Domestic Violence is #UNIGNORABLE
The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reports that Edmonton is home to the third highest number of domestic homicides, family violence, and violence against seniors among all the provinces. Not only does domestic violence happen to women, but also to children, men, transgender individuals, immigrants, and seniors of all backgrounds. An alarming 8,500 domestic violence calls are received by the Edmonton Police Service each year. So how do we address domestic violence in our community?
The first step is to talk about it.
Perri Garvin, the Labour Programs Coordinator for United Way, has devoted much of his career to the Labour Community Advocate Program. Graduates of the program offer guidance, referrals and information to co-workers about problems related to drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, housing, personal finance, and domestic violence.
The newest United Way initiative that Garvin has helped to spearhead is called Cut It Out. The project educates hair stylists about the warning signs of abuse and how to connect their clients with services. Warning signs of abuse include missing appointments, withdrawing from conversation, unexplained bruising or scrapes, signs of depression and anxiety, and pain in the head or neck at the shampoo sink. The trained stylists are able to ask questions such as “Are you or your children in danger?” and “Would you be interested in hearing about the services that are available to you?”
Why hair dressers? Clients tend to build trust and a relationship with their stylist over the course of their recurring visits, leading them to feel comfortable enough to open up. Isolation from friends and family may be a burdening factor in abuse and victims may feel they have no one to confide in. Garvin advises that the words “I believe you” are powerful and help victims feel that someone is actually listening to them.
The second step is to educate yourself and others about local services.
United Way invests in community initiatives that provide those affected by family violence with counselling, safe spaces, and escape action plans. 211 another United Way supported service connects individuals experiencing abuse immediately to the social services available to them. Through education and spreading awareness about the unignorable issue of domestic violence, we are working together with our partners to build a safer community.
Humaira was in an abusive marriage when she immigrated to Canada. With her courage and the help of United Way funded programs, she was able to receive the support needed to escape her abuser.