November declared Family Violence Awareness Month

The City of Humboldt has now proclaimed that November is Family Violence Awareness month, with Mayor Malcolm Eaton signing the proclamation along with Janine Hart from the Humboldt Regional Newcomers Centre and Hayley Kennedy from PARTNERS Family Services on Oct. 27.

“We wanted to bring some awareness to the community to start a better dialogue, so we’re aware of these things happening here.” Says Kennedy.

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Family violence covers all forms of abuse in a family from domestic to elder, the most prevalent being between partners.

“We do provide aid, assistance and intervention for families who are experiencing family violence, specifically for women who are victims of family violence,” says Kennedy.

Hart is working to raise awareness for abused newcomers with joining the campaign with PARTNERS.

Abuse happens in all ethnicities and newcomers are often unaware of what they can do about it, says Hart.

“To come here, interfamily violence is completely new to them in that it’s actually criminal.”

With the Newcomer centre located right in the city, if there is an incident involving family violence people feel safe going there. Hart says they have the resources to support the client and also the support to refer them to PARTNERS.

Hart says they are also dealing with people who would not likely report violence since many of her clients come from countries where it is not seen as a crime. Some people may even view resources quite negatively.

“The first step for us is to make sure that our clients are aware that there are resources out there to support them if this is something that is happening.”

It’s an ongoing problem nationally, says Kennedy, and unfortunately, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of family violence in Canada, excluding the territories. Kennedy says that Saskatchewan is also the only province that does not have a framework to address family violence.

Using Alberta as an example, Kennedy says,  “a framework looks at causes, it looks at how the government can look at supports for ending family violence and what initiative need to happen going forth and what needs to be funded.”

What is in place is community based support in terms of family services and Humboldt is lucky to have these, says Kennedy. The problems becomes in smaller rural communities who do not hav direct access to these services. PARTNERS is actually funded by the Ministry of Justice to supply this outreach for Humboldt’s surrounding area yet it still continues to be a problem.

“There are programs that are funded throughout the province, but at this point Saskatchewan continues to have the highest rate of family violence and something more needs to be done.”

The government committed on Oct. 26 to a review board for the deaths related to family violence but Kennedy says that rural voices needs to be heard as well.

Karen MacCarville sees the prevalence of domestic violence working on the front lines of PARTNERS. For the most part, she does see the majority of survivors of domestic violence being women but she knows male survivors are out there too.

“Anyone who’s been through an abusive situation really should seek some sort of help in dealing with what they’ve been through.”

The stigma around all domestic violence is still there when it comes to seeking help. For men, MacCarville would say the stigma is higher but we need to get over that.

Part of that is teaching what a healthy relationship looks like.

Education is the main source of this, by teaching everyone what this kind of relationship looks like, especially at a young age, says Hart.

“Information sessions are a great way of reaching out to our whole client base, whether it is K-12 children or 18 plus male and female clients.” Says Hart.

Home life is can be an indicator of abuse as well, says MacCarville.

“If people have grown up in an abusive home, a healthy relationship has never been role modeled. Some people don’t realize when they’re in an abusive relationship.”

If someone questions whether they are being abused, they still need to seek help, says MacCarville.

“They can come to PARTNERS, they can go to mental health and addictions for help, talk to your family doctor, talk to someone you trust, talk to someone and seek help.”

Outsiders looking into abusive relationships, in which MacCarville has been, the signs of abuse are there. If someone is close to the survivor, they will try to open up to someone because they do have a burden to carry, says MacCarville.

“If someone does open up to you as a bystander, you do something about it, you act on it.”

MacCarville says never have that conversation with the abuser but speak with the survivor. Stick to the facts of the abuse and always be supportive, says MacCarville.

“The biggest things to say is, ‘are you okay? Is anyone hurting you? What do you want to do and how can I help you?’”

The person does not have to agree with a survivor’s decision but be supportive, even if it’s hard, says MacCarville. Encouraging them to be their own advocate is also something that can be done to support the survivor.

For getting help, MacCarville says PARTNERS  is willing to help survivors navigate the over crowded shelter system and provide supportive listening and safety planning, whether they are staying or whether they are leaving, says MacCarville.

“I’m here to support people who have survived abuse, whether they are staying or leaving the relationship. I’m here to support them either choice.”

Hart credits her staff at the newcomer centre and their cultural sensitivity training in being able to develop trust with vulnerable people and knowing how to help them.

For newcomers, women especially, there is a fear of being deported after reporting abuse, especially in those that do not have their permanent residence.

“A woman may feel, if I report that I am a victim of domestic abuse and we separate, I’m no longer part of my spouses application. It’s our role there to find the support that will enable that lady to proceed with being safe and with the continuity of her immigration.”  

Kennedy applauds Mayor Eaton in supporting their campaign to end family violence in Humboldt and Saskatchewan, including the council wearing purple ribbons for the month of November and the male staff wearing white ribbon for the stop violence against women campaign.

Beyond the month of November, PARTNERS has women support groups Wednesday nights.

Just under half (48%) of all victims of family violence were victimized by a current or former spouse. For another 17% of family violence victims, the accused was a parent, while for 14% the accused was an extended family member such as an in-law, uncle or grandparent. A further 11% of family violence victims were victimized by a sibling and for 10% the accused was the victim’s own child.
As in previous years, a majority of police-reported incidents of family violence involved physical assault, which included actions and behaviours such as pushing, slapping, punching and face-to-face threats.
Police-reported data also reveal that in 2013 almost 7 in 10 family violence victims were female. In comparison, females represented 46% of victims of violent crimes that were not family-related. The over-representation of female victims was most prominent in the spousal violence category, where nearly 8 in 10 victims were female.
- Statistics Canada

Signs of an abusive relationship
Inner thoughts and feelings:

  • Afraid of your partner most of the time
  • You may avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner
  • You may believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated
  • You wonder if you’re the one that is crazy
  • You feel emotionally numb or helpless

Belittling behaviour:

  • humiliating or yelling at you,
  • criticizing you and putting you down,
  • treating you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends and family to see you or come over,
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments,
  • blame you for their own abusive behavior,
  • see you as a property or a sex object rather than a person

Violent behaviour or threats, (if your partner has objectionable temper; explosive, out of nowhere, be careful, seek help.)

  • Threaten to hurt or kill you. Any threat against you to harm you is something that should be reported to the RCMP right away
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave
  • Force you to have sex against your will
  • Destroy your belongings
  • Hurting pets and things you love, things they know are close to you

Controlling behavior:

  • Jealous and obsessive behaviour
  • Controlling where you go or what you do
  • They may keep you from seeing your friends or family, often times they may isolate you
  • Limit your access to money, the phone or the car
  • Constantly checking up on you, constant texting, stalking
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