Family Violence Prevention Month: Violence is Never “Unforeseen” – How You Can Help End Domestic Violence
Submitted by Olivia Street, Coordinator of Communications and Social Advocacy
November 2, 2022
Family Violence Prevention Month:
Violence is Never “Unforeseen” – How You Can Help End Domestic Violence
November is Family Violence Prevention Month (FVPM) in Alberta. Purple ribbons and candles in windows are symbols that remind us of the pervasiveness in the issue – almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by family violence. In fact, 64% of people in Canada know a woman who has been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused1. Family Violence Prevention Month is a time for communities to raise awareness, to share information and resources, and to talk about what we can do together to address this serious issue. Domestic violence continues to be an urgent problem in our province and around the world. It’s been called the “shadow pandemic” –– and the data is showing that the severity of violence is on the rise2. During pandemic times, even though the resounding message was “stay home, stay safe,” for some people, home is the opposite of safe. Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.3
When people think about domestic violence shelters, they often think of a physical space where someone can turn, a safe place to stay when they’re in crisis. And while that’s true, shelters also provide much more than a bed, roof, and walls. Shelters exist to support survivors as they transition to a life free from violence – whether it's a temporary place to stay, or a longer-term one, access to safety planning, support navigating the legal system, childcare, or a myriad of other services delivered from the frontlines.
But many people don’t know that in addition to all the violence intervention work shelters do, they also do prevention work – educating and connecting with their communities through schools, sports teams, and workplaces, to get people talking about a topic that used to remain hidden behind closed doors. Stopping violence before it starts means changing the culture, and this begins by giving people the tools to have impactful conversations.
The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, which advocates for its 39 member organizations operating 50 shelters across Alberta, has been tackling prevention work for decades and officially launched Leading Change™ 15 years ago. Leading Change™ is the call to action of ACWS, and the prevention arm of the organization that offers training and workshops in the community, conducts research and consultation, and connects with the public through awareness campaigns.
ACWS also trains member shelters to be able to offer Leading Change™ programs in their local communities, through “train the trainer” programs. In the last year alone, Leading Change programming reached almost 6,000 individuals, including secondary and post-secondary students, lawyers, healthcare providers, elite athletes, sports fans, construction workers, safety professionals, and more.
Leading Change helps participants develop skills for real life situations, like how to “call someone in” if they encounter a teammate or a colleague using derogatory language or making inappropriate remarks. Big changes start with many small ones. Leading Change asks us to challenge uncomfortable moments and ultimately shift the culture to be more inclusive and supportive. Letting someone know that sexist language isn’t okay is one small thing that can add up to make a big difference.
Another important outcome of this training is being able to recognize the signs of domestic violence, a critical skill that can help save lives. Domestic violence doesn’t stop when people experiencing abuse and perpetrators are at work. All too often, in cases of family violence that become lethal, co-workers later say that there were obvious warning signs and that more could have been done to keep someone safe.
This is true in the tragic case of Lori Dupont, an Ontario nurse who was stabbed to death in 2005 by her ex-boyfriend and colleague, Marc Daniel, who then killed himself as well. Lori was murdered at work, even though her killer exhibited a long pattern of misconduct and threatening behaviour that caused Lori and her coworkers to fear for her safety.4 Lori’s story is a devastating example of how domestic violence extends beyond the walls of a home and is never really an “unforeseen event.” The hospital where Lori and Marc worked eventually settled out of court with the Dupont family, who sought $13.3 million in damages for the terrible and untimely death of Lori while she was at work.5
The human cost of domestic violence can be staggering –– lives cut short and families left without mothers, sisters, aunts, and daughters. As the Dupont case demonstrates, there is often an economic cost as well – organizations are exposed to liability risks under the terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. By addressing these issues head-on and training employees to act when they see something isn’t right, companies can save costs and more importantly, lives.
This Family Violence Prevention Month, here are 3 ways you can help end violence in your community:
- Donate to a local shelter to support the work they do – fundraising efforts have been severely impacted by the pandemic, and shelters rely on fundraising dollars to keep the lights on, help survivors, and engage in important prevention work in the community.
- Bring Leading Change™ to your workplace, sports team, school, or board. This strengths-based training is tailored to your unique needs. If your workplace hasn’t yet completed a domestic violence-specific hazard assessment, or doesn’t have procedures in place to respond to domestic violence, get ahead of the issue and help keep your employees and co-workers safe.
- Share information throughout the month to help raise awareness and let people know that help is available. Share a post from ACWS’s social media or create your own. Shelters are open and ready to help – you can find one in your community at acws.ca/shelters or by calling our confidential and 24 hr. hotline at 1-866-331-3933 to speak with someone at a shelter near you. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 911.
Everyone has the right to live without fear, hurt, abuse and violence. This November, let’s #GoPurpleAB and help end family violence in Alberta.
 Canadian Women’s Foundation. “The Facts about Gender-Based Violence.” https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/
2 Changes in Prevalence and Severity of Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.874183/full
3 Amelia Armstrong and Brianna Jaffray, Statistics Canada, 2021. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00017/tbl/tbl09-eng.htm
5 Hospital settles with slain nurse's family. CBC News. Jan 4 2010. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/hospital-settles-with-slain-nurse-s-family-1.969225
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