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Domestic violence month

Gateway Women’s Centre offers resources and business training

Four in ten women experience domestic violence, and in Canada one woman is murdered every six days by a current for former partner. – Geralt / Pixabay

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter — with files from René J. Roy PORT AUX BASQUES — October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and you can learn steps that anyone can take if you suspect a friend is being abused or witness someone being abused. Violence can take place anywhere, at home, at the workplace, and no matter where it occurs, it can impact all areas of someone’s life. Statistics surrounding domestic violence in Canada are sobering. In 2022, according to Stats Canada, since the onset of COVID-19 and the lockdown measures, there has been increased attention on the issue of family violence and intimate partner violence. “There were 127,082 victims of police-reported family violence (violence committed by spouses, parents, children, siblings and extended family members) in 2021, a rate of 336 victims per 100,000 population. This marked the fifth consecutive year of increase. Women and girls represented two-thirds (69 per cent) of family violence victims. The rate of family violence was more than two times higher for women and girls than for men and boys (457 victims versus 212 per 100,000 population). “From 2020 to 2021, this type of violence increased by three per cent, while non-family violence increased to a larger degree (up six per cent). However, compared with 2019 (the year before the pandemic), family violence was 4 per cent higher in 2021, while non-family violence was one per cent higher. The increase in family violence is likely a reflection of people spending more time at home, often isolating from others, during the pandemic.” Intimate partner violence saw increases as well. “In 2021, police reported 114,132 victims of intimate partner violence (violence committed by current and former legally married spouses, common-law partners, dating partners and other intimate partners) aged 12 years and older (344 victims per 100,000 population). It marked the seventh consecutive year of gradual increase for this type of violence. Eight in 10 (79 per cent) victims of such violence were women and girls, and the rate of victimization was nearly four times higher among women and girls than men and boys (537 versus 147). “Compared with 2020, the rate of intimate partner violence increased by two per cent in 2021, while non-intimate partner violence increased by six per cent. However, compared with 2019, before the pandemic, intimate partner violence was four per cent higher in 2021 while non-intimate partner violence was two per cent higher.” According to the Government of Canada, any person suffering abuse from a family member or intimate partner is experiencing domestic violence. It is a behavioural pattern of abuse by an intimate partner or a family member to gain power and control. Certain terms can be used to describe this type of violence such as:

  1. family violence

  2. gender-based violence

  3. intimate partner violence, or

  4. violence against women

“No matter how we label it, domestic violence can happen to people of all genders. It happens in all racial, economic and religious backgrounds. It exists in relationships regardless of sexual orientation. “Domestic violence can include:

  1. stalking

  2. verbal abuse

  3. use of property, children, or pets to threaten and intimidate

  4. physical violence, sexual, emotional, and psychological intimidation

  5. use of electronic devices to harass and control (technology-facilitated abuse), or

  6. economic abuse such as: — withholding or stealing money, or — stopping a partner from reporting to work.

Even when someone is experiencing domestic violence, they might not realize it, so it’s important to recognize the signs. “Signs that domestic violence has entered the workplace may include:

Actions by the perpetrator

  1. stalking the victim

  2. hiding the victim’s identification cards

  3. verbally abusing victim and/or co-workers

  4. repeatedly phoning, texting or emailing the victim

  5. interfering with the victim’s mode of transportation

  6. showing up at the workplace and questioning co-workers about victim’s whereabouts

Reactions by the victim

  1. attempting to cover bruises

  2. being sad, lonely, withdrawn

  3. missing work more often than usual

  4. making excuses for perpetrator’s behaviour

  5. acting nervous when speaking in the perpetrator’s presence

  6. having trouble focusing on tasks, or being disengaged from work.

“Victims of domestic violence are more likely to confide in a colleague than a supervisor or a human resources advisor. It is often difficult to know what to say or do if a colleague approaches you in confidence. You may wish to consider training on how to recognize the signs and how to offer support. There are four things you can do to help:

  1. Make time for your colleague

  2. Listen and empathize

  3. Encourage them to seek professional support

  4. Provide them with contacts or programs that can provide more support.”

In this region, the Gateway Status of Women organization in Port aux Basques, with financial support from Women and Gender Equality Canada, offers a program that can help educate employers, organizations and their staff. According to the organization, domestic violence is an important problem in workplaces and workers and supervisors need to know what tools are available to address it, and they have been doing their part to raise awareness by delivering information through a free workshop called ‘Working Through Domestic Violence in the Workplace’ in small group settings for workers, managers, and business owners to help addresses this problem. The objective of the workshop is to identify domestic violence warning signs and risk factors and show ways to talk about them with survivors in the workplace, while also informing them about recent changes to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Occupational Health and Safety Standards, and how to improve the capacity of organizations and businesses to conduct risk assessments, build safety plans and develop workplace domestic violence policies. Workshops take place weekly in small groups of up to eight people and a slideshow that includes several videos is presented during the two-hour workshops. Sometimes managers or supervisors and their employees from one work location make up a workshop, but often workers from several different workplaces come together to learn about domestic violence in the workplace and the tools available to help survivors. It is all part of a three-year program that started in 2021 and ends in March. Haley Osmond, executive director with the Gateway Status of Women, said the program was created after results were released from two recent large-scale surveys, one national and one provincial, showing that education on domestic violence in our workplaces is lacking in this province, that efforts to make workplaces safer need to be improved, and that responses by employers and co-workers to domestic violence when it enters the workplace need to be improved. “We felt this information needed to be spread locally to make our workplaces and our communities safe and it is putting good information into the hands and minds of participants,” said Osmond. The three-year program is in its final year with more businesses and organizations signing on. “Attendance is growing each month, and we look forward to having as many attendees as possible into the fall and early winter,” said Osmond. She added that people see a lot of value in the workshops based on information collected from participant evaluation forms. Osmond said some people are surprised to learn about the prevalence of domestic violence in society and in workplaces. Statistics show that one in every four women are experiencing domestic violence. She said it is important that people learn about the prevalence of domestic violence in general in our society because domestic violence does not discriminate. “Isolation is always present in an abusive relationship, which is why awareness is key to bring about change for the better. We need to move beyond the ‘mind your own business’ attitude to break the stigma around domestic violence because it’s the stigma that perpetuates shame and fear and promotes the continuation of violence,” said Osmond. Public education and community leadership is a focus of the Gateway Status of Women. Osmond said it’s their job to help spread knowledge about domestic violence. “The more people learn about domestic violence, the safer our communities will be because education is key to prevention,” said Osmond. Those who are interested in taking the workshop can call facilitator Mandy Ryan Francis at the Gateway Women’s Centre at 709-695-7505.

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