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Youth Outreach worker to provide young women with help

Since he first started three years ago, Whistler Community Youth Outreach Worker Greg McDonnell has been asking for funding to hire a female Outreach Worker – someone who the women in town could relate to and feel more comfortable in relating their problems.

Last month he got his wish.

"I looked at the stats and saw that 70 per cent of the people I access are male, and I was concerned that the female population wasn’t being reached," he said. "Janet McDonald worked really hard to secure the funding for a female outreach worker, basically creating a position. It decreases my workload, and increases our ability to have impact in the community."

Tessa McLoughlin, who is a volunteer for Whistler Community Services and the RCMP’s Victims’ Services unit, will aid McDonnell with current programs, initiate programs targeted to women, and be there for women of all ages that need help.

"I see my role as providing front-line support to women and youth in the community. If someone wants advice or someone to talk to about a problem, I can help with that," says McLoughlin. "If they need more than advice, I know what services are out there, and I can point them in the right direction. Whatever happens, it goes without saying, is confidential."

Although she is only just starting, she has already handled three calls from young women in distress. All of the calls were related to domestic violence issues.

"I don’t think people in Whistler realize how much of a problem this is, it’s every community’s dirty little secret.

"More interesting is the fact that the age of these girls was probably between 20 and 24," says McLoughlin.

"They’re young, they’re confused. The strange thing is that most of them feel they somehow provoked it. But there are programs out there that can help them, and help the guy as well.

"When I first got into Victims’ Services, I didn’t think it was an issue, but it is. Women get caught up in relationships that are abusive, and they don’t know how to get out of it."

One of the programs McLoughlin wants to start is a forum on eating disorders.

"A lot of young women have, or are growing up with body issues in this town. People are so fit here, that it’s easy to get self-conscious, and that has led to different types of eating disorders," she says.

Young women are also prone to the same kind of problems that men face with drugs and alcohol, money, and housing.

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