomes the first shelter in Canada to develop and fund a children’s program in a shelter. 1987 marks another historical milestone as Interval House introduces our first male counsellor in the Children’s Program to help model positive and respectful interactions. Today, men are an integral part of the Children’s Program team.
Interview: Michele Landsberg
One of the most respected voices in Canadian feminism, activist and award-winning journalist Michele Landsberg began her career with The Globe and Mail in the 1960s and moved to Chatelaine in the 1970s before…
Events in the 80s
The Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women publishes “Wife Battering in Canada: The Vicious Circle”Learn More
This little boy has a roof over his head for the nght. But Interval House, a refuge for battered women and their children, is desperate for money as it copes with 1,000 calls a year.
Interval House in the headlines: “Women’s refuge must go begging for funding” and “Desperate Women Vie for Shelter”Learn More
It is the first Metro-wide survey of family violence that focuses on social and cultural factors in wife beating.
Many wife-beaters jobless, survey findsLearn More
Interval House is the first shelter in Canada to develop and fund a Children’s Program in a shelterLearn More
1 in 10 men beat their wives regularly and these women…I don’t think this is very much of a laughing matter Madame Speaker — MP Margaret Mitchell
NDP MP Margaret Mitchell brings national attention to the formerly silent topic of spousal violence in CanadaLearn More
Queen’s Park Hearing finds that wife beating is a problem that crosses all boundariesLearn More
Building Brighter Futures
In the 1990s
The O.J. Simpson murder trial brought the subject of domestic abuse front and centre to TV screens across North America.
Closer to home, Interval House invited television audiences to learn about what domestic abuse looks like in households across Toronto as they shared real-life stories from Interval House clients in their debut direct response TV program “Journey to Freedom.”
In the mid-nineties, the Toronto Star launched a ground-breaking eight-month investigative series into 133 domestic abuse cases as they progressed through the judicial system. Prompting public and political outcry, this series motivated changes in how intimate partner violence cases were handled in our judiciary system.
Launching our Building Economic Self-Sufficiency (BESS) program
Interval House created the Building Economic Self-Sufficiency program (BESS) in 1998. BESS continues to empower women through housing services, professional skills training, life skills workshops, access to education, counselling, and employment assistance.
Interview: Margo Goodhand
Margo Goodhand is the former editor-in-chief of the Edmonton Journal and the Winnipeg Free Press. She has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, including the Globe and Mail…
Events in the 90s
Protests rage as federal government makes deep budget cuts to funding for women’s programs and many women’s centres are forced to shutterLearn More
Percentage of children abused by partner: over 50%. Average number of times assaulted before they leave: 20.
1989-1990 Anniversary StatisticsLearn More
In terms of racial-minority women, they might come up with recommendations which might work for white middle-class women,” said Sunera Thobani, co-chairwoman of the NAC’s violence committee. “They’re not going to be able to include the experiences of women in the front-line work against violence against women.”
Canada attempts to launch its inaugural National Action Plan on Violence Against WomenLearn More
If it wasn’t for Interval House, I would have committed suicide.
Toronto Star article “Haven” traces the first two decades of Interval House’s history and the women it has impactedLearn More
Filling a Growing Need
In the 2000s
The list of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women was growing at alarming rates and the Robert Pickton murder investigation dominated headlines.
The issue of violence against women and femicide was gaining recognition across Canada as a widespread, pervasive problem that crossed every social boundary and affected communities across the country.
Creating new spaces for our clients
As our programs grew and evolved, we needed more space. In the early 2000s, we launched one of the most ambitious capital campaigns for a women’s shelter in Canada and in 2005, Interval House moved to a bigger, brighter, more secure building.
Conscious of Toronto’s soaring rental prices, we sought new ways to help our clients thrive after their stay at our shelter. In 2004, Interval House launched the Her Home Housing Project, partnering with private landlords to offer rent-geared-to-income apartments to BESS graduates.
Interview: Linda Sims
Gemini award-winning broadcaster and business journalist Linda Sims became a highly recognizable presence from the 80s onward as a reporter and host on TV shows like CBC’s Venture, CTV’s Canada…
Events in the 2000s
Interview with Anna Fowles: Challenging TV audiences to understand the real life stories of intimate partner violenceLearn More
Having been in Canada for less than a year and speaking virtually no English, she fled with her three children to Interval House
Susie’s Story, ClientLearn More
Some women who leave violent relationships experience additional barriers to employment, education and training. And so B.E.S.S. was born.
