Breakfast with the Guys in Nisku Nov. 9 aimed to not only bring men together who encourage the community to reject domestic violence, but also featured a fascinating keynote speaker.
Guest speaker Mark Wynn, himself a survivor of a violent upbringing who went into police work as an adult, spoke to the crowd about his experiences with domestic violence.
Master of ceremonies and well-known TV anchorman Shaye Ganam opened the event at the Royal executive Hotel on Airport Road by stating that most experts on domestic violence estimate that only 20 per cent of the abuse is ever reported.
Wynn, who helped form one of the first dedicated domestic violence units in American history, has also worked as a consultant around the world about that violence and what happens later.
As he began speaking, Wynn pointed out an untold number of women and children are affected by domestic violence every year, involving their deaths along with the injury and deaths of police officers and others involved in emergency services. He said victims usually only call a help line after the fifth assault and has spoken to police in Ontario who suggest some victims are past 20 violent incidents before calling for help.
He pointed out that up to 80 per cent of domestic violence victims are also victims of sexual assault and in the U.S. millions of women report sexual assault every year. He said it’s well-known sexual assault is a serious problem on U.S. college campuses.
The former police officer said the issues have to be discussed bluntly because the vast majority of the offenders are men, and women are equal with men and have endured violence too long. Domestic violence ,he stated, causes long-term problems in society; he said 85 per cent of runaway youth come from violent homes. He added that domestic violence causes problems for many people long into their adult lives.
“If you don’t have liberty, freedom and a voice, we know that is. What that is is modern day slavery,” said Wynn.
“Why not just leave? Leaving is not an event. It’s a process.” Wynn pointed at the crowd and said community leaders like those in attendance must demand attention, awareness and resources to ensure justice and safety.
Wynn spoke about his own experience growing up with a brother and three sisters living in a home with a drunken and violent stepfather. After his mother found this man, the family moved to Texas. “It got bad quick,” he said. “Then it turned into worse things. We were always cleaning up blood. There was always blood in the house.”
He said policing has come a long way since he was a kid. For instance, one police officer who was called by his mother for help threatened to arrest the victim if she bothered the authorities again.
In another instance, the abuser shoved Wynn’s mother out of a moving vehicle, and he and his brother watched her tumble down the highway but kept quiet because they knew they could be thrown out too. Eventually, his mother, he and all his siblings fled from the home.
He went into police work in the 70’s, but his life with domestic violence was never far from his thoughts. Wynn said women were going to their religious leaders and being told to go home and pray and be a subservient wife, while abusers were being put in anger management programs, which Wynn said have nothing to do with domestic violence. He lobbied hard to begin a specialized domestic violence police unit and was eventually successful. He said it wasn’t too long before his unit had cut 25-30 murders down to 5 or so murders and other jurisdictions can do the same. “We’re standing up and saying domestic violence is a priority.”
Mayor Greg Krischke closed the event by saying Leduc is a community that’s solved a lot of problems and seen a lot of success through cooperation. An issue like domestic violence is no different, but requires leaders in the community to stand up and speak.
Sponsors for the event included Fortis Alberta and Southfork. Proceeds from the event will benefit Riseup House in Leduc and the women’s shelter in Camrose.