Leduc County Family Community and Support Services is reaching out to the next generation to stop family violence.
Leduc County council declared November to be Family Violence Awareness Month and the members of the Leduc Composite High School football team, along with dozens of other young men, pledged to end the cycle of violence by never committing, condoning or remaining silent about gender-based violence to support the White Ribbon Campaign.
“Family violence is a problem in our province and in our community. By having young men and boys take a stand, it sets the tone that violence is not okay in society,” said Ed Rifo, member of the Leduc and District Family Violence Prevention Team.
“As a team, we seek to prevent violence and foster healthy relationships in the community.”
White Ribbon is a non-profit organization which positively engages men, young men and boys through educational programming that challenges language and behaviours, as well as harmful ideas of manhood that lead to violence against women.
“By raising awareness about family violence with young men, we believe we are laying the foundation for healthy relationships that are equal and violence-free,” said Rifo. “With continued education and awareness, we are moving towards a community free from family violence.”
FCSS director Laurel Fitzsimonds agreed. “That’s where much of the key to it is,” she said. “In getting the younger generation to follow. Eventually we will get this ship to turn.” Fitzsimonds said, “Until recently, family violence prevention focused on telling women they needed to be responsible for it. That they needed to be the ones to take action. We know now that it’s not really effective and not the case,” she said.
Violence in the home can be perpetrated by both men and women, and children in that home are affected by the violence, whether they see it or not. “Children growing up in these homes believe that it’s okay.” Even if they don’t see it they feel the tension, they learn how power is exerted and grow up believing violence is the way to handle conflict. “If we reach young people and teach them this is not appropriate, we can break this cycle.”
According to Fitzsimonds, FCSS workers see the impact of family violence in all their programs, starting with the Early Childhood ones. “It shows up everywhere. It’s part of the community and it’s part of every community.”
In addition to encouraging men and boys to take the pledge, FCSS offers programs for men, women and children through the FVPT.
The men’s and women’s programs operate independently, providing education and support to each gender to help men and women understand the cycle of family violence and what role they play in stopping it.
Children are provided with one-on-one counseling and taught that violence is not an appropriate response. They are also taught that violence in the home is not their fault. “Kids have the idea that they have something to do with this,” said Fitzsimonds, “That if they were better behaved or if they do something this wouldn’t happen. They come up with erroneous ideas about why this is happening.”
Participants in the program have come away with positive feedback,” said Fitzsimonds. “They understand themselves better and how they got there. Everybody’s got a role to play in this.”
The FVPT encourages men and boys across the community to take the pledge by visiting www.whiteribbon.ca/pledge.
Pictured: Some of the young men who participated in signing a pledge of support for the White Ribbon Campaign. Photo submitted by Laurel Fitzsimonds from Leduc County FCSS