Interval House transforms from “shelter” to “centre” to include the Building Economic Self-Sufficiency Program (BESS)Learn More
Her library is still in use every day and it contains a well-loved collection of books – some torn and tattered from all the hands that have touched them.
The Margaret Fraser Fund: A Legacy of LoveLearn More
Throughout the 2010s
As millions of posts tagged #IBelieveSurvivors #RapedNeverReported #TimesUp and #MeToo flooded our social feeds throughout the 2010s, the issues of gender-based violence and systemic gender inequality took centre stage around the world.
Helping the public understand IPV
Interval House took to social media throughout the decade with powerful public service announcements and campaigns aimed at changing attitudes about intimate partner violence (IPV), including the phone demo campaign, #NotHerFault campaign, the Broken Bride Registry and the Freedom Tampons campaign.
Awareness of the issue of IPV has improved since 1973, but our job – as advocates and as a society – is to empower, believe and support survivors.
Interview: Elizabeth Renzetti
An award-winning journalist and author of two best-selling books, Elizabeth Renzetti is a passionate advocate for gender equity who has written about feminist issues since 1993. She’s worked as a columnist,…
Events in the 2010s
Interval House launches a 30-second PSA about one of the most dangerous places on earth: your homeLearn More
Although abused women and children have priority on the city’s affordable housing waiting list, demand is so high that the average wait has doubled from less than three months in 2007 to as much as six months today
Rent Supplements urged to help curb abuseLearn More
Our kitchen…the heart of our home. We take turns cooking, and everyone helps with cleaning. And we all eat together. It’s busy. And noisy. And messy. And wonderful.
Tour Interval House through the eyes of one of our residentsLearn More
Toronto’s “SlutWalk” becomes a transnational movement calling for an end to rape culture and blaming and shaming of sexual assault victimsLearn More
Last week, Interval House was the launching pad for the paint company’s Colour Care Across Canada project which will give “colour makeovers” to nine women’s shelters across the country by Thanksgiving.
A paint company’s new initiative to make over women’s shelters across Canada reveals the power hues have to healLearn More
October 11 declared International Day of the Girl Child by the UN in 2011 following a campaign led by Plan International Canada.Learn More
Moving Forward – TOGETHER
Stress, loss of income and social isolation from COVID-19 lockdowns triggered a new crisis level for violence against women across the globe.
Women trapped at home with their partners became more vulnerable to abuse and less able to reach out for help. This perfect storm sparked an alarming rise in intimate partner violence (IPV) prompting the United Nations to label it “The Shadow Epidemic.”
Always by her side
Awareness of the growing issue of IPV and Interval House’s services became more important than ever during the pandemic. Interval House quickly responded with award-winning campaigns, such as the Bruised Fruit and Ways to Live/Ways to Leave campaigns in an effort to connect women with vital, life-saving information.
Interval House has helped thousands of women and their children escape violence over the past five decades. Our programs have evolved and expanded to meet their needs, become more inclusive and helped empower each woman to take control of their future. As the 2020s continue to evolve, so will Interval House – always by her side.
Interview: Anna Maria Tremonti
Anna Maria Tremonti has been on the frontlines of history in the making for decades as one of Canada’s most trusted journalists and interviewers. For 17 years, she was the…
Events in the 2020s
But tease apart the data and you’ll see that men are mostly killed in gang-related violence or random crime, while women are killed largely by their intimate partners.
A scope of intimate partner violence data in Canada over 9 years reveals why violence against women warrants a national action planLearn More
Gender-based violence was a problem before the pandemic, the baseline was bad. Every six days, a woman was killed, on average, in Canada by her intimate partner.
As intimate partner violence rises 30% during pandemic, domestic violence groups call for national action planLearn More
Every woman in Canada deserves freedom from violence. Together, we must do the work that remains.
Interval House campaigns for support in the call for a National Action Plan to End Gender-Based ViolenceLearn More
Learn more about Interval House, our programs and services, and how you can support women who have experienced intimate partner violence.
For more information about our Building Economic Self-Sufficiency (BESS) program, explore the BESS page on our site or call 416-924-1411 X 279.