November is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta. We don’t talk about it enough, but family violence remains an urgent issue in our community.
Alberta has the second highest rate of domestic violence in the country. An estimated 200,000 adults in Alberta live with family violence. It breaks my heart to think about the hundreds of thousands of children in these families that see and hear the abuse – who jump when they hear a loud noise; who are ashamed to bring friends home; who lie awake worrying.
Research tells us that even when violence is not directed at children, witnessing family violence harms children now and in their future. It affects brain development, increases levels of anxiety and fear, affects ability to learn and to connect with other people. Even worse, it increases their odds of being part of a violent relationship down the road.
We all play a critical role in ending domestic violence.
In 2012, United Way strategically invested $3.6M in 23 intervention and prevention programs and nine one-time grants to address family violence through our Neighbourhood Strategy. We worked in collaboration with SHARE, SHIFT: The Project to End Domestic Violence, Connect Family and Sexual Abuse Network and the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective and other key partners.
Together we targeted root causes with a focus on prevention programs for men and boys. We provided crisis counselling for those impacted and helped vulnerable women create safety plans for themselves and their families. We did research and policy work, and engaged frontline workers to improve practices.
With the community we helped over 10,000 individuals access personal growth, healing and well-being opportunities. And throughout 2013 we have done more of the same. We do this because we know a strong community starts at home, and it starts with people knowing they are safe and supported.
— Lucy Miller is President and CEO of United Way of Calgary and Area.