John Ratcliff from the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters gave an extremely interesting, and at times disturbing, presentation on domestic violence at the November Leduc Regional Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.
The November luncheon, held at the Leduc Best Western Denham Inn & Suites drew a full house this month, not just to sample the outstanding roast beef buffet the hotel put on, but to hear about a topic that is sadly, a major problem not just in our community, but Canada wide. In an effort to bring this subject into the light where it can be exposed and brought to an end, the Leduc Regional Chamber of Commerce tackled a tough subject that is not your typical lunchtime fare. Having the sponsor be the Leduc Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) for the November luncheon was also very apt, as the topic was domestic violence and the effects it has in the workplace.
Guest speakers Shannon Leigh and John Ratcliff, were both from the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS), and both come from a policing background.
Shannon didn't waste any time beginning and jumped into some of the statistics about the repercussions of domestic violence in the workplace. She stated that it's a multi-million dollar problem in our community, as the resultant cost of domestic violence to employers is one million dollars per 1000 employees. In a study done in 2009 by ACWS, one out of five Albertan employees reported experiencing the impact of domestic violence on their lives.
"Employees suffering from domestic violence cannot focus on their jobs, and often end up pulling another employee into their problems by talking about their situation with them, and then you have two employees that are not able to concentrate and do their job to the fullness of their abilities." said Shannon. "50% of employees experiencing domestic violence will lose their jobs due to issues such as inattention at work, excessive personal phone calls, and chronic absenteeism."
John and Shannon then shared a story of how a commercial had been produced to shed light on the issue of domestic violence. They warned that the content could be disturbing to some people, and then they aired the commercial at the luncheon. It showed a group of people seated around a boardroom table and a man putting forward an idea. Then a woman at the table politely stated that she believed the man to be incorrect. At that point the man loses control, begins calling the woman names, grabs her by the hair and starts slamming her head into the table. The commercial ends with the question of why we wouldn't allow this to take place at work but look the other way when it happens in a home, and a call to action for people to bring domestic violence to light. John and Shannon shared that this commercial was originally scheduled to run during the ultra-violent series, The Sopranos, in an episode where Tony Soprano almost beats his pregnant girlfriend to death. In an amazingly ironic decision, at the last minute Canadian broadcasters decided that the commercial would not be allowed to run because the content was deemed "inappropriate and too violent".
John commented on how we can talk about constipation, condoms, and tampons on TV but domestic violence is "taboo". "There is something skewed about that." stated John. "As men, we need to step forward and tell other men that make sexist and degrading comments that it's wrong. We need to shine a light on the cockroaches!"
Shannon and John then conducted a little test with the audience that was quite eye opening for all. They first asked if most people felt that men and women were equal in society? When the answer came back mostly in the affirmative, they then asked all the men in the room what they did on a daily basis to protect themselves from sexual violence. There were a lot of confused looks being passed back and forth, and finally the consensus was that really, that idea never even crossed their minds. The same question was then posed to all the women in the room and a chorus of answers came flying forward with everything from 'Never leave your drink unattended', to 'Always be aware of who is around you', to 'Don't walk alone at night', and many more. John then posed the question, "So are we really equal? Do you think there's a bit of a dichotomy here?"
There was a quote from Laura Wells from the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy which stated that "Every hour of every day some woman in Alberta will suffer some form of interpersonal abuse from an ex-partner or ex-spouse." 2009 statistics showed that in Canada, every five days a woman is killed by an intimate partner, and in that same year 67 women were killed by their spouse, partner or ex-partner. Also, every day in Canada, 3,000 women, along with their 2,500 children, are living in emergency shelters to escape domestic violence.
Shannon closed their presentation by saying that, "This is your community. These are your employees and/or customers. You are the leaders in your community and you can lead the change. It starts in this room. It's not a 'women's issue', it's everyone's issue. If you are willing not to shy away, this can be changed."