Conversation with Esther Elder – YW Calgary Manager, Transitional Housing, Language and Economic Prosperity

In Alberta, November is Family Violence Prevention Month – an opportunity to continue raising awareness of this critical issue and to advance YW Calgary’s work to prevent and support women and families impacted by domestic violence; to help women gain control of their lives, achieve economic security and live free of violence.

YW Calgary’s Women’s Economic Prosperity team recently sat down with Esther Elder, Manager, Transitional Housing, Language and Economic Prosperity. Esther has worked in the social services sector for more than 20 years, including senior leadership roles in the domestic violence sector, and brings a great deal of expertise in relationship and community building. Read on for her insights on the impacts of family violence in our city, and how to get involved in being part of the solution.

Q: We know that family violence can be an uncomfortable and difficult subject. What is the one thing you wish more people knew about domestic abuse in Calgary?

A: That violence against women is preventable and we all need to do our part to eradicate domestic violence. Strategies that promote healthy relationships are a critical part of prevention. Programs that teach young people healthy relationship skills that include respectful communication, problem-solving and managing feeling/emotions can have a significant impact on preventing and mitigating the incidence of family violence and gender-based violence including those who identify as women.

Q: What is one misconception you want to shine truth on with regards to family violence?

A: That family violence does not discriminate. There is a misconception that domestic abuse or intimate partner violence are the result of low self-esteem, low education levels, substance abuse and poverty – while these may be risk factors they are not the cause. The truth is that anyone can experience abuse or violence regardless of race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or economic status. Violence against women is a global issue reaching across national boundaries. Violence not only causes physical injury, it also undermines the economic, psychological, social, spiritual and emotional well-being in those who experience it. We also know that children who witness domestic violence are at risk of developing serious emotional, behavioral, developmental or academic problems.

Q: Now that we have covered some of the realities about family violence, some may be unsure of how they can make a difference. How can Calgarians get involved?

A: YW Calgary continues to support and promote social change by partnering with donors, government and social service agencies to extend opportunities for women by providing supportive emergency and transitional housing, access to our crisis shelter, counselling for perpetrators, as well as those who experienced the abuse

YW Calgary’s Women’s Economic Prosperity team, along with many other components of the organization, work with multiple partners to develop domestic violence solutions and action-based plans at the community level, implement prevention strategies within the community, and to empower community members to take action in their neighborhoods.

Calgarians can get involved by learning more about the statistics and reality of domestic violence, how to identify and respond to the incidence of domestic violence in their communities, and speak up when you suspect family violence.

It is also important to remember that gender-inequality remains a root cause of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. By helping create a more equitable and inclusive community, you are helping put an end to the cycles of violence.