By Leslie Hill
As November descends upon us, we settle into the colder, snowy season when families spend more time indoors together. At Discovery House, we turn our minds to Alberta’s Family Violence Prevention Month, serving as an important reminder of the urgency of addressing this critical issue. As we work with our government and community partners to spread the word, it is crucial to recognize the importance of working with families.
The statistics on family violence are disheartening and alarming. A woman is killed by her abusive partner every six days in Canada. Calgary police have attended more than 17,000 calls where there was conflict in the home this year. Thousands of Calgarians experience the devastating physical, emotional, psychological and financial consequences of domestic violence in the place they should be the safest — their home. It’s a problem that knows no boundaries, affecting people of all backgrounds and in all communities. And it cannot be healed through one-size-fits-all solutions or isolated interventions; it necessitates an approach that centres on the strengthening of family and community.
Family violence is a complex issue, deeply rooted in gender inequalities and norms. It is a symptom of unequal power relationships in our society, worsened by many factors such as financial struggles, substance use, mental-health challenges and trauma. Therefore, it is essential to view family violence not merely as isolated incidents of abuse, but to also address this broader set of circumstances. By addressing the root causes and working with families and communities to foster healthier dynamics, we can prevent violence before it starts.
Prevention is, without a doubt, the most effective way to combat family violence. It is essential to ensure that every family has the resources and support systems that can help them navigate these difficult and dangerous situations. This includes safe and affordable housing, counselling and financial support to address the challenges that exacerbate stress within the family. A strong social safety net can serve as a preventive measure by mitigating some of the underlying factors that lead to family violence.
Next, we turn to educational initiatives — a powerful tool for preventing family violence. By teaching children and youth about healthy relationships, communication skills, consent and conflict resolution, we can help prevent future violence. These efforts begin early, with programs that foster empathy, emotional intelligence and respect.
And this education does not only target children and youth. Family violence prevention is the responsibility of the entire community. Neighbours, friends and extended family members play a critical role in identifying and addressing potential issues. By encouraging open conversations, promoting a culture of support and fostering a culture of respect, understanding and empathy within our communities, we can create an environment where it is OK to seek help. We can build a safety net that helps families before they reach the breaking point. We can shift harmful norms that allow family violence to continue, ensuring everyone can live free from violence and fear.
At Discovery House, we have witnessed first-hand the transformative power of working with families. By providing shelter, housing, counselling and customized support to families leaving abusive situations, our programs and services provide immediate safety and help families rebuild their lives, finding pathways to lasting independence and stability. This vital work helps end the cycle of violence that can perpetuate for generations.
This November, let Alberta’s Family Violence Prevention Month be one of empowerment, solidarity and hope.
By addressing the complex factors that contribute to family violence and promoting a culture of equality, respect and understanding, we can pave the way for a future where families thrive. Together, we can create a brighter future where violence has no place within our families.
Leslie Hill is executive director of Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society.