Domestic abuse can affect any member of the family – parents, children, siblings and extended family or friends. For those experiencing abuse or violence, the impacts last for years – or even lifetimes. It can look like low self-esteem; a sense they don’t deserve or know what a healthy relationship is or causing harm to others.
What we value, how we talk and treat others is something we learn early on from family or friends. Not surprisingly, it’s usually the first place abusive behaviours appear.
That is why public policy has shifted to focus on the family unit rather than exclusively intimate partner violence. This more holistic view helps prevention be the medicine that ends family violence.
YW Calgary’s experience with domestic abuse includes programs that support those experiencing violence as well as perpetrators. We deliver emergency and crisis shelter at our Sheriff King Home crisis shelter and provide outreach services as well as partner with other service providers in the Domestic Conflict Response Team (DCRT).
YW also work to prevent abuse through building the resiliency of families and their relationships with their children. Mindful Moments is a YW program that teaches parents and their children skills and strategies to manage strong emotions through mindfulness and self-regulation.
Responses to domestic abuse are both programmatic and systemic. Over the past 25 years,
policy in Alberta has moved forward leaps and bounds. Legislation to better support families has been introduced, including:
- Family Violence Hurts Everyone: A Framework to End Family Violence in Alberta
- Bill 17: The Disclosure to Protect Against Domestic Violence Act
- An Amendment to the Residential Tenancy Act to make it easier for domestic violence victims to end their tenancy early without financial penalty.
- Enhanced screening for the presence of family violence during visits to your doctor or the emergency room.
- Introduction of domestic violence perpetrator treatment programs.
The families who arrive at the door of our shelter have also changed significantly over the past 25 years. Increasingly, Indigenous and racialized women and their children, as well as sexually and gender diverse persons are accessing our shelter. However, the cycle of abuse and violence is the same regardless of class, race, gender and sexuality; the complexity and the challenges to end the cycle is much more difficult.
Statistically, we know this about domestic abuse:
- Women who are racialized newcomers are more likely to be killed by a partner than a non-racialized women.
- Indigenous women and girls are more likely to go missing and be murdered in Alberta.
- Members of the LGBTQ2S+ community experience higher rates of intimate partner violence.
- Under-reporting of abuse persists amongst men and boys who have been victims.
- Reported incidents of abuse have gone down – however Alberta still has the third highest rate of in Canada.
Our social service, health and justice systems are not attuned to the cultural or spiritual needs of the women we support. The path to healing is long and only made longer and more complicated by complex systems.
YW believes the following would better address domestic abuse in our city and beyond:
- Promote an empathetic view of domestic violence survivors and recognize the role of perpetrators;
- Support the creation of cross-system partnerships between police and service delivery agencies to address domestic abuse (i.e. the Domestic Conflict Response Team)
- Review and refresh the Family Violence Hurts Everyone: A Framework to End Family Violence in Alberta to ensure it aligns with the current government’s priorities for addressing domestic abuse and meets Albertans’ needs; and
- Deliver a continuum of emotional, housing and economic supports for women, men and their families in potential or active domestic violence situations
It takes a collective voice and effort to end domestic abuse. That is why, YW Calgary has chosen to work closely with our sister YWCAs in Alberta to offer provincial scale solutions to violence and abuse. Check out the YWCA Edmonton, YWCA Lethbridge and YWCA Banff blogs featuring their work and systemic recommendations we have designed together.