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As I continue to explore Remembrance Day and the place of violence in our culture, I could not ignore:

November is Family Violence Prevention Month

Family Violence has been the elephant in the room that has either become less camouflaged, or at least, less silenced to talk about. That our culture has been too quiet for too long betrays something about how comfortable we have been with power imbalance, coercion, and violence in its many forms (see this article in my local paper).

SHIFT!

To solve a complex issue like domestic violence, we need to re-think where we focus our attention. Over the past 30 to 40 years, tremendous strides in domestic violence protection and intervention have been made, yet efforts to ‘go upstream’ and put into place long-term, comprehensive primary prevention strategies has not been a priority.

Shift was created to lead this charge and advance a primary prevention agenda in Alberta. Primary prevention explicitly focuses on actions before the condition of concern develops. In the area of domestic violence, it means reducing the number of new instances of violence by intervening before any violence has occurred (World Health Organization, 2007). Interventions can be delivered to the whole population or to particular groups that are at high risk of using or experiencing violence in the future. Examples include whole-school approaches to violence prevention and building healthy relationships skills and environments, home visitation programs that target first-time moms and parents, and social marketing campaigns that encourage bystanders to step in to stop the violence.

The purpose of Shift is to work with and enhance the capacity of policy makers, system leaders, clinicians, service providers and the community at large, to significantly reduce the rates of domestic violence in Alberta…

Our research program was initiated to explore the issue of domestic violence and its root causes and identify primary prevention strategies and programs from around the globe that demonstrate evidence. What we discovered is that although domestic violence is complex and pervasive, it is also preventable. There are evidence-based programs and policies that can stop domestic violence from happening in the first place.

What Is Family Violence?

According to Community Initiatives Against Family Violence:

Family Violence describes a systematic pattern of abusive behaviours within a relationship that is characterized by intimacy, dependency and/or trust. The abusive behaviours exist within a context where their purpose is to gain power, control and induce fear. All forms of abusive behaviour are ways in which one human being is trying to have control and/or exploit or have power over another.

By providence, I was raised by a widow with an iron disposition who might have been considered one of the “original feminists” though she would not have used that term.  She was a woman who would be heard and demanded to be listened to. I thought it was just because she was my mother; turns out, it was because she was herself! I was not exposed to family violence beyond those childish skirmishes, fighting for a place at the table and a space to be heard. 

Over the years though, I became aware that home is not the peaceful place we nostalgically and mythically remember it to be. Home is where violence starts and is perfected (sic). Ironically, in this era when police violence is caught on cell phone cameras, in my city, the Police intersect domestic violence in a collaborative way:

Domestic Violence cuts across every line of geography, income and social status. Abuse is found in every community in our country and thousands of incidents of domestic violence occur every year.

As of December 31, 2014, there were approximately 7,601 events throughout the city that had a domestic violence component.

The sad news is that many incidents go unreported. Many of the households where domestic violence occurs also have a child/children present – which means there is usually more than one victim. Taking the enormous step to reach out is the first step towards change and the first step towards safety. No one deserves to be abused. Families no longer need to suffer for years in silence…

This collaborative partnership between the Edmonton Police Service and the City of Edmonton Community Services Department is committed to working together to help families find emotional and physical safety and to work with the community to end the cycle of violence that so often damages and destroys families.

Changing Ways

There is more of an appetite to deal with family violence, and, remarkably, to move beyond merely identifying the “perpetrator” – as if blaming, shaming, and incarcerating will change the violence culture in any substantive way. Men, who make up the vast majority of violence offenders need to be included in changing the cultural fabric of family interaction.

At the same time there is an appetite to be forthright: “to work together to help families find emotional and physical safety and to work with the community to end the cycle of violence that so often damages and destroys families.” We have become unequivocal about the damaging and destructive nature of family violence. There is no neutrality about this anymore.

What can you do?

One of the most important things you can do – is to talk about it:

  • Think about the kind of man you want to be?
  • Learn to be respectful towards women, girls, and other guys; find other men who role model this.
  • Learn to use other means than force, threats, or violence in your relationships with others.
  • Ask first. Whether it’s holding hands, kissing, or more, it’s important to give and receive permission freely.
  • Be a good role model and share with those around you the importance of respecting women and girls
  • Learn about the impact of violence against women/families in our communities.
  • Challenge and speak out against hurtful language, sexist jokes, and bullying.
  • Accept your role as a guy in helping end violence against women. It affects everyone.
  • Start a White Ribbon Club or Campaign in your school, community, place of work, or faith group/place of worship.

Go Upstream:

For most of my career, I have been involved in the “upstream” movement to prevent fire, burns, injuries, and conflict. For years the parable was told of how our culture can be likened to being really good and focussed on the rescue of drowning victims, but not so good (or interested) at going upstream to find out what is causing all the drowning.

Maybe we’ve gained capacity; or maybe we’ve grown tired of the emotional and financial costs of rescue. Thus it is interesting to hear Shift talk about the current change in approach to go “upstream” in order to prevent family violence.

Upstream you will find what the Edmonton Police website noted: “No one deserves to be abused.”

Why not?

Think about this:

No one deserves to be abused because everyone has inherent value as persons created by the One who made us for Himself, by His great love and for His great pleasure. In a culture that does not know this, we may, like I did as a child, always be fighting for our place at the table and our space to be heard.

For more, see Mysteries and Secrets.

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