October 7, 2005
Source: Wilfrid Laurier University:
Women in crisis have a new voice
WATERLOO REGION -- An animal lover with a long history of helping families in crisis is the new executive director of Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.
For the past seven and a half years, Mary Zilney has worked in Guelph, supervising a team of child abuse investigators at Family and Children's Services of Wellington County.
After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology and a master's degree in social work at Wilfrid Laurier University, she worked as a support counsellor and volunteer at Anselma House in Kitchener.
"Her whole career and life commitments have been aimed towards eradicating violence," Janet McPherson, president of the board of directors for Crisis Services said.
"I think she'll be a really strong advocate and I think she'll really work hard in the area of prevention."
An animal lover who has two dogs and several "grand-dogs," Zilney said her compassion for animals is what led her to question the links between animal cruelty and child and spousal abuse.
In 2001, she spearheaded a research project on the topic that was the first of its kind in North America.
Zilney said she'll use her new role to build new ties and put "fresh eyes" on the role of Crisis Services in the community.
"I believe passionately that no one deserves to be hurt," she said. "Just thinking of the difference we can make down the road fuels my desire to keep going."
Promoting prevention and investigating the causes of violence should be a community priority, Zilney said.
Focus and funding has been centred on emergency crisis needs of women and children in abusive situations in the past, she said.
Changing how the next generation views abuse requires changes, including increased awareness of the signs and consequences of violence, she said.
"We're going to start breaking the cycle when the children are young," she said.
"We need to get into the schools and neighbourhood groups so we can intervene before the crisis hits."
In addition to looking forward to the challenges of her new post, Zilney said she is excited about the prospect of working in a region where she has deep roots.
"I've been here forever," she said. "I grew up here and my girls grew up here.
"To be in this position in my own community and to re-establish the community (connections) will be really beneficial."