The Best Kept Secret

Pipestone Flyer

Sadly, it's pretty much a guarantee that you know someone suffering from this but it's also almost a guaranteed thing that they will never tell you about it. Domestic violence has pretty much reached pandemic proportions in Canada, and Alberta has the terrible distinction of consistently having some of the highest reported instances of domestic violence year after year. 

    In a report released by the Canadian Women's Foundation at the end of last year it stated that 74% of Albertans knew a woman who had been sexually or physically abused compared to an average rate of 67% throughout the rest of Canada.

    Another shocking statistic from a survey taken in Alberta by Leger Marketing, in early 2012 they asked 1000 men their views on gender equality and domestic violence and their answers showed that one in ten Alberta men believe it's okay to physically assault a woman if she does something to make him mad. 

    Unlike a disease of the body there are no inoculations to protect against this scourge. It is widely accepted that education is the only key to stopping domestic violence. This is why November has been named Domestic Violence Prevention Month across Canada and the City of Leduc has responded with their "Super Heroes" program. 

    “November is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta and we’re launching our made-in-Leduc Super Heroes campaign to highlight positive community role-modelling within established family dynamics,” says Donna Brock, director of Family and Community Support Services, and Enforcement Services. “Family violence comes in many forms and doesn’t discriminate based on economic status or religious beliefs. Our goal is to show citizens that everyone can play an active role and be a ‘super hero’ against family violence.”

According to Alberta’s Protection Against Family Violence Act, family violence is the abuse of power within relationships of family, trust or dependency that endangers the survival, security or well-being of another person. It can include spousal abuse (married or common-law), senior abuse and neglect, child abuse and neglect, child sexual assault, parent abuse, and exposure to abuse of others in the family.

    While domestic violence does not discriminate between age or gender certain groups do suffer statistically higher incidents of abuse. Younger women are most at risk of violent victimization with the police-reported rate of violent crime against women aged 15 – 24 being 42 per cent higher than the rate of women 25 – 34, and nearly double the rate for women aged 35 – 44. And while not as well known, men are not immune to domestic violence with violent crimes against men 45 years and older being greater than that of women in the same age group.

    Domestic violence has carried a false stigma with it in that victims often feel the abuse is somehow their fault or that they "bring it on" by doing something "wrong" that the abuser doesn't like. Nothing could be further from the truth but the misplaced shame and embarrassment that victims can feel will often prevent them from seeking help. The other main component that keeps victims silent is fear. Fear for their own or their loved ones safety, fear of facing the future alone without a partner, fear of the financial consequences when the abuser is the only income for the household, and at its most extreme, fear for their very lives. Tragically, the fear of losing their lives is a very real possibility in some domestic abuse situations.  

    Due to the intricate emotional issues that can be associated with domestic violence, the first person a victim will most often tell their "secret" to is someone in a position of trust that they have become very close to, and quite often that person will be a co-worker. With some of the impacts of domestic violence now being felt and acknowledged in the workplace some forward thinking companies have put programs in place to assist workers dealing with this problem. While this is of great value to both the worker and the employer there is much more that needs to be done.

    While no one person can single handedly stop domestic violence, there are things individuals can do to help stop abuse in their community. In a facts sheet put out by the Alberta Government they suggest that as a way to help bring the violence to an end, a few things that people can do is to learn the family violence warning signs, what to do and where to get help, assist a local shelter or sexual assault centre as a volunteer, board member or fundraiser, ask local businesses to display family violence information in their stores, and encourage your local public library to carry magazines and books about family violence, amongst other things. Their website at www.familyviolence.alberta.ca has a wealth of information for everyone.

    The City of Leduc has also posted a page on their website in conjunction with their Super Heroes program that has some good suggestions for parents as well as a list of local resources for families that might be struggling with the issue of domestic violence. This page can be found at www.leduc.ca/familyviolence.

    Please note that domestic violence of any sort is a very serious situation and individuals outside of the immediate situation should not attempt to "deal with the problem" at a personal level but instead put the victim(s) in contact with the appropriate professionals and organizations that can best assist them.

    If it is yourself or a loved one that is experiencing domestic abuse please call the toll free, 24 hour Family Violence Helpline at 310-1818 or if you are in immediate danger call 911. Lets all do everything we can to stop domestic violence